Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 2

our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Take a look at the those on the crosses. All different, right? I would like to reflect on these people and consider equality and possibility.

Who was there? Jesus, of course. Dismas, the ‘good thief.’ Gestas, the impenitent thief. By the way, his name means ‘to complain or moan.’ The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John, and the three other Marys (Mary Cleophas, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene). The centurion and the soldiers. Representatives of the Sanhedrin (the scribes, elders, or rulers), including perhaps the chief priests. And, finally, the rest, the people from the whole surrounding countryside. Quite a crowd.

In this array of people, we may perceive ourselves to be better than some, worse than others. We may struggle (those of us who are particularly attuned to organizing things) with where we fit on the ladder; what shelf we may be on. Let’s see, well I’m not as good as Jesus, or Mary, or St. John. Am I better than Mary Magdalene? Am I better than Dismas? Certainly, Gestas, and the soldiers, and the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests, and most of the crowd who rejected Jesus, and, and, and… are lower than I am.

Equality and possibility. Disciples must rightly measure both.

A disciple recognizes inherent equality in human dignity. The image of Christ is in all. There is no distinction in color, background, ability, sexuality. We must see in each, another self, and respect each person’s life and dignity through our kindness and mercy. Taken from that perspective, each person on and around the cross is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are.

A disciple properly orders possibility – that we are not a copy of each other (I’ll never be as smart as… As beautiful / handsome as… As artistic as…) but rather that I am able to come to Jesus and be saved (as Dismas was). All sorts and conditions of humanity gathered at the Cross, the whole scene a picture of equality and possibility. Our discipleship message is that all have equality before Jesus and each, like Dismas, has possibility in the Cross of Christ.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 1

What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart —that is, the word of faith that we preach—for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction 

If you attended Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday, you had a preview of our Lenten homily series. We are spending Lent with St. Dismas. For those who do not know, Dismas was the “good thief,” crucified alongside Jesus. In Greek, the name Dismas, means sunset or death. There are many stores about St. Dismas, but they are not our concern. Rather, we will delve into Dismas as a person, much like ourselves. He took many wrong turns in his life, much like we do. Perhaps, none of our turns was as extreme as Dismas’ turns; yet we have much in common  with him when we turn from God.

Dismas’ turns were dark. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus noted Dismas was a brigand – a thief and abuser. He is much like the robbers the poor man in the story of the Good Samaritan encountered. Brigands lived in the hills, watching for and robbing travelers. They left their victims beaten, robbed, stripped, and helpless along highways and byways. Unless helped, those robbed typically died.

Other works note Dismas as a terrorist or as a fratricidal murderer. As I said, his turns were dark. What was most important however was his last-minute turn to Jesus. Jesus,remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.

Who was this Dismas, really? What brought him to the life he led? None of us can really answer that question. We can speculate. Was he a man, perhaps abused or neglected by his family? Was his family somehow killed by violence or disease, leaving him to fend for himself? Was he a person of little skill who could not find work? Hopelessness can drive a man or woman to extremes. As in our very neighborhood, young men and women join gangs because of hopelessness.

The question we must ask ourselves in our inner Lenten examinations is: ‘Why did I turn from God when I did? What temptation won?’ Again, perhaps not as darkly as Dismas, but nonetheless, away from God. What hopelessness drew me into sin? How might I repent/turn back and in doing so show unity with God’s heart by relieving another person’s hopelessness? Disciples ask these questions and use them to grow into images of Jesus.