St. Wilfrid's Roman Catholic Church

Toronto, Canada

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022


for Sunday, November 24, 2019

"Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?" Those words from the Good Thief, whom we call Dismis, bother me. How could Dismis say that God is dying with them? I could perhaps see his line of thought if Dismis were a pagan. The pagan gods of Greece and Rome had all sorts of human traits and failings. Their gods could be punished, as some were in their myths. But Dismis wasn't a pagan. He was a Hebrew. And he didn't say "a god" is dying with them. He said God. Why would Dismis consider that God could be condemned?

The answer might be found in a terrible movement from the last century. In 1966 Time Magazine published a cover story that asked, "Is God Dead?" This blasphemous article suggested that modern man no longer needed God, so therefore, he is dead. They weren't original, the 19th century philosopher, Frederich Nietsche, said this in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I couldn't stand having to study Nietsche for my philosophy degree. His theories led to Nazism. Those who claimed that God was dead did so because they didn't need him. He was no longer relevant to them. They had the world very well in control without having to be concerned with the presence of God.

Perhaps, Dismis could see through the hypocrisy of the Temple priests and leaders of the Jewish people, who really didn't want God imposing himself on the nice neat order of things they had established for themselves. They had things under control. They certainly didn't want a Messiah coming who would question their lifestyle. Jesus did exactly that. They didn't need this. They didn't need him. So he was condemned to death.

Here in the 21st century only a few people will say that God is dead, but many people act as though He is dead. They think that they don't need Him. They certainly don't want Him in their lives. They have everything under control, or so they think. And so they put God to death, attacking His Presence in the social structures of the world. Freedom of religion has been reduced to freedom from religion, and the Christmas Season has become the winter holidays.

When we push God aside, keep him out of our lives, or at least parts of our lives, we are joining those who tried to put Him to death. If we do this enough, we, in our minds, will no longer consider the actions of a living God in the world or in our lives. Those who think they don't need God are joining the people who condemned Jesus to death.

Jesus did not deserve to die. Dismis was very clear in stating from his cross that Jesus is an innocent man. Dismis also shouts out to the other criminal, that the two of them are certainly guilty and were suffering for their crimes. None of us are completely innocent. We are all dependent on the Mercy of God. Jesus did not need mercy from His Father. He was beautifully innocent. The one who was suspended on a cross for us, hanging between heaven and earth is the one whose death redeems us from the bondage of sin.

And so we pray in the Divine Mercy Chaplet:
For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

And so the Catholic composer Matt Maher writes: Lord, we need you. How we need you! ©CCLI License #2368115

Today's gospel presents this question: with whom do we identify? Do we identify with Dismis who recognized Jesus' innocence, and who realized that Jesus' death could be his passage to heaven, or do we identify with those who have no need for God and removed him from their lives, ignoring His presence?

Dismis looked at Jesus and said, "Remember me when you come into your Kingdom." Dismis saw that he was being crucified next to the ruler of the spiritual kingdom. He realized that Jesus was the King of Kings. The spiritual is real. Jesus is Son of God; yet is one of us. We are members of His spiritual kingdom.

This changes everything. The way that we approach life. The ultimate goal of our lives. Our plan to achieve this goal. Everything changes because we are members of the spiritual kingdom. We have experienced the love of Jesus. We need to live for Christ. We need to spread this love to others. We cannot be vengeful. We cannot be people of hate. We cannot allow or support any form of prejudice or bigotry. We are the people of Jesus Christ. We cannot join those who live in a way that says, "We don't need God."

We do need God. And we love needing Him. We want the world to know that Jesus is our King. We need to proclaim to others with our lives, "Jesus is your king too."

Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.

Readings of the day:
First Reading:
Second Reading:

This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his website


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St. Wilfrid's Parish, Toronto