"This day you will be with Me in paradise. "

I am told that a song written in the major key has a rather delightful melody that evokes in the listener a desire to sing and dance and jump for joy. I believe that this is how the good thief felt when Jesus said, "This day you will be with Me in paradise. "

My sisters and brothers, we know that Jesus was frequently condemned for keeping company with sinners. But we also know that He responded to this criticism saying, "The well do not need a doctor. I have come to save not the self-righteous; I have come to save the sinner." Now, isn't it ironic that the authorities chose to crucify Jesus between two sinners, between two condemned thieves? I must admit that I find this rather amusing but Jesus doesn't find this amusing at all, because hanging there on the cross between two sinners, Jesus makes a personal offer of forgiveness to all sinners, and this includes you and me, my friends.

Let us pause for a moment to reflect upon the behavior of these two men as they interacted with Jesus. Perhaps, we'll see a bit of ourselves in each of them. Let's begin with the thief to the left of Jesus.

To me, this man seems to be a very angry person. In fact I like to say he was marinating in anger and thus saturated with bitterness and hatred. Why was he so angry? Was it because he saw death by crucifixion as a personal insult? Was it because he had just come to grips with the stark reality of his imminent death and he was so, so frightened? I don't know but I do know that he was very, very angry and that he hurled this anger at Jesus, joining the crowd shouting, " If you are the son of God save yourself and save us too." What did Jesus do in the face of such anger, retaliate? O no, not at all. Jesus continued to make His love and His mercy available.

Friends, anger is like the wind. It can easily blow out the flames of light. This man's anger blew out the light in both his intellect and his spirit. And now he gropes in darkness. He needs someone to be his light. He needs someone to help him see the truth, the truth of his behavior. He needs someone to help him reach out and accept the love and the mercy of Jesus. Intervention came but it came from a very surprising and unexpected source. It came from his fellow thief, Dismas. "Have you no fear of God," Dismas questioned? "We deserve our punishment but this man has done no wrong." Through these words, Dismas was telling his fellow thief as well as you and me that honesty and acceptance of Jesus are at the heart of every conversion. Now we do not know in fact that this man accepted or rejected conversion but we do know that God is constantly, constantly offering us the gift of conversion. But the question is how much do we desire conversion? How much do you desire conversion?

Now let's shift our focus. Let's zero in on the thief to the right of Jesus. Did you ever wonder why Dismas was so accepting of Jesus and so accepting of his death? After all, he only knew Jesus for a few hours and as far as we know, there was never any conversation between them. Then why was Dismas so comfortable with Jesus. It is possible that Jesus and Dismas were retained in the same prison room. It's possible that there they communicated on a level which did not need words. It is possible that Dismas witnessed the release of Barabas and saw Jesus presented to the crowd robed in red and wearing a crown of thorns. It's possible that Dismas heard Pilot say, "I wash my hands of the guilt of this just man. " And my friends, it's very, very possible that Jesus gave Dismas the very same look that He gave Peter after his denial and Dismas melted in the face of such love. These are just possibilities but there is one thing of which we are so very, very sure. Dismas had a privileged position and Dismas had plenty of time to observe the behavior of Jesus, to observe Jesus' response to the many, many indignities to which he was subjected. And Dismas fell in love with Jesus. To Dismas, Jesus was a silent but powerful proclamation of the Good News. And Dismas was drawn to this wordless witness of love. To Dismas, Jesus was inescapable love in whose presence he felt whole and secure. No wonder Dismas said, "Lord, will you remember me when you enter into Your kingdom?" And no wonder Jesus replied, " I assure you this day you will be with Me in paradise." O Lord, will you remember me? Please, please, please, Lord. Remember me.

Friends, once again I invite those who have eyes that see to look at our Crucified Lord… to look at the scars on His hands. Friends, your names are imbedded in these scars. How could Jesus ever forget you? Yes, yes, Jesus will remember you but will you remember Jesus? Friends, will you remember him when he wears the face of the poor, the homeless, the abused, the disadvantaged, the institutionalized, the elderly. Remembering Jesus regardless of the face he wears…this is your highway to paradise where Jesus will meet you one day and repeat the promise he made to Dismas," I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise.

Sr. Geraldine Calabrese, MPF
© 1997

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