Today, we reflect on the second of Our Lord’s final words from the Cross. They were spoken to St. Dismas, the Good Thief, as he and Jesus hung dying side by side on Good Friday We find these words only in the Gospel of Luke.
Dismas and his fellow-thief had, like Christ, been condemned to death by crucifixion. Unlike them Jesus was innocent, suffering His punishment due to others.
The bad thief reviled Christ and demanded that He save Himself and them, if He be truly the Son of God. Dismas rebuked him for his impiety, proclaiming that they–as criminals–deserved their punishment, but that Christ had done no wrong.
Dismas than made a rather strange request of Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He did not ask to be saved from the cross. He did not ask to escape the punishment for his crimes. He did not even ask for mercy. He simply asked to be remembered. The request is stunning in its simplicity and its profound humility.
Even more stunning is the response of Our Lord, Who does far more than simply remember the repentant. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me Me in paradise.”
Dismas will not only be remembered. He will be forgiven, and the gates of Paradise will be open to him, once his (and Our Lord’s) agonies are complete. The Just Man hanging beside Dismas has taken the crimes of Dismas and all of humanity upon Himself, so that we can escape the punishment we deserve.
Dismas’ reaction is left to the imagination of the reader, but one can surmise that he died filled with joy and hope. Perhaps he offered up his suffering–in union with Christ–in reparation for his sins and those of humanity. what a beautiful and extraordinary thing, to suffer in such perfect imitation of Christ! What a grace–to rise from being a common thief to being the chosen companion of Jesus in His final hours! How superabundant is the mercy of God!