March 24, 2017

Saint Dismas, the Penitent Thief

Saint Dismas and Christ

There is very little known about Dismas apart from the account of the crucifixion chronicled in the Gospel of Luke. Traditionally given the title of the “Good Thief” for rebuking the criminal who mocked Jesus, Dismas, who was also under the sentence of crucifixion, asked to be remembered by Jesus “when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then replied, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 42-43).

The Christian community took seriously Jesus’ words that the good thief was saved, and honors him as a saint. Dismas’ response to Jesus is an articulation of the steps in conversion away from sin: he came to an honest awareness of his sin and renounced it, seeking Jesus as the source of eternal life. The words of our Savior to Dismas, assuring him of heaven is understood by the Church as the first granting of a plenary indulgence.

A legend arose in the Middle Ages that Dismas and Jesus had met one time prior to the events at Calvary. According to the story, Dismas and the second thief, traditionally known as Gestas, had waylaid a young family on their way to Egypt over 30 years before, with the intention of robbing them, or worse. Sensing something different about these three — who were, of course, the Holy Family in flight from Herod — Dismas convinced Gestas to let them go unharmed, even paying him 40 drachmas to do so.

The legend goes on to say that the Blessed Mother promised Dismas that he would be greatly rewarded for his good deed before his death. Dismas’ feast day is March 25. He is the patron saint of prisoners. The relics of St. Dismas rest in the reliquary chapel, including a piece of Dismas’ cross. St. Dismas, the good thief who in his humility turned away from sin and towards Christ, pray for us!

No comments :