The Good Thief, whom we now call Saint Dismas, said quite amazingly that God, in the person of Jesus was dying with them. Why did he say such a thing?
The answer might be found in a 1966 Time Magazine article that asked, “Is God Dead?” This blasphemous article suggested that modern man no longer needed God, so therefore, he is dead. They weren’t original, the 19th century philosopher, Frederich Nietsche, said this in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. His theories led to Nazism. Those who claimed that God was dead did so because they didn’t want Him. He was no longer relevant to them. They had the world very well in control without having to be concerned with the presence of God.
Here in our day many people will say that God is dead, and others act as though He is dead. They too think that they don’t need Him. They certainly don’t want Him in their lives. They have everything under control, or so they think. And so they put God to death, attacking His Presence in the social structures of the world. Freedom of religion has been reduced to freedom from religion, and the Christmas Season has become the winter holidays.
When we push God aside or try to keep Him out of our lives, we are joining those who put Jesus to death. If we do this enough, we will eventually no longer think about the living God in the world or in our lives. Those who think they don’t need God are joining the people who Him to death.
Saint Dismas reminds the other criminal, that they were justly suffering for their crimes. Likewise, none of us are completely innocent. We are all dependent on the Mercy of God. The One who was suspended on a cross for us, hanging between heaven and earth is the one whose death redeems us from the bondage of sin. And so we pray in the Divine Mercy Chaplet: “For the sake of Your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Today’s gospel presents this question: with whom do we identify? Do we identify with Saint Dismas who recognized Jesus as God made Man, whose death could be his passage to heaven, or do we identify with those who have no need or desire for God? Dismas looked at Jesus and said, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Dismas saw that he was being crucified next to the King of the spiritual kingdom. The spiritual is real. Jesus is God and we are called to be members of His spiritual kingdom.
This should change everything for us; the way that we approach life, the ultimate goal of our lives, our plans to achieve this goal. Everything changes if we see ourselves as members of God’s spiritual kingdom. We cannot be vengeful. We cannot be people of hate. We cannot allow or support evil in any form. We are the people of Jesus Christ. We cannot join those who live in a way that says, “We don’t need or want God.” We do need God and we want the world to know that Jesus is our King. “Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom!”