INTRO: HOW DO WE ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS AS OUR LORD AND KING IN OUR DAILY LIVING? WHAT TESTIFIES IN YOU THAT HE IS RECEIVED IN YOU AND YOU ARE OPEN AND OBEDIENT TO HIS WORD AND HIS SPIRIT’S PROMPTING?
John 1:12 says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave right to become the children of God.” So—how IS He received in you, that you might be a King’s kid, a child of God joining with the other children of God in one body of faith. How are you living under the reign of God, the Kingdom of Christ?
THE GOSPEL OF LUKE TODAY ON NOVEMBER 20TH PROCLAIMS….”Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,” Are you not the Christ? 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.”
All four of the Holy Gospels acquaint readers with the two criminals/ revolutionaries crucified with Jesus. It was at the big, culminating moment at The Cross. We know there were three crosses at Calvary that Good Friday, and three men on each of their crosses. Jesus was put in-between two thieves, in a trio of wooden cross beams, for to all share the same death sentence by being tied and nailed onto to a cross—to bleed to death or of to die of loss of breath. Matthew, Mark, and John’s gospel all show the three at Calvary. However, it is Luke’s gospel, of which we read today, who gives us an interesting peek into the personalities of those other two men hanging next to Jesus, all near death there. While the focus is on Jesus, something is revealed from the exchange of those co-crucified men with Him.
The names of the one on the right and left of Jesus at Calvary have been come to be known as Dismas—the “good thief,”to the right—and of Gestas—that one screaming at and accusing of Jesus as a fraud. Gestas is on the left side. Dismas is a Greek word meaning “dying” or a man dying. This man dying will surprisingly come to defend Jesus, as we just heard that account, and after he does that defense, then Dismas prays a famous few desperate words: Nine exactly: “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus really appreciated hearing it from him—so much so, that He says, even publicly so, that this repentant thief will be pardoned by His Cross and will get to enter Heaven (or paradise) after his death. We call that a last-second conversion. All because of Jesus’ Mercy. Gestas, however, will die in his stern, stubborn, utterly selfish rejection of Jesus. He already is in his hell of separation from God, and will remain so, all by his choice.
We all have become familiar with the Way of the Cross, as Jesus has to go from Pilate’s court through Jerusalem’s streets and then outside the city gates, carrying a cross, to a place called Golgotha, the dung-heap place of the skull. The hill is also called Calvary. Since the attention is on Him, we only come to notice the other two men when Jesus is hoisted up on the mount, after the 11th station, of His being nailed to the wood.
Dismas became quite sobered during Jesus’ crucifixion. As he considered his situation, while up on his own cross, he became awash with humility and regret. This newfound attitude seemed to spur on a new hope, trust, faith and love. After Gestas (the name given to the criminal hung on the other side of Jesus) reviled Jesus, demanding that Jesus do something about their precarious situation, it was Dismas who admonished him, who stepped in and defended Jesus. It was Dismas who reminded Gestas that they had both done wrong. They deserved their punishments. Dismas was clear in pointing out to Gestas that Jesus was an innocent man and did not deserve to be the recipient of such loathsome abuse, much less subjected to a crucifixion.
As the heart and mind of Dismas became transformed, he came to know that he was next to a man of overwhelming love and power, and he decided to risk asking Jesus for an undeserved, glorious favor: that He would remember him when Jesus arrived at His kingdom. Jesus’ response was striking―he promised they would be together that very day in Paradise! This phenomenal pledge probably made the pain of Dismas’ crucifixion seem less horrific, perhaps even hopeful instead, on that traumatic day. Jesus forgiving Dismas with such ease, even though he had been a great sinner, is a wonderful sign of hope and encouragement for all. Amen!! Jesus forgiving Dismas with such ease, even though he had been a great sinner, is a wonderful sign of hope and encouragement for all. Yes.
