The good thief, as he is commonly referred, is an unnamed character who appears in all four Gospels—though it’s his interaction with our Lord in the Gospel of Luke that’s made him famous.
Though he’s never been officially canonized by the Church, he is believed to be a saint by virtue of Christ’s words, ““Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” So I suppose you could say he was canonized preemptively by the Lord himself!
He is traditionally referred to as St. Dismas and his feast day is March 25th.
What You May Not Have Known
But here’s something you may not have known about the good thief.
When we cross-reference the account of the crucifixion in the Gospels we can infer something very interesting about St. Disamas. Namely, that before repenting and asking to be saved, he too reviled Christ along with the crowd and the other thief.
Let’s take a look at the Scriptures.
All four Gospels tell of two criminals (no more) who were crucified alongside of Christ:
“Then were crucified with him two thieves: one on the right hand, and one on the left.” – Matthew 27:38
“And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” – Mark 15:27
“There were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death. . . . they crucified him there; and the robbers, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.“ – Luke 23:32-33
“The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”- John 19:32-33
Two of the Gospels accounts recount Jesus being abused by the these criminals. In the Gospel of Matthew we read:
“And they that passed by, blasphemed him, wagging their heads, And saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him now deliver him if he will have him; for he said: I am the Son of God.
And the selfsame thing the thieves also, that were crucified with him, reproached him with” – (27:39-44).
In Mark we read that the chief priests and scribes were mocking him, saying, “Let Christ the king of Israel come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him (15:32).
The Thief Becomes The “Good Thief”
So far we have seen that there were two criminals crucified on either side of Christ and that at one point both were abusing him. It is in Luke’s gospel that we see one of the thieves rebuke the other and request to be saved.
“And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise” – (23 39:43).
From this we can conclude that at some point after St. Dismas “reviled him,” and before he asked Jesus to remember him in his Kingdom, he repented. What beautiful humility St. Dismus displayed, and what astounding mercy Jesus gave.
A Prayer to Saint Dismas
Glorious Saint Dismas, you alone of all the great Penitent Saints were directly canonized by Christ Himself; you were assured of a place in Heaven with Him “this day” because of the sincere confession of your sins to Him in the tribunal of Calvary and your true sorrow for them as you hung beside Him in that open confessional.
You who by the direct sword thrust of your love and repentance did open the Heart of Jesus in mercy and forgiveness even before the centurion’s spear tore it asunder; you whose face was closer to that of Jesus in His last agony, to offer Him a word of comfort, closer even than that of His Beloved Mother, Mary; you who knew so well how to pray, teach me the words to say to Him to gain pardon and the grace of perseverance; and you who are so close to Him now in Heaven, as you were during His last moments on earth, pray to Him for me that I shall never again desert Him, but that at the close of my life I may hear from Him the words He addressed to you: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”