Jesus was not crucified alone. The Gospels tell us of at least two men who died alongside Him. One man joined with the others and mocked Him, derided Him. Another man, who we call the “good thief”, defended Jesus. Jesus, in all His suffering, promised salvation to the good thief.
Why did the good thief defend Jesus? Did he, in that shared moment of tremendous suffering, see the glory of Jesus and have a true conversion? Maybe he thought Jesus was some crazy guy who wanted to be king, so joined in the mocking, albeit more charitably. Maybe he realized Jesus’ crucifixion was horrendously worse than his own, and he was moved to pity. Whatever the reason the good thief turned to Jesus, Jesus accepted him, comforted him, and promised to bring him Home.
Incredible. At a time when the normal man would be in the depths of despair, Jesus gave comfort and hope. Then again, He was no ordinary man. Even while dying Jesus taught us that no matter how we come to Him, He accepts us. We’re unworthy – that’s okay. We are ordinary men and women. He knew that all along. He died for our unworthiness.
We all have our conversion stories. Some of us experience a gradual conversion, like that of the original Apostles. It’s not bells and whistles, it’s a simple, gradual conversion with an ever-increasing sense of longing that leads the way to our Church family. Others compare their conversion to that of St. Paul’s – like being knocked off a horse, then joyfully living and spreading the Good News that finally makes sense. At the centre of every conversion story, though, is the support and welcoming of Jesus.
Like the good thief, our motives at the time of conversion may be questionable. Looking back we may marvel that Jesus would accept someone with such incomplete faith. That is exactly the point. We simply need to open our hearts a little bit. He’ll carry us the rest of the way. He died to bring us Home.