Here in the San Gabriel Valley of California there’s a nearby town called San Dimas. I frequently go to San Dimas, since that’s where the nearest Trader Joe’s is located.
Jesus was convicted in a Jewish court, and then went through the appellate process of being brought before Herod, who didn’t provide any legal relief from that decision. When Jesus was executed it was between two common criminals. In the gospel of Luke, the one on the right acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus responds to him with a message of love and forgiveness—assuring him of his eternal place in Paradise. This theif, San Dimas (or Saint Dismas in English), was never canonized by the Church. He’s only a saint by tradition—one of the people’s saints. As a matter of fact, he is unnamed in scripture: his name is also a tradition. Dismas comes from Greek, and means “sunset” or “death.”
32 Two others were also led off with Jesus, criminals who were to be put to death. 33 When they had reached the place called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there—together with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Abba forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Then they divided his garments, rolling dice for them.
35 The people stood there watching. The rulers, however, jeered him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself—if he really is the Messiah of God, the Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him. They served Jesus sour wine 37 and said, “if you are really the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was an inscription above Jesus that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who hung there beside him insulted Jesus, too, saying, “Are you really the Messiah? Then save yourself—and us!”
40 But the other answered the first with a rebuke: “Don’t you even fear God? 41 We are only paying the price for what we have done, but this one has done nothing wrong!”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your glory.”
43 Jesus replied, “The truth is, today you’ll be with me in paradise.”
Today a man is most likely going to be executed by the State of Georgia. This man’s name is Troy Davis. He was convicted, and the conviction subsequently went through the appeals processes. All the while, Troy Davis (who had never previously been convicted of any crime) has persisted in proclaiming his innocence. Most of the witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony, and large numbers of people—ordinary people and some of great repute, like the Pope, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US Presidents and other elected representatives, and former FBI Director Sessions—have stepped forward and said no to this impending execution.
But the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied any further action on the part of Troy Davis and his lawyers to save his life. The execution of a man who may well not be guilty is to proceed in a matter of hours—just about at the dismas of the day: death followed by the sunset at 7:35 p.m.
No, I’m not comparing Troy Davis to Jesus. I do believe that if this injustice is carried out, Troy Davis will be with Jesus in Paradise. But things happen today as they have throughout history that are wrong—and they’re things that WE do, that WE create. May God have mercy on our souls.