Monday, March 25, 2013

St. Dismas, the saved sinner

While the Solemnity of the Annunciation has been transferred this year to Monday, 8 April, because of Holy Week and then Eastertide (i.e., the Octave of Easter), it is with a deep diaconal bow to Fr. Z that I remind everyone (as he reminded me) that today remains the liturgical memorial of St. Dismas. Dismas is the name Tradition gives to one of the two criminals who was crucified on either side of our Lord. St. Dismas is "the Good Thief," the one who rebukes the other criminal who was pleading with Jesus to save them all if He was truly the Christ. Frankly, it is easier for me to identify with him than it is with Dismas, who recognizied Jesus as Lord even in those dire circumstances, which recognition is always the work of the Holy Spirit.

The first time I ever heard the name "St. Dismas" was in the 1992 movie American Me, starring Edward James Olmos.

St. Dismas

So, it is fitting to remember St. Dismas, the one who said to our crucified Lord, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). Whenever I lead Stations of the Cross I have a hard time saying those words without my voice cracking. I am even more moved by the Lord's amazing response: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

I also remember years ago attending Mass at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, CA, home of the Western U.S. Province of the Dominicans. For our communion hymn we sang this as a repetitive refrain: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom".

This memorial seems to me a fitting way to begin Holy Week, not that the Annunciation wouldn't be. In St. John's Gospel Jesus replied to Pilate after the Roman procurator asked Him, "Then you are a king?": "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). We all know Pilate's reply to Jesus' statement. Unlike the Pilate and because of his desperate need, St. Dismas listened to the Truth and gained Paradise.

Apart from the Baptist (Matt. 11:11), there is no one in Scripture who's salvation is assured from the lips of our Blessed Lord other than St. Dismas.

To top it off, it somehow seems fitting that Flannery O'Connor birthday is today.

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