2 Samuel 5:1-3
In those days, Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
On the Hill of Calvary three men were condemned to die. On either side of the Son of God hung lowly criminals who would never have imagined that it was God’s Will that they accompany Jesus at the hour of his death and to have this brief conversation that we hear today. It reveals that these two men held opposite views of what it meant to be saved.
One thief derided Jesus saying, “Save yourself and us!” As was his lawless practice in life, he would have liked to escape the consequences of his actions and escape death. He knew who Jesus was and called out to him, not in faith but in challenge. God would have to prove himself. As the other thief pointed out, he had no fear of God.
The other thief, known as the good thief or St. Dismas, was very different. He also knew who Jesus was and that Jesus was innocent. Rather than be ashamed of his guilt, he confessed that he broke the law and deserved his punishment. Then he asked Jesus for mercy.
These thieves are given to us as examples, though we may not be convicted criminals facing execution for our crimes, we can behave in the very same way as the two thieves when we are in need of mercy.
Some people lament their sad situations without taking responsibility, expecting God to fix things as a proof of his love. Others humbly approach God, admitting guilt and asking forgiveness. That takes faith in God’s love and mercy.
When we look on the cross of Christ, we do not need to make any more demands of God’s love for us. Love is Jesus dying on the cross, innocent yet laying down his life for our guilt.
What does the Kingdom of God look like? It is that after we have acknowledged our sinfulness, we can repent and go to the throne of God’s mercy where our King reigns forever.
As we enter the season of Advent, we do as St. Dismas did, repent of sin, confess Jesus to others, and follow Him into new life in the Kingdom.