Dismas was probably somewhat aware of Jesus’ ministry, as were so many others in Israel. The passed-on accounts of Jesus’ teachings and parables and His magnificently holy life and miracles were the talk of the nation. But Jesus’ call for repentance, of that the Kingdom of God was at hand—it was a hard thing to actually do. To humble oneself and repent: hard thing. Many people then, as of 2022, were in love with their sin, enslaved in their rebellious heart—addicted to it, reveling in the darkness. Jesus called people to come out of the darkness, and of their blindness of heart, and of their pride. Dismas’ honest response to this Christ figure Jesus was very late, but he was now on a cross dying. His addiction to sin could die first, and his pride die ahead of his body, and his mouth could speak that He now believed and accepted Jesus—this innocent Lamb of God—and His Savior. This “king of the Jews” Who was so mocked would be the “king of Dismas.”
Dismas believed there was a Heaven and this Jesus was from that Kingdom above, sent down in the Christ’ life, and that this seemingly weak man in the middle Cross actually had the power to grant a sinner paradise, for the rising up. He testified aloud to Jesus of this last second arrival to the Truth. Jesus confirmed it and accepted it. Amazing, really. We call it Amazing Grace.
St. Dismas has a day on the Church calendar. It’s quite the startling one. The Martyrologium Romanum says it is on March 25th –intriguing, I say, as it is the same day as the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Lord first came to the earth, as holy embryo. And the Lord came to save, or as Luke 10:17 says: “He came to seek and save the lost sinner.” Even in His Annunciation, He did. He was the Lord come to reconcile us.
It’s a compelling pair of bookend memorials on one March 25th day: a reminder of Christ’ conception and another of his death, for St. Dismas day, AND it’s Maryland Day, too, when Catholics commemorate the First Mass done on St. Clement’s Island, St. Mary’s County, in the Potomac, in 1634. It was the start of Catholicism in our state and region. It’s also the calendar day for a man who got a pardon—Dismas.
St. Dismas is known as the patron saint of prisoners, thieves and penitent criminals. It’s fascinating to ponder other Bible Saints who may have seen and heard Dismas speak right there to Jesus, as they both hung upon their crosses: St. John the apostle heard it, so did Mary and Mary Magdalence and those other holy women under The Cross. So did St. Longinus, the centurion who converted when the Blood of Christ spilled onto him at the spearing conclusion. Luke had a lot of sources for this Gospel account.
But all we repentant sinners have had to come to the Cross of Christ Event, for ourselves, and we’ve looked upon our Sacrifice in Christ Jesus. We have openly confessed our sin and need for The Lord, for His Reign and Kingship over us. It is the inner reason we’re here today—to celebrate the Saving Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ—remembering it as Jesus asked us to do, in what we do at Holy Mass. Then, in such remembrance, we can ask: “Jesus, would you remember me, when You come into Your kingdom?….
At the Hill of Calvary in 33 ad, or 1,989 years ago, the Roman soldiers might have sportingly put the sign “King of the Jews” on the top of Jesus’ Cross— but we have now come to call Him, King of my life, King of John, King of Phil, King of Rachel, King of Maria, King of fill-in-your name.
We call Him King of Hearts. We ask: Jesus, can I love You forever, and can I be loved by You forever—in Your kingdom? May I praise and exalt You forever? May I be a king’s kid—of your Realm?
Your Sacred Heart, O Jesus, is so wonderful!
While I don’t deserve such a thing, to get saved into paradise, I remember our kneeling prayer before Communion: “but only say the Word, Lord, and I shall be healed.”
Jesus said: “The one who would acknowledge me before others, so will I acknowledge before the Father of them.” That’s from Luke 12:8.
On this Christ the King Sunday, learn what the lesson is today from our good thief Dismas, and hear again what Jesus says: “Repent, the Kingdom or realm of God is at hand for you.” Let us not do a Gestas act—mocking our Lord and demanding things of Him, like come off the Cross and prove something! Though many in the world now have that spirit….
Jesus said: ‘the one who would acknowledge Me before others, out to the world, meaning, sharing and proclaiming of Jesus’ reign and authority, the one who would acknowledge Me before others, so will I acknowledge before the Father of them.” Meaning, this day, that person, of “thou shalt be with Me in paradise,” for such a follower’s witness. Amen.