Tag Archives: St. Dismas

Dismas and His Opposites

BY: George Dunlap, November 24, 2019,

I find Fr. Scalia’s writings to be very current and to the point. My failure is, that I do not live my faith in public, but in private…in hiding. I must show the world my faith with humility and passion. I pray I do not live my life like “the rulers”…waiting for a leader, riding in on a warhorse…imposing his Kingdom over the sinners.

By Fr. Paul D. Scalia Sunday, November 24, 2019

*Image: The Soul of the Good Thief (L’âme du bon Larron) by James J. Tissot, c.1890 [Brooklyn Museum]

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. These words of Saint Dismas, the Good Thief, saved in his last hours on a cross, resound as a perfect acknowledgment of Christ as King. Their power becomes more evident when contrasted with the words of others at that moment. At Calvary, there are three other reactions to the Crucified One. They come from Dismas’s opposites and reveal the attitudes that always oppose Christ the King.

First, the rulers. [They] sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” These are not pagans or unbelievers but Israel’s own religious leaders. These are the men who awaited their King, anticipated His coming, and desired His rule. But, as comes to be clear, they did so on their own terms. Jesus of Nazareth did not meet their requirements for kingship. He comes not on a warhorse to impose a kingdom, but humble, and mounted on an ass. (Mt 21:5) He comes not to judge but to seek and to save what was lost (Lk 19:10), to call not the righteous but sinners. (cf. Lk 5:32)

Second, the Roman soldiers. [They] jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” The great genius of the Romans was that they tolerated the religion of their subjects. Of course, that tolerance was cynical and lasted only as long as the people kept the gods in the proper place and their religion to themselves. Faith was tolerable only when kept private or confined to certain areas and spheres of life. It became intolerable when it made public claims. For Him to be executed, Jesus had to be presented as a political threat to Roman rule. Religion must be kept in its place.

Third, the bad thief: [O]ne of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” You would think that he would remain silent, if only to hedge his bets against impending judgment. But he is unrepentant. In the midst of his suffering, he lashes out at God rather than acknowledge his sins and ask forgiveness. Even in his agony, he prefers his own will to that of Christ the King.

These reactions do not remain solely in the past. We see them throughout history – in every rejection of revelation, persecution of the faithful, and refusal to repent. More to the point, they continue in us. Each rejection of Christ the King can be found, at one time or another, within us. * We at times resemble Israel’s religious leaders: we want God, but on our own terms. We long for His coming and cry out for His help. . . but then resent His intrusion and the challenges He presents. We want a king, to be sure. In fact, we know exactly how he should behave.

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