April 10, 2022
In his darkest hour, in his final moment, one thief has the most unexpected encounter with God’s Mercy. What light does this shed for us? (Please note: The homily on 4-11-2022 did not record properly. This is a similar homily from 4-14-19.)
- The Gospel of St. Luke is the only gospel which tells us of the conversation between one of the thieves, called Dismas, and Jesus.
- Dismas who was crucified, dies in shame, alone, and surrounded by hatred and mockery.
- Dismas discovers God’s great mysterious mercy, that in our suffering, Jesus is there with us.
- Dismas senses that Jesus is a king, real and authentic, and that through Jesus, there is something beyond death.
- Jesus states that the more you offend Him, the more right you have to His mercy.
Dismas becomes a great lesson for us to discover in the darkest moments of our life, the presence of Jesus with us, suffering with us. Dismas gave Jesus great joy by trusting in His mercy, because the reason Jesus was dying on the cross was to give mercy. We are invited during Mass, to give Jesus the joy of trusting in His mercy. The whole reason for Holy week, is mercy.
“Two others also who were criminals were led away to be put to death with Jesus. And when they came to the place, which is called the Skull, there, they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right, the other on the left.” This is the Gospel of St. Luke that we’re reading this year. And this is the only Gospel which tells us of this conversation between one of the thieves who tradition calls Dismas, Dismas and Jesus. Many of us have regrets as we look back over parts of our life. And it’s helpful to put ourselves in the place of Dismas and the regrets he was having at this moment. Dismas had taken advantage of a lot of people, had hurt a lot of people. And now it’s all over. He’s condemned, He’s crucified, he’s dying, and it’s crucified. Dying, crucified is not just any death, it’s a death. It’s a death, which is designed to be a torture, designed to make people afraid of this type of death. And he’s not dying as a martyr with any glory. He’s dying, just in shame. And surrounded by hatred by mockery, he’s dying all alone. And what was he feeling? Certainly, he was feeling pain. But he must have been feeling humiliation, maybe anger, hatred, regret, despair, a wasted life. And now it’s too late to do anything. This is probably not the way he wanted it to end. But nobody was asking him what he wanted, and he didn’t have any choice. At this moment, where everything swirling around, he finds himself, that there’s someone else there besides the other thief, there’s this Jesus of Nazareth, and he probably knew something about who Jesus was. And they probably didn’t expect to find themselves there with Jesus. And seeing that Jesus was suffering even more than he was. Jesus was hated more, Jesus treated worse than he was. It was just a few days ago on the Palm Sunday that we’re celebrating today, that so many people wanted to be close to the famous Jesus. But now, almost nobody wanted to be close to Jesus. And it’s Dismas who finds himself close to Jesus, not because he chose that way, but because he doesn’t have any choice. Dismas with Jesus, very unusual. Dismas is living darkest moment of his life. And just it seems by coincidence, Jesus is there. But what Dismas is going to discover is, even in that darkest moment, God’s mysterious mercy. And I think there’s a lesson for us, in hard times, in dark times, discovering where we least expected, discovering that Jesus is there suffering with us. And there’s so many surprises in this moment. Dismas hears these words which are not words that that are usually heard at a crucifixion scene. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.” Forgive? Dismas is realizing that there’s something very different with this Jesus. And Dismas certainly sees the mother of Jesus there also and realizes that she’s dying also. And perhaps Dismas is thinking about his own mother and maybe the pain that he’s caused his own mother. We don’t know what all that was going on inside of Dismas at that point. But he says something very surprising. He says he speaks of when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Think how surprising that was. Does this look like a king about to enter into a kingdom? Even if He was a king, He’s about to die. How does Dismas believe that He’s about to enter a kingdom. Jesus is dying, weak, helpless, rejected, it seems like He’s defeated. Even His own disciples have abandoned Him and most of them. What kind of a king could He be? And yet somehow Dismas senses that Jesus is a king. And that he’s about to enter into His kingdom. Where did this extraordinary faith come that led Dismas to believe that Jesus was a king, about