He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.
On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.
As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.
Indeed, life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.
And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them…
And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left – Yes, he knew that face.
As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind, his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.
He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.
And then the sores were gone.
His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.
Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left. He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more. He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul. And then came tears, rivers of tears.
When he could speak, he turned to the left,
“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice:
“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”
By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.