Only St Luke carries the account of the conversation of Our Lord on the Cross with the two thieves. We know from his prologue that Luke collected information from many eye-witnesses. He is the only Gospel which contains accounts of Our Lady’s reaction to the news that she would bear the Saviour of the World, and it does not seem too fanciful to imagine that it was from the same source that this account of the last words of the Lord came.
One of them was the voice of this world. Even in his death agonies he could find nothing better to do than to mock. But the other thief, whom tradition calls ‘Dismas’, was another matter. Christ ends by telling him that he will be with Him in Paradise that day. Do we stop to wonder why, or ask questions? After all, as Dismas himself admits, he deserves his punishment – he was a thief, a robber, a breaker of the law, and he acknowledged his sins. There is the first place he sets an example we could all follow. He admits his sins. He fears God and makes a clean breast of it. There are no ifs and buts, no ‘well, you see, it was society’s fault’; no, none of that; just the confession of a man who fears God’s wrath.
What else does this poor man do? He confesses Christ as Lord. Jesus is, he declares, innocent, and here Dismas bears a true witness; it is a good deed, perhaps the first for many years; but he does it. He also acknowledges who Jesus is by calling Him ‘Lord’. This confession is accompanied by an outpouring of faith, as he asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom.
What humility and what faith do we see here? If, as the Roman Centurion said, ‘Truly this man is the Son of God’, then of Dismas we might say, ‘truly this man confessed Christ, repented and followed Him.’
Is that true of us?
[First published on nebraskaenergyobserver on 30 March 2013]