A Gospel Within a Gospel
On this St. Dismas Day – March 25 – special blessings to all inmates, families, staff, volunteers, our board members, donors and prayer union – everyone involved in prison life and ministry one way or the other. Read & reflect on Luke 23: 39-43, the story of our patron the good thief.
The story of Dismas has been called a “gospel within a gospel” because it condenses the ministry of Jesus into just a few hours. Dismas the good thief represents the converted rebel in all of us as he changes from reviling to revering Jesus. His example encourages us to abandon our own misery and slavery to sin for the mercy and freedom of Christ, no matter what we have done or failed to do.
Jesus the eternal judge nailed to the cross presides over all of humanity. By his death he sees to it that “…this world’s prince is driven out” (John 12:31). He silences the hellish argument that our sins are unforgivable, that there is no hope, no turning back for the likes of us. The voice of Satan the prosecutor is silenced by the verdict of Jesus as he admits a scoundrel into the kingdom at the very last minute.
The account of Dismas also reminds us of the parable in which the laborer came at the end of the day and still earned the same wage as those who entered the field early in the morning. This story of God’s freedom to act as He wills gives all of us hope.
– Ron Zeilinger, Dismas Ministry Director
I encountered St DISMAS , this past Easter and below is a reflection on him which I shared with my friends then, I love to share it with you also as I continue to be drawn more and more to this great icon of our faith. I have recently been made the coordinator of the prison ministry of my group Knights of St Mulumba Nigeria and is now constantly on the lookout for resources which will aid me in carrying out this role to maximum effect as I have no previous experience in this area………..THE GOOD THIEF…… Listening to the Passion narrative this GOOD FRIDAY , it struck me that the man that Christianity has come to acknowledge as the “good thief” is indeed a very phenomenal character , phenomenal in his faith and his expression of that faith. To think that through all the insults, humiliation , weakness , exhaustion , ignominy , ridicule , scandal and seeming helplessness of Christ that he could recognize the divinity of Christ and address him as Lord is one of the greatest expressions of faith to me. To think that he could still address Christ as his Lord without experiencing or witnessing a miracle from him or being privy to the teachings of Christ is simply astounding. For this wonderful person his brief contact with Christ when they were united by their common suffering was enough for him to do a reflection as to why he was in the condition which he found himself . Without equivocation he convicted himself of his wrong doing and accepted his fate as a sinner, and when he reflected on why Christ was suffering the same fate as himself when he did not commit any offense , at least he had no profile in the underworld society of their day , he equally recognized that an injustice was being perpetrated against an innocent. When his colleague the 2nd thief joined the fray by bullying Christ on the cross with his taunts , the Good thief actually rose to the Defence of Christ! And a grateful Christ who at that point had been abandoned by ALL his friends the Apostles, the recipients of His various healing and miracles rewarded him instantly by assuring him of a place in Paradise that same day! This is truly awesome. As Christian tradition records it that Christ descended into the underworld to free the captives, we can actually imagine that his new found friend and disciple was his companion in engaging in that final battle for humanity and as the promise of Christ to him on the Cross is fulfilled, he became the first Soul to enter Heaven after the earthly advent of Christ , joining our Father Abraham, Moses, Elijah and other Saints of old. …..I felt a desire to pay closer attention to this unnamed Saint and even wish that Christendom will equally pay more attention to the life of this saint who I must confess is of growing interest to me….In my quest I believe I have been able to identify him by name! In Catholic tradition he is know as ST DISMAS,,, I am even delighted to know that some churches and parishes are indeed named after him and that he is the patron saint of prisoners especially death row inmates…. I also came across this prayer to him! Yes prayer to the good thief! Why not? After reflecting on his life , I have no reservations to asking him to intercede for me as I believe that he shared an uncommon bond , devotion and position with Christ that makes him a great icon of faith…ST DISMAS! Pray for me!
PRAYER TO THE GOOD THIEF.
Prayer to Saint Dismas: Glorious Saint Dismas, you alone of all the great Penitent Saints were directly canonized by Christ Himself; you were assured of a place in Heaven with Him “this day” because of the sincere confession of your sins to Him in the tribunal of Calvary and your true sorrow for them as you hung beside Him in that open confessional; you who by the direct sword thrust of your love and repentance did open the Heart of Jesus in mercy and forgiveness even before the centurion’s spear tore it asunder; you whose face was closer to that of Jesus in His last agony, to offer Him a word of comfort, closer even than that of His Beloved Mother, Mary; you who knew so well how to pray, teach me the words to say to Him to gain pardon and the grace of perseverance; and you who are so close to Him now in Heaven, as you were during His last moments on earth, pray to Him for me that I shall never again desert Him, but that at the close of my life I may hear from Him the words He addressed to you: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” Amen.
Wishing you and all of yours phenomenal faith as we glorify God on this glorious resurrection of every grace necessary for our salvation.
HAPPY EASTER TO YOU!