Called to conversion
A reflection on St. Dismas, the Good Thief, the Saint who was canonized by Christ Himself
Saint Dismas, detail from the Crucifixion painted by Beato Angelico in the Convent of San Marco, Florence (Italy)
At the beginning of His public life, Jesus says, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
This is probably the shortest summary anywhere of the message of Jesus and it is a call that echoes down through the centuries to us today. Jesus says to each one of us now, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
It means a propitious moment, a suitable time for conversion. By Jesus saying the time has come, he means that this is the favourable moment for him to begin his ministry.
But each of us has his or her own propitious moment. There is a time in each of our lives when things come to a head and we are faced with a fundamental choice. A sacred moment when Jesus confronts us with a choice –when he invites us to make a decision.
Maybe you have already experienced your particular conversion long ago. You can look back on your life and realise that at a certain age everything pointed in a particular direction and you chose the road to follow in life. Maybe over the years since then there have been many vicissitudes but I am certain that you do not regret the decision you made to deepen your life with Christ.
But maybe that hour is yet to come. Look at Saint Dismas, the one we call the good thief, the last-minute saint. His hour came at the last possible moment, but come it did. How could he have predicted that it would come as he was dying on a cross and that his neighbour up there on Calvary would be the Divine Saviour himself?
After admitting that he had been justly condemned to death for the
crimes he had committed, Dismas turned and said: "Jesus,
remember me when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus replied to him: "
Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying, is still preaching the Good
News! And it's the words that all of us long to hear: "Today you will be
with me in Paradise." It's those words, coupled with the knowledge of his
resurrection, that gives us hope, the hope that should direct our entire
lives as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Hope takes that faith and
directs it toward the future. As Christians, Hope means hope for heaven.
The heavenly kingdom where this crucified Christ sits on a throne of
triumph and welcomes us to a life of eternal joy.
Unfortunately, in todays' world, the words "believe" and "hope"
have become somewhat trivialized. "I believe" usually means "I think" or "I
am of the opinion." "I believe that Roberto Clemente was the greatest
right-fielder ever to play the game." Or "I believe we're in for a rough
winter this year."
Is that the same thing as saying "I believe in God, the Father
Almighty, I believe in his only son, our Lord, who will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the
Lord and giver of life."? Is that the same thing? Is it just an opinion or
do we know it to be true?
It's the same thing with the word "Hope." "I hope" usually means "I
wish" or "I would like it if..." "I hope the Steelers win the Super Bowl."
"I hope we've seen the last of this terrorism for a while."
Christian hope isn't like that. There's no "I wish" or "I would
like it if I would go to heaven." For Christians, hope is something that is
CERTAIN. We say here at Mass "In the sure and certain hope of the
resurrection." It's not a guess. It's not just our opinion. It's the truth!
Hope is an affirmative response on our part to the many promises of God.
Sacred Scripture contains over 300 promises of God. And God's promise will
come true! There's no "ifs" "ands" or "buts" about it because God IS truth.
God said it; I believe it; and that should settle it. Because a God who is
Truth wouldn't tell us lies and wouldn't make promises he can't keep. Our
faith in Jesus Christ should always give us that same certain hope that was
the good thief's when Jesus said to him: "Today you will be with me in
As St Paul says this world is passing away. The years of our own lives hurtle by. A year ago seems like just yesterday. Of course, we don’t know when God will call us to himself. But we know that our lives on this earth will certainly come to an end and that our time is running out. Time is short. The hour has come for us to choose.
So let us choose goodness, truth, wisdom and love. Let us take the Lord Jesus to be our guide. Let us go where he leads us. Let his words be on our lips. Let his thoughts be in our heads. Let his joy be in our hearts. Let his love overflow in our lives.