Tonight I went to the vigil Mass for Palm Sunday. I was excited to go alone so that I could fully participate and pay attention to the Liturgy. As I listened to the re-enactment of Christ's Passion according to Luke, I heard a sentance that I have been meditating upon for a few days now. As I heard it, I wanted to shout out my thoughts in the middle of Mass. I bit my tongue and waited until now to tell you my thoughts.
The sentance is located at Luke 23:43: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise". Jesus tells this to the criminal next to him, waiting to die for his crime. The criminal is repentant and believes that Jesus is the Messiah.
There are so many things we can contemplate when it comes to this single sentance. We could put ourselves in the shoes of the repentant criminal. He truly believes that Jesus is being unjustly crucified and he knows in his heart that Jesus is the Messiah. He repents and asks Jesus if Heaven has room for him. There are many times that we will fall short of God's Glory and we will ask the same question of our Savior.
We could put ourselves in Jesus' shoes. He is being sneered at and ridiculed by the people whom He is trying to save. He must look into the eyes of His dear mother as her heart must have been breaking. Surely Jesus saw the dissapointment in his Apostles eyes as He continued to breath his last breaths.
But what really struck me about this verse, particularly the sentance Jesus spoke to the criminal, was that this criminal may very well be the first human to enter the gates of Heaven! Remember that Jesus opened the gates of Heaven for us through His death. He promised the repentant criminal that he would enter the kingdom. I am in awe of the fact that a publicly known sinner, who admits that he is guilty, may be the first human to enter Heaven. God does not discriminate against any of us. No matter how bad we behave, no matter what we do, if we TRULY repent and we are truly sorry, God will let us in!