In full disclosure, this is not a book I would normally read; I rarely read popular religious titles nor do I read history and this book is both. Why did I buy both the Audible and Kindle versions of the book? The author asked me to read it, and he is a friend. I purchased the Audible version because I prefer to listen when I can, and I purchased a Kindle version because I wanted access to the 60 plus illustrations. I found the story of the “Wise thief” intriguing and the storytelling by the author compelling.
After partially reading the book I queried the author on his reason for taking on such an arduous task as telling the story of the Penitent Thief. Mark’s response was, “I have long been fascinated by Dismas as I see him as a symbol of hope for those who have transgressed in diverse ways. I find it fascinating (and deeply moving) that he did not ask to be saved, merely to be remembered.” That put the story and storytelling in context. The author reaches back into history for a story of divine justice in a time when social justice is needed.
The orator in the Audible version shares with us the biblical and historical sources of the story of the “Good Thief” from diverse voices. The moment of redemption is told with emphasis on grace and divine justice. During several moments in the book we almost feel the pain of the three on the cross; see the gruesome Crucifixion; and are asked where would we be in this mystical witnesses of Jews and Gentiles?
The author tells a compelling story of the relationship between St Dismas and worldwide prison ministries. Examples are cited of support for those who are in the margins of society needing grace and support to live rehabilitated lives. Perhaps the takeaway from this unique book is that in the “Paradise” of our own existence we can become believers in the “goodness” of humanity.
While I purchased both formats, it is in the Kindle version that I appreciated the many visual illustrations of the divine justice moment. This is a book that is worth time and reflection for all on our moments of grace and the life to come.
As 2020 comes to a close, and we globally have suffered many losses, reflection on books that remind us that we are all flawed, hurt, and have suffered pain in many ways help us to define, re-frame, and build a better future. As we look forward to 2021 we might learn from the patron saint of prisons to ask to be remembered for the moments that give us peace and tranquility as we cross over to the uncertainty of a new beginning.