Spirituality for Today – March 2010 – Volume 14, Issue 8

Saint of the Month

St. Dismas, the Good Thief

According to tradition, Dismas was the so-called Good Thief who was crucified along with another thief (later named Gestas) and Jesus on the hill called Golgotha on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Writing centuries apart, two Church Fathers, Tertullian and Augustine, claimed that the three died on March 25, the date that was designated as Dismas's feast day.

A photo of a painting of Saint DismasSt. Dismas, the Good Thief

The Gospel of Luke relates Jesus' conversation with the two thieves, though it does not name them. After having been mocked by both the Jewish authorities and the Roman soldiers, Jesus is taunted by one thief, who challenges Jesus, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." (Luke 23:39) But the other thief, the Good Thief, takes the opposite view.

The Good Thief recognizes that Jesus is innocent and has done nothing wrong He also acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah, by saying to Him, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) To which Jesus replies, "Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) In the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the words spoken by the Good Thief to Jesus are repeated just before Holy Communion.

Other stories about Jesus and Dismas related in the apocryphal gospels, sprang up later. In one, Dismas robs the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt, but sensing the Child's holiness, he lets them pass unharmed. The name Dismas in all likelihood is a derivation of the Greek word for "east."

Glorious St. Dismas,
you alone of all the great Penitent Saints
were canonized by Christ Himself.
You were assured of a place in Heaven with Him
because of the sincere confession of your sins at Calvary
and your true sorrow for them
as you hanged side by side with Him in that open confessional.
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:
"Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise."

From Ordinary People Extraordinary Lives