the bad thief

Someone said recently on another blog that she seemed to be growing more and more sympathetic towards the guilty. I noticed that about myself in my mid-thirties, and it unnerved me a little too.

Part of it was the growing knowledge that those at whom society points its fingers most insistently– especially those at whom the state points its finger– may not be as culpable as they seem. In fact, they may be quite the opposite. But also, there was this sense of our weakness, our longings, our vulnerability, our incredibly finite understanding of everything. You get that, as life begins to break you up.

I mean, you think it’s already broken you up, quite a bit. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Anyway, the good thief has a nice cameo, at the crucifixion. He behaves beautifully, and truly, he must have had an extraordinary heart. Even if it’s maybe a fake one, we remember his name– when I worked as a jail chaplain, the head chaplain named the ministry after him: St. Dysmas. He was the ultimate model prisoner, I guess: “I deserve this.”

Frankly, it always amazed me how… conversational, he was, having just been crucified. I admired him, but my emotional sympathies were entirely with the guy on the other side. He was in agony, terror, and despair, encased in hell. How could he look through that, with any kind of clarity or judgment?

Is he not this day in paradise too? he who was so close to His suffering? I can’t say for sure, but I have the feeling, if there’s no hope for him, there’s no hope for me.

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