The Good Thief

The Good Thief
From: Jesus of Nazareth 1

Divine Mercy - More than a Pardon

By Deacon Wayland Moncrief

Divine Mercy Sunday

There's a line in an old spiritual song that says, “Glory glory, hallelujah! Ain't gonna have no pain or sorrow when I lay my burden down." 1 The song ultimately refers to Heaven. However, until that day when we see Our Lord face to face, we all carry the pain and sorrow of many burdens, and we all long to be set free. How wonderful it would be, if there was a time and a way, to just lay our burdens down.

Well, today is that time! This is that day! Through the Love and generosity of Our Lord, through the Feast of Divine Mercy, on this day, we are given the opportunity to obtain a complete pardon of our sins. And this pardon not only erases our sins, but forgives any retribution needed to satisfy God's Justice. And we don't have to scale a mountain, or walk on hot coals, to obtain it, we only have to have the wisdom and faith to recognize the gift that we are being offered.

Theologians have said that the pardon of Divine Mercy is like a second Baptism. But, as important and wondrous as this pardon is, the Message of Divine Mercy is so much more. Yes, through Christ's Mercy we can lay our burdens down – free of guilt and remorse. But more importantly, through Christ's love and our gratitude, we are set free to become more fervent and effective apostles.

Why is this freedom important? It's important because we cannot be fully fervent apostles if we are weighed down by guilt. We cannot be fully effective missionaries of mercy if we are burdened with remorse. To be truly effective apostles we must be joyful examples, and contagious witnesses, of God's Mercy, as authentic apostles who have experienced, and celebrate, their own release from the slavery of sin.

And who are these apostles? If your sins have been forgiven, if you are grateful for God's incredible gift of Mercy, then you are that apostle. Our Lord has called you to lift the burdens of your neighbor. He has called you to take the message of His Mercy to the whole world.

But, are you willing? If not, then ask yourself, is anything more needed in our families, marriages, and the morality of our society than inner conversion – true transformations in Christ, touched and sustained by mercy, forgiveness, pardon, and gratitude?

As apostles of Divine Mercy, Jesus has given us the all graces we need to be effective instruments of conversion, to reform our world, and to set those imprisoned in sin, free in His Love.

Jesus told St. Faustina to “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You.“ 2 However, St. Faustina was certainly not the first to witness the power of conversion brought about through the Image of Divine Mercy.

In His Passion Jesus was crucified with two thieves, one on His right, and the other on His left. Crucifixion may seem like an extreme sentence for their crimes, but these were not ordinary thieves. They were part of a family of thieves that robbed and murdered travelers as they journeyed in remote or desolate areas.

Gestas, the thief on Jesus's left, perhaps hoping to win favor and pardon with his executioners, joined in reviling Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ? [Then] Save yourself and us!” 3

However, Dismus, the thief on Jesus' right, rebuked him saying, “Do you not fear God?” 4 Dismus went on to confess his sins, express his sorrow, and affirm the justice of his punishment. Then, he defended Jesus' innocence saying, “This man has done nothing wrong”. 5 And, turning to Jesus he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 6 thus acknowledging Jesus; Divinity. And in reply, Jesus turned to Him and said, “Today, you with me in paradise.” 7

Shortly afterward, the Roman soldiers came to break their legs, but on seeing that Jesus was already dead, one of the soldiers, Longinus, thrust a spear into Jesus' side. And, immediately, Blood and Water poured out.

This was likely witnessed by Dismus as he was dying. Dismus and Longinus were among the first to see and experience the power of the Image of Divine Mercy. They saw it as it was being painted - painted not with a brush, but with a spear.

And, through the power of what they saw, through the power of the Blood and Water that radiated Mercy on the whole world, they both experienced a profound conversion. Dismus went to be with the Lord in Paradise. Longinus became a prominent member of the Church, bringing many souls to Christ. At the crucifixion, it was Longinus who exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God! 8

Today, both are saints, venerated by the Church. Jesus' last act on the cross was to forgive sinners and save souls. He looked at Dismus and said, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” That Act of Mercy shown to Dismus is enshrined in history: whenever we see a crucifix, we see Jesus' head turned to the right, giving His Blessing and Absolution to Dismus, the Penitent Thief who became a saint.

The Feast of Dismus is celebrated on March 25th, the same day as the Feast of the Annunciation. The Feast Day of Saint Longinus is March 15th. Longinus was beheaded and became a martyr in 45 AD.

Of the multitudes of graces made available to us in the Message of Divine Mercy, the promise and power of conversions is truly remarkable, as seen in these three excerpts from Faustina's diary.

Jesus said to Faustina:

“The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.” 9

“Call upon My Mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: 'O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.'" 10

And, “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image (of Divine Mercy) will not perish .... I Myself will defend it as My own glory.” 11

Is this not the essence, the miracle of the Divine Mercy Message: that we experience a pardon for our own sins, so that we can joyfully bring the Mercy of Christ to the whole world? Who was more graced by Image of Divine Mercy than Saints Dismus and Longinus? Seeing the crucified Christ, and the Blood and Water that came from His side, completely changed their hearts and their lives. And, it was a fulfillment of the promise that Jesus would later reveal to St. Faustina.

So, given these words of Jesus, these few excerpts from Faustina's diary, let us prepare to pray. And as we do, please call to mind some soul in need of conversion, and immerse that soul in this prayer to God's Infinite Mercy.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Let us pray for these souls.

Lord, the flames of Love so burned Your Precious Heart – that they poured forth upon the thief who was crucified with You. - and You snatched Him from Hell. You touched his heart, and turning to You, he said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

Amen.

Baruch Hashem!

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