to enter into His kingdom? When most others, even disciples of Jesus were losing their faith, their faith was shaken. Where did this faith come in Dismas? He was so close to Jesus. And then he says, what he says, it says, it also says, “Jesus, remember me.” Think of that, you’re a thief. You’re asking someone who doesn’t even know you, who is dying in torment, worse torment than you, and you’re asking them to remember you. Can you imagine walking into a hospital bed with someone is agonized and say, well remember me, think of me? Why should Jesus think of Dismas? What had Dismas ever done for Jesus? What had Dismas done to make himself worthy of Jesus. And I think this is one of the most impressive witnesses to the mercy of Jesus. Because some of us can be nice sometimes. But in very difficult situations, sometimes the niceness wears out. And this is the situation that Jesus is in. And this torture is a situation in which any pretend any mask would be ripped away, any mask of niceness and Dismas, sensing that there’s something so real and authentic in Jesus and mercy that’s so authentic, that Dismas dares to ask Jesus, remember me, to trust in His mercy. And so, the other thief is saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and save us.” The other thief is asking, save us. What is Dismas asking for? He’s been a thief. He’s been a thief living for stuff of this world. But what is he asking for right now? He’s not asking to be taken down from the cross. He’s not asking to escape death. He’s not asking for revenge on his enemies. Not asking for any the normal stuff that a person would ask. Maybe he’s not even quite sure what he’s asking for. But he senses that there’s something beyond death. And he senses that it’s from Jesus. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What an extreme act of faith that Dismas was making. When so many are losing faith. Dismas has come to faith. And then the words of Jesus. “Amen, I say to you,” and what remembering that do when a person is dying of crucifixion, of dying of suffocation, their lungs are filling up with fluid and it’s only by extreme pain, that words can be expressed with each one of these words, is costing Jesus, adding to his pain. And yet Jesus gives these words to Dismas, “truly, amen, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus doesn’t say, after a long time in Purgatory, maybe you’ll be saved. He says, today you will be with me in Paradise. And so Dismas is teaching has learned something extremely important. And I would say to two extremely important points. One is that he is accepting the situation he’s in. It doesn’t say he wanted to be in that situation. But he’s accepting the situation and he’s making an act of faith of trust in Jesus’ mercy. And what a consolation that is for Jesus, because the whole reason for Jesus that is to give mercy. And there are so many people who are closed to His mercy. But here Dismas is asking and trusting in mercy. And what a consolation he is giving, perhaps without even realizing it, the consolation he’s giving to Jesus, to let Jesus give him mercy. That’s the message throughout the revelations of Divine Mercy, to Saint Faustina where Jesus says, “the greater the sinner, the greater the right, they have to My Mercy.” Think of that, think about what that means. It means that the more you have offended Me, the more right you have to My mercy. Would you say that? That’s not the type of thing we’d want to say, right? And that’s what Jesus is saying. And so, this is an act of trust of Dismas, also an act, which is consolation for Jesus Himself to be able to give His mercy. And then Dismas doesn’t ask for any proof of this extraordinary promise of Jesus. DIsmas doesn’t ask for any proof. He believes that somehow this tortured Jesus of Nazareth, is about to enter paradise. And that today Dismas will be there also, at this darkest moment of his life, his life has just changed, the trajectory of his life has just changed completely, from down to up. Just that afternoon, the eternal trajectory of his life has changed. And so, Dismas becomes a great lesson for us to discover in the darkest moments of our life, the presence of Jesus with us, suffering with us and invites us during this Mass itself, to give Jesus the joy of trusting in His mercy because that’s the whole reason for this whole week, is mercy. And so, Jesus is asking us to trust in His mercy for ourselves, and also to trust in His mercy for those who don’t yet trust in His mercy, those who are farthest away, those who are most in need of His mercy. So, if you want, you could close your eyes now as I read again, these two passages. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Amen, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”