“Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him... One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Lk 23: 32, 39-43)
On that Friday almost two millennia ago, the repentant criminal accepted “the same sentence” of condemnation as all of us who have been “condemned justly,” and “for our deeds.” Christ Himself accepted this “same sentence,” identifying with us, having become one of us, and even entering into our deepest darkness, unto death and descent into our hell.
So, His kingdom is about accepting our similarities, rather than rebuking one another for our differences, as does “one of the criminals” here, who “kept deriding him.” On this sunny Friday let me identify and accept my similarities with other cross-carriers, rather than deride them for our differences. Because acceptance makes all the difference, for all of us on our common, cross-carrying journey, “under the same sentence”: It opens doors to others, including God, while self-justification shuts them. Acceptance opens the doors of Paradise.