THE GOOD THIEF
The Gospels narrate that Christ was crucified between two criminals.
One was described as the good thief whose example we must imitate
and the other is the bad thief whose example we must avoid.
Isn't it strange that the example of the good thief is presented to
us on the feast of Christ the King? St. Cyril answers that
this is the most spectacular case of conversion in Scriptures.
The good thief was saved immediately because his conversion was
immediate. And, mind you, there was no shortcut. He went
through all the steps that all men are required to go through to be
saved. This is the kind of conversion we need because we do
not know when death or the end times will come.
The first step is to know all our disobediences to the commands of
Christ, to admit these faults and to be willing to undergo
everything in reparation for these sins. Dimas, as the good
thief is commonly named, knew his sins: "we are guilty. . ." He
admitted this in public within the hearing of those around the
cross, and he accepted his crucifixion as reparation for his sins:
"we justly deserve this. . ." This is true repentance.
St. Thomas is quick to observe that, in human society, when you
confess, you are punished. Before God, when you confess, you
Faith follows true repentance; this is the second step. So,
Dimas looks at Christ and calls Him "Lord". At the same time,
he saw that Christ was innocent and the other thief was guilty.
Ordinarily, it is impossible for humans to know who is innocent and
guilty; so Christ forbids us to judge others. But Dimas, because of
his humility, the fruit of true repentance, was granted by God the
grace of knowing who is innocent and who is guilty. This grace
is given only to saints and Dimas was about to become a saint.
The other thief, like the Pharisees and the Jews, were not given
this grace; so they judged Christ as guilty and Barabbas as
Faith is followed by Hope, the third step. Dimas, though
realizing he was tainted with a thousand sins, dared to ask Christ
for entrance into Paradise. "Remember me when Thou art in
Paradise." Dimas asked to be remembered and he got something
more -- he was saved. The bad thief asked to be saved and he
was not even remembered, "If Thou art the Son of God, save us. . ."
The fourth step is Charity that comes from true repentance, faith
and hope. Dimas corrected the bad thief. This is
fraternal correction, one of the highest forms of charity, and he
defended Christ, the highest form of Charity
Dimas, because of his true repentance, received the three
theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. This is
Christian perfection to which all Christians are called: "Be
perfect as My heavenly Father is perfect."