Dismas was no dimwit! |
Michael Cain, editor
I hope everyone had a grace-filled Paschal Triduum and a Blessed Easter. The time of Lent has passed, but it lingers in the final act of love Jesus left us.
This past Good Friday we were reminded of the Good Thief Dismas, who was convicted of a crime he was guilty for and for which he was receiving his due punishment. Whether crucifixion is due or just I would venture to argue, but the point is he was being punished for his wayward deeds. The difference between Dismas and so many others then and now is that he got caught. How many are there out there who are entirely innocent? Very few, my friends, very few. But, rather than sinking in depression, we can take heart in the fact Christ did not preach, go through the unspeakable tortures of His Passion, die an ignominious death on the Cross, and rise triumphantly on the third day for the sake of the innocent - the saints, but for us - the sinners. Is that Mercy or what?
And that is the theme of this wonderful week that began on the day He died for us and will continue up to the vigil of next Sunday, which, for the first time, is officially designated Divine Mercy Sunday. The story of Divine Mercy as given to Saint Maria Kowalska Faustina earlier in the last century is a story of hope and great
consolation to all sinners. This Mercy began on the Cross when Dismas, recognizing the Merciful Savior as an innocent Victim, repented of his sins. Yea, he even argued vehemently for his fellow Prisoner to the one who hung to the left of Our Lord; the same who badgered Jesus, "If thou art the Christ, save Thyself and us!" (Luke 23: 39). Looking out for his own skin he was. The man who should have been in the center of these two thieves was Barrabas but we all know how he got off scott-free; similar to so many criminals today, who, through a loophole in the law or some technicality will walk while the innocent many times are not only in more danger but sometimes wrongly incarcerated. While it would seem the guilty ones go scott-free, know that God is all-Just and they will not escape detection when they come before the Supreme Judge.
A judge, probably Pontius Pilate at the urging of Caiphas, no doubt convicted Dismas and the nameless thief to accompany the Man from Nazareth.
Regardless of circumstances, Dismas defended the emaciated Man Who said little, "Dost not even thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same sentence? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what our deeds deserved; but this man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23: 40-41). He would have made a heck of a Supreme Court justice! Before waiting from the sneer of the unrepentant thief, Dismas addressed the Lamb of God, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23: 42).
That's really all we know of Dismas. But consider here was a man who believed, here was a man who believed in Divine Mercy. Here was a man who said "Jesus, I trust in You!" We talk of the Apostles, but other than John, where were they? Cowering in fear, hiding within the bowels of Jerusalem's maze of walled residences. No Apostle showed the faith that Dismas displayed in his darkest hour. But because he believed, it became his brightest hour, confirmed in Our Lord's loving, merciful response as recorded in Luke 23: 43, "Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
Wow! What an epiphany, one that had to make Dismas' last few minutes of agonizing temporal pain so much lighter. I would venture to say from that second on he didn't feel any more pain. He was in ecstasy. No, the scriptures don't say that, but Tradition teaches that in the accounts of the early Christians, in the annals of countless others who have given their lives for Jesus down through the centuries. They willingly went to their deaths confident in the Mercy of Our Lord and Savior, from Saint Stephen, who was "rocked" to death by Saul's decree to Saint Lawrence , who begged his executioners to turn him over since he was well roasted on one side - to the martyrdom of all His apostles, save for John - to the documented stories of so many who came after these early martyrs right up to modern times. From Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe and Saint Edith Stein, who willingly stepped up for their fellow man and for God in the gas chambers of Auschwitz - to the martyrs today in East Timor, China, the Sudan, the Congo, the Philippines, Kosovo, India, and throughout this wide world on every continent, in every century. The blood of millions has been spilled in exemplifying the One Who sacrificed Himself for us.
The martyrs are composed of lambs of every age, size, and race - from womb to the tomb - they have died for a cause greater than they. There are the knowing martyrs and the unknowing martyrs. In that respect we mean those martyrs who knew what they were doing and why as opposed to those who died not knowing why, such as the innocents hunted by Herod while Joseph and Mary stayed a step ahead, just evading the inevitable sword in their flight to Egypt. So also the innocents of today, well over 40 million strong - and that's a conservative estimate - who have been slaughtered in the womb. In truth, their numbers are unknown, but we cannot allow them to have died in vain.
