Stealing Heaven

I love the saints. Their lives, their stories, their witness to God’s Truth and to His ability to change the lead of this life into a gold of Heavenly worth. Sainthood, a sort of Divine Alchemy. “To grow is to change, and to become perfect is to have changed often,” St. John Henry Newman. For some it takes a lifetime. Their stories give hope that, given the human condition and our penchant for making mistakes, all is never lost so long as we don’t give up. I honestly believe that most merit rests firmly on what the old Pennsylvania Dutch refered to as “stichk mit.” Translation: Stick with. And of course this “sticking with” comes from, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” A long life of falling, getting up, falling, and etc. gives me a good example and a hope. The author of Proverbs wrote that a righteous man falls seven times, an unrighteous person only once. I used to wonder about that. It made no sense to me. Doesn’t it seem logical that falling only once is better than falling seven times? Well, taken at face value, probably. But then it was pointed out to me that in the Bible the number seven is a reference to perfection. Not necessarily perfection in the sense of flawlessness but perfection meaning being complete. So the righteous one gets up as many times as it takes, but the unrighteous person falls and then just lays there wallowing in it. Ok. That’s all well and good. But what about those others, those saints that have a life story of not trying? I’m thinking of one in particular. And like certain others, this one, for me, is most definitely a Hero of the Faith. The story goes … As they crucified Jesus they crucified two thieves with him. All around Jesus the people were mocking him. “He saved others. Let him save himself!” “If he is the Messiah let him come down from the cross! Then we will believe in him!” One Gospel tells me that both the thieves mocked him also. Two hardened criminals, each with a life time of falling and wallowing behind him. But it takes all the Gospels, all God’s truth, to get the whole story. Jesus spoke from the cross. But in all he said he never once accused or railed at those around him in retaliation. Of the few things he did say perhaps the one thing that stood out more than anything he had ever said was, “Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.” And a miracle resulted. One thief stopped mocking. Here was something he’d never seen the like of before. Forgiveness in the face of … Cruelty, mockery, hatred, injustice, and death. No striking back, no eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. Something more. Something better. Something, no, some One Holy. And in that instance, by God’s grace, after a life of falling and wallowing, he got up. From a cross of his own, and one that he admitted (that’s repentance) he deserved, he got up. He defended the Truth when he said to the other thief, “Don’t you fear God? We’re here because we deserve it, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then, turning to Jesus, he made his conversion formal and complete: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Now that is a true miracle and a gift of faith. The response? “Truly I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.” And so the Good Thief became the Church’s first canonized saint. And his last act, true to form, was essentially what I like to think of as an act of a thief that’s gotten up from falling. He stole heaven. Now there’s a good example of another kind. With God’s help and by His grace it’s never to late to get up.

Good St. Dismas, please pray for us.

His Feast Day is March 25. 🙂

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm  Comments Off on Stealing Heaven