The Good Thief

Today is Saint Dismas' Day.  You might remember him:  according to the Gospel of Saint Luke, he's one of two of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus (the other was Gestas).  Dismas, known as the Good Thief, kind of stuck up for Jesus when he was being mocked by the crowd and by Gestas, saying:

"We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes; but this man has done nothing criminal." (Luke 23: 41).

He went on to utter one of the best-known lines of Scripture:

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23: 42).

Now, all this has always seemed just a little too convenient for me.  He's actually hanging on a crucifix.  The writing is on the wall.  Death looms.  And this is the moment he declares his faith?  And then he gets *sainted* for it?

Yes, yes - I know the parable of the workers in the vineyard; how those who came to work late in the day were paid just as much as those who had labored since morning.  And no, I am not a theologian.  But my faith has never been that neat and easy: just say the words, and you're done.  My faith is a lot messier than that.  Lots of doubts, lots of questions, lots of skepticism.  And yet, I (as John Updike supposedly said of himself) have never quite been able to take the leap of unbelief.

If you look at the etymology for the word belief, you will learn that in its earliest usage, belief meant something along the lines of "trust in God."  Only later did it take on the meaning of intellectual acceptance of something as true.

Myself, I am more comfortable with the older meaning of belief.  Trusting in God, whatever God may be, is more spiritually fulfilling to me than signing on the dotted line of a list of "facts" called a creed.

Saint Dismas got me thinking of all these things this morning.  Happy Saint Dismas day to you.

P.S. You can learn more about Saint Dismas here.


ljchicago said...

We need to talk about the church sometime.

mol said...

this is only a test

Anonymous said...

this is only another test