A Paradox

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily April 14, 2019

“Well it’s hard to believe but here we are, Palm Sunday.  I feel like I just blinked my eyes and we were beginning Advent it seems like to me and now here we are preparing for the most sacred and solemn week of the year, Holy Week and it is a Holy week to be sure.  Now one definition of the word holy is to be set apart. Friends, this upcoming week is a week that is set apart from all the rest because it is the last week for us to prepare to enter into and celebrate the paschal mystery, the Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mystery of our faith.  Luke’s Gospel of the Passion tees this up for us I think very nicely. Now we can take from this Gospel a lot of different theological conclusions, a lot of different lessons, but the one that I want to focus on is this: there is no sin that is unforgivable. I’ll say that again, there is no sin that is unforgivable. Every sin that we have ever committed is able to be forgiven by God if we allow him to forgive us and I think we see a very powerful example of this in our Gospel today, this openness of Jesus, this willingness of Jesus to forgive.  We’re given this account of the criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross. He is a public sinner, convicted of capital murder and he doesn’t make excuses for his behavior. He doesn’t deny his behavior. He doesn’t deny that he committed a crime in fact he admits that the punishment he is receiving is just and he tells the other criminal, ‘Look, we have been condemned justly, but this man Jesus has done nothing criminal.’ And then he turns to Jesus and says, ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ It was as if to say, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  Jesus’ answer, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Now the crucifixion of Christ is a paradox.  A paradox of course is a seemingly absurd or contradictory idea that is actually true and so the crucifixion of Jesus is a paradox.  It is at the same time the worst evil ever and the greatest good ever. It was the greatest evil in that creatures tortured and murdered their creator.  It was not simply homicide, it was deicide. At the same time it was the greatest good ever because it opened the gates of Heaven and it shed light on the mystery of human suffering. Our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to die on a cross and he did this on his own accord.  This was not something that accidentally happened to him. Remember in John’s Gospel he tells his disciples, ‘No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again.’ And he did this to show us his love for us and to provide for us a means of forgiveness of sins.  And so, let’s go back to our criminal on the cross. Like so many Gospel stories that we read we are meant to identify with those persons Jesus is addressing with those persons that Jesus is ministering to so we can put ourselves in the place of the criminal who does not warrant Heaven who is not deserving of Heaven at all and we can ask Jesus in essence the same words that the criminal asks, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  What do you think is his answer? We know what his answer is, don’t we?”