Saint Dismas, or the “Penitent Thief,” as some might know him, is celebrated on the 25th of March. He was one of the two Thieves crucified next to Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, he is not named. However, Christians usually call him the “Good Thief.” Luke 23: 39-43 teaches us that Jesus had a conversation whit the two thieves while He was on the cross. Their discussion is extremely important to Christians because it shows that even sinners can get into Heaven.
According to Luke, one of the two thieves asked Jesus, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other replied, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” It’s important to note what he said to Jesus next, signifying that he was already a believer. He asked Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Why does Religion celebrate the “Good Thief”?
First, it is essential to understand why the “Good Thief” is now celebrated as a Saint. For Christianity, Saint Dismas is one everyone can relate to, regardless of time and age. Even if he was a thief, a criminal, and ultimately had to suffer the consequences for his actions, when he knew his end was near, he asked Jesus to accept him in Paradise.
Therefore, he was ready to leave the earth after a life of sins, knowing he, too, would be saved. This shows Christians everywhere that you can always change, no matter what you did or what you had to do to survive. Some people do sinful things because they don’t see another option. Jesus still loves those, and you will be saved if you accept Him into your life.
Second of all, Saint Dismas to religion represents Jesus Christ’s mercy. It shows people that Jesus was everywhere and how much He loved people, despite their tumultuous backgrounds. Their brief interaction while dying indicates that Jesus Christ’s love knows no bounds. To Him, Saint Dismas was not just another thief that “deserved” what he was getting. He didn’t know if “the Good Thief” was a Christian, but their short discussion was enough for Him to offer eternal life.
Third, Saint Dismas is currently studied by most inmates and prisoners. He is the best example that if you are aware of your sins and want to change something about your life, change comes when you ask the Lord for help. It does not matter who you are, where you come from, or what you did. To God, we are all His children.
Why Is There a Prayer to Saint Dismas?
The “Penitent Thief” was crucified next to Jesus, to His right. He is best known because, in his most vulnerable moment, when he was close to dying, knowing he was a sinner, he placed his trust in Jesus and asked Him for forgiveness and eternal life next to Him in Heaven. People nowadays pray to the “Good Thief” because, despite his situation, he chose to ask for help from the Savior, and in doing so, he showed courage, strength, and extreme humility.
When the other thief asked Jesus to “just save them all,” mocking Him, the thief to his right accepted his faith and asked Jesus not to forget about him when He was king. He is the patron saint of the condemned. However, he is the proof of conversion. People ask for the penitent thief’s guidance to help them recognize their sins and repent them. And because Jesus forgave him, people are praying to him to bring their “petitions before Jesus who had mercy on you.”
The good thief is also important to Christians because he was a nobody up until the hour of death. A criminal, sentenced to death, who knew he was a sinner. Many people reach the end of their lives and, on their deathbed, start having negative thoughts about their lives or believe they didn’t do any good. Sadly, for some, that is the case. However, reminding them about Saint Dismas always brings comfort and lets them know that time never runs out. Let God guide you, His love hugs you, and you will reach Paradise.
Egypt’s Legend of The Penitent Thief
Even though Christians now celebrate the penitent thief, not much is known about his life before meeting Jesus Christ when they were crucified. However, a legend circulating in the Middle East about the good thief and his den of thieves. They tell the story of the “first” meeting between Jesus Christ and the penitent thief in Egypt. One night, when the Virgin Mary and Joseph were traveling in a desolate place, a group of thieves, known for attacking pilgrims from a nearby cave, wanted to assault the Holy Family too.
However, instead of attacking them, the leader of the group – who people believe was Dismas’ father, had a change of heart when he saw a toddler Jesus Christ. And decided to invite them to dinner. Nobody knows why the leader of the gang changed his mind. But it is speculated that he later told his wife that a “bright ray, like an arrow, penetrated his heart.” And he could not bring himself to harm the Holy Family. Later after dinner, the Virgin Mary asked the gang leader and his wife for water to bathe baby Jesus.
Those present at His bath claim Jesus “was no ordinary child.” People from the town all came to witness the presence of the Holy Family, and they were just mesmerized. It is also said that the gang leader’s son (Dismas) was suffering from leprosy and asked Mary if they could wash him in baby Jesus Christ’s water. And everyone stared in shock as the leprous scabs fell from his body, leaving him clean and healthy.