One of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus confessed him, the other renounced him. One adored him, the other blasphemed him. One ascended to heaven from his cross, the other descended into hell from his. One was saved at the side of Jesus, the other was damned at the side of Jesus. He was the Redeemer of both but only one profited by the salvation prepared for them. He offered his life for both and one died in his impenitence and obstinacy.
Oh, judgments of God, how profound! Oh, goodness of God, how infinite and sweet! Oh, justice of God, how terrible! Oh, ways of God, how admirable! Who will not fear eternal loss? Who may not hope for eternal life? One can be lost anywhere, since a criminal damned himself at the side of Jesus who was shedding his blood and dying for him. One may hope at all times, since a malefactor saved himself at the last hour of a wicked and criminal life.
Admire the faith of the good thief, who believed in and confessed Jesus when he was naked on the cross, borne down with a load of suffering, mocked and blasphemed by the doctors and priests of the law, and in a state so little in conformity with the dignity of his divine nature. Admire his hope, which inspired him to ask Jesus to remember him when he entered into his kingdom. Consider his charity towards God, in defending the innocence of Jesus Christ against those who assailed it. Consider also his charity towards his neighbor by correcting the error of his guilty companion and endeavoring to inspire him with sentiments of faith, humility, and piety. In fine, admire his patience, humility, and penitence, and endeavor to imitate the virtues which rendered his contrition so perfect.
Jesus forgot his own cruel sufferings to attend to the prayer of a malefactor. He forgave him all his sins, and with an oath, promised him Paradise. Oh, incomparable Prince who was not jealous of his crown, but willing to divide his empire with a thief. Oh, liberal Master who gives his servants so liberal a recompense.
Resolution: I will not presume on God’s mercy, but rather live my life each day so as to have the reward of the Good Thief. As a sign of this resolution I will do some kindness for someone.
Prayer: O my Jesus, what precious and consoling words are these to the sick and weary soul: "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise!" Oh Lord, I say to thee, with this great penitent: "Remember me when thou earnest into thy kingdom!" I truly deserve punishment for my sins, but as for thee, what hast thou done to deserve so cruel a death? Let me also be crucified with thee, that I may hear thee say at the moment when my soul is on the eve of departing from my body: "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." O Mary, Gate of Heaven, lead me to that place where I may be with Jesus forever.
By a Member of the Society of Jesus, edited and amended by J. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R.