Thursday, March 29, 2018

Am I the Good Thief?

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

Here in Luke's Gospel we witness the dialogue from the cross between Jesus and the two thieves who are crucified with him. The one thief, caught up in his own pain and self-pity, joins with the crowd in mocking Jesus, while the other thief looks upon the face of Jesus and sees him for who he truly is. In this revelation, the Good Thief, known today as St. Dismas, immediately acknowledges his own sins and begs the Lord to "remember him".  His confession is met with one of the most beautiful promises in all of scripture, "today you will be with me in Paradise."

What was the difference between the two thieves? How was it that one persisted in his own pride and misery, while the other was able to humbly face the reality of his sinful life and confess that to Jesus?  Why did two people with similar backgrounds encounter Jesus in the same way, but react to him in totally opposite ways? Why do we still today see deathbed conversions of some, while others die in bitterness and unbelief?  Father Sopocko, who was Saint Faustina's Spiritual Director, describes this dramatic conversion as an act of grace:
"How close Dismas had come to eternal condemnation! A murderer and thief, he had behind him a lifetime of sin and crime. And now suddenly a ray of grace had shone into his soul, and from a thief be became a penitent."
God's grace acting in a person's soul is a mystery - a mystery for us to bow before and accept, as the Good Thief did on the cross. Father Sopocko goes on to say that all the Good Thief had
"was a little good will that led him to sympathize with Thee, O Jesus!—to follow the call of grace and co-operate with it." (read Father's entire article here)
Perhaps we identify with the Good Thief this Holy Week - seeing our own sins and shortcomings in the light of Jesus' passion. Through the same grace that touched St. Dismas, we may even be facing the truth about ourselves for the first time. Let us ask the Lord to create in us a "new heart"  - one is open to his grace and mercy, so that we too may receive the beautiful promise of being with Jesus in Paradise. 

Jesus, I have only just met you and I can sense that you are unlike anyone else that I have ever known. Your face is bloody and disfigured and yet in your eyes I see something I have never experienced before. You are looking at me with love and kindness. I can feel the walls that surround my heart crumbling. I see inside my heart all the terrible thing I have done, the malicious thoughts I have had and all the ways I have hurt others. Jesus, I am not worthy of receiving anything from you and yet, I am drawn to ask you to forgive me and to allow me to remain with you forever.

Read Other "Who Am I?" Holy Week Reflections Here:
Am I Peter?
Am I Pilate?
Am I Simon?
Am I the Centurion?

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