The Penitent Thief
When Jesus was nailed to the cross there were two thieves on either side of him. One of the thieves continued to mock Jesus, but the other turned to Him as His saviour. This story of the penitent thief has had a whole series of legends woven around him, which begin with his babyhood.
When the Holy Family had to flee from King Herod, into Egypt, they took refuge in a cave. The cave was inhabited by a robber with his wife and child, but the wife was kind and welcomed them in. The robber’s wife watched with wistful envy as the Blessed Virgin Mary bathed the Holy Child, for her baby of the same age, named Dismas, had the disease of leprosy. When Mary saw the white patches of the skin disease she did not recoil from it, but told Dismas’s mother to bathe her son in the water she had washed Jesus in. When she had done this and lifted Dismas out to dry the leprosy had gone.
The years passed and Dismas became a robber, like his father. He was caught, however, condemned to death and was crucified to the side of Jesus. Although he had led a dishonest life he had always remembered what his mother had told him of his miraculous cleansing as a baby. In spite of his own badness this meant he could recognize goodness in others when he saw it. He recognized that goodness in Jesus, which is why he turned on the second crucified thief when he mocked Jesus. The Bible tells us that he then asked Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom (St Luke 23:42).
And Jesus who can see into the hearts of all saw that Dismas was not wholly bad. As an outlaw son of an outlaw father he had not had the best start in life. But his sorrow, at the end of his life, was genuine enough, so he spoke the beautiful words recorded by St Luke (23:43), in the Bible.
‘Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.’
And so Dismas, despite his wasted life, died a redeemed man with hope and love in his heart.
Dismas waited to the end of his life to discover the love of God. That gift waits for all of us now and all we have to do is to accept it.
Posted By: valerie