My favorite, and most peaceful, times of the morning is praying the rosary. It is my time to reflect on my Lord, all He has given me and done for the world, and how I can better serve Him. While I have prayed the sorrowful mysteries lately, I have found myself meditating on the thieves beside Jesus during the crucifixion. Strange? Perhaps. However, I find there is much to learn from these two convicted criminals who were taking their last breaths on earth.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find an account that I have often meditated on and pondered. Here it is:
“Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43)
Tradition teaches the repentant thief who asked Christ to remember Him is named Dismas. The story of Dismas, and the other thief to whom we do not know the name, teach us a lot about life. They both teach us a lot about our own lives.
The thief mocking Jesus was dying. He was arrogant, prideful, and selfish. How do we know? He was facing death while still having the pride to mock someone else about what they claimed about their own life. He was selfish, as evidenced by the account, because his attacks against Jesus were not only making fun of him saying He was the Messiah but dared Jesus to prove it. “Save yourself and us”. The thief did not care whether Jesus was taken off the cross or not. He did not care if Jesus died. Did you notice, he dared Jesus to save “us”. He wanted Jesus to take him off that cross.
Dismas was different. Perhaps Dismas reflected on his life and realized he was where he deserved to be. There was something that drew Dismas to Jesus in those final moments. He sought forgiveness. He received it.
St. Dismas shows us it is never too late to come to Jesus. He proves Jesus cares more about your future than your past. He is willing to forgive, even down to the last moment of your life, if you would just ask Him.
Never give up on yourself. Never give up on your family and friends. Jesus has not given up. He still waits. No sin is too strong, and no past is too ugly for Jesus to set you free. Jesus can clean up any mess you might have made in your life.