We firmly believe, through the conditional baptism in the Precious Blood of Jesus, that the vast majority have been
saved and reside in the Heavenly playground where they wait and pray for those who thought so little of them - their own mothers and those who were partners to the vile deed both directly and indirectly, either by their condonement or silence in not speaking out against the horrors of abortion. Yet God's "little angels" forgive. And so does our Blessed Lord.
The example of Dismas should reinforce this. If only Judas had the courage of conviction he would not have convicted himself at the end of a noose. Like the bad thief, he dwelled in the present of temporal things with no thought, and consequently no hope for the future in the Heavenly kingdom. But we are spared any despair if only we truly hear what the Son of God told us during His public life, on the Cross, before His Ascension and through the ages via His Holy Church. His revelations to St. Faustina that any Catholic who makes the Novena of Divine Mercy during this week, then makes a good Confession and receives Him worthily in Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, has all their sins forgiven and all punishment abrogated as well - that means all punishment including Purgatory - is such a confirmation of His Infinite Mercy that I can't believe Catholics the world over are not storming churches clamoring to go to Confession with SRO next Sunday.
In other words, through His Divine Mercy we, too, are granted the same reward Dismas received. Talk about Mercy!
Yet, quite possibly the reason why the ennui is so prevalent today and few get exited about the promise given to St. Faustina is, sadly, that so few truly believe today. The deconstruction of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has created a terrible, devastating fulcrum of tipping the scales away from the True Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. The continual protestantizing of our once-absolute tenets of the Faith has confused and divided so many that, like the other thief, they want to know what is God going to do for them, without them even thinking of what they can do for Him. It would seem to be so one-sided and yet, despite the foolishness of man, his stubbornness, his pride, Jesus is still there. All He asks is for us to knock and He will open the floodgates of His Mercy.
Again the question is, how many will take advantage of this Divine Mercy? We would hope and pray millions upon millions, but, as is usually the case, many will not avail themselves of this either because they did not know or felt they were too sophisticated for such superstition that identified the "old Church" before 1962. These are the same who reject indulgences, novenas, Rosaries, prayers and Adoration as being for "little old ladies" who don't know better. Yes, the "solomons" of today are so much wiser, so much more aware of how to attain what only Christ can give, so much involved with temporal things that they can't see the rumbling locomotive bearing down on them as they defiantly stand on the tracks of temporal needs and knowledge. These are the same who expect God to be all-loving as they go about being unloving to Him. These are the same who expect God to forgive them of everything, while they themselves are not willing to repent. These are the same who assume Mercy, and give no credence to the fact that while God is All-Merciful, He is also All-Just.
Whether they be cardinal, bishop, priest or DRE promoting a humanistic liturgy and rationalization of relativism or the gullible, lukewarm Christian Catholic - who can't possibly believe God would punish anyone and so give credence to a creed of "anything-goes-as-long-as-it-doesn't-effect-them" mentality - or the placating poltician who thinks he can have it both ways, falsely assuming political expediency outweighs personal accountability and moral law - they will all realize that these "superstitions" still work. And the funny thing is, the wonderful, wondrous thing is - they're not superstitions at all, but definitive signs of His loving Mercy extended from the Cross to Dismas, to His persecutors (cf. Luke 23: 34), and from His sacred side when the lance pierced His Most Sacred Heart and from It poured forth Blood and Water as a font of Divine Mercy for all generations.
And through these many generations - from the early centuries of persecution that evolved into the age of Constantine - to the preservation of the writings and scriptures by the monks through the dark ages and the cruel years of the Crusades - to the confusing times of enlightenment, reformation, rebellion and persecution - to the rise of the masonic mandate to destroy the Church - to the evangelization of the Faith through the missionary efforts of those who would not compromise - to the implosion of morals and values today both in the world and the Church - through all of these eras, we can learn from those who went before us, who preserved the Faith in all its fullness in the great Deposit of Faith. Oh, yes, one other thing we can realize without a shadow of a doubt - besides Our Lord's most wonderful Divine Mercy - is that, as Scripture confirms: Dismas was no dimwit!
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