Tuesday, November 23, 2010

King of Kings...and criminals

I love the conversation in the Passion between Jesus and the criminals. I love Luke's version. I have to admit I am always a little disappointed when the church year uses one of the Gospel's that doesn't distinguish between the good and the bad thief. In the Roman Church Tradition, the good thief's name is Dysmus. Though not a recognized saint, he is often referred to as St. Dysmus.

I have thought often about the good thief. When I was little, I used to thank him for his compassion to Christ in His suffering. I know it sounds strange, but I often imagined myself in the scenes of the Passion having conversations with its players. I remember once telling Jesus during the Scourging to say His Rosary. I think it was probably blasphemous, but I knew no other way to bring him comfort. It was what worked for me, what I was told to do when I was sad or scared. I think He probably gave me a pass.

I often think of John as well, the only apostle to stay with Jesus through His Passion. Tradition says he was the youngest apostle, a boy really, and the only virgin. It was his innocence which allowed him the courage and faith to stay with Jesus. And of course I think of Mary the Mother of God. I have wept tears for her during the Lenten Stations of the Cross. I can not imagine. As a mother, I hope not to ever be able to.

So why am I focused on the Passion the week before Advent begins? Good Question. Well, I just heard the Gospel from Luke with the conversation between Jesus and the criminals at Mass last Sunday, and it shed new light on my old favorite. For the Lenten story, the story I remember from so many past springs when the world is being reborn, is also told on the last Sunday of the church year, on the Feast of Christ the King.

My old friend Dysmus is a greater hero than I had even known. His greatness did not come from his defense of Jesus, as I had always found so noble. No, it was in his vision. This part of the movie The Passion of the Christ is based on the Luke version. It symbolically shows the spiritual insight of the good and the blindness of the bad by having a raven pluck out the eye of the bad thief. So Gibson got it, maybe you did to. And not only can we compare Dysmus to his fellow criminal, but also to most of the other apostles.

They had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, lived with Jesus for three years. They had left family and friends, professions and homes to follow their king. One can understand their utter devastation at the events before the Resurrection. This had been their king, their hope, their life. He was being lashed and beaten, dragged through the streets and hung on a tree. They could not see. The bad thief could not see. The Pharisees and Sadducee's could not see. The Romans could not see.

But Dysmus could see. He could see in the broken battered man hanging next to him a King, The King. How could he? How could he see what so many had missed? Like the Wisemen years before him with a baby in a manger surrounded by hey and shepherds and animals, he saw a king. I don't know how he did it. But it makes me love him even more. It makes me long for that kind of faith.

It is easy for us now. We know how the story ends. We know the Christ of the Resurrection, the Christ of the Ascension, the Christ of the Book of Revelation. We know, but do we believe? Dysmus did not know the end of the story, yet he could see in our suffering savior A King.

Lord, this Advent, help me to see like Dysmus. Help me to see you in the baby and in the beaten down.

And as we prepare for the celebration of the Birth of our Lord, I can think of no better prayer than the prayer of Dysmus:

Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your kingdom.

No comments:

Post a Comment