Fr. Dan White, S.J.
November 20, 2016
The Gospel this liturgical year for the feast of Christ, the King of the Universe comes from St. Luke’s description of the Passion. It features the exchange from the cross of Jesus and the so -called “Good Thief”. Unlike his fellow criminal, he acknowledges his sins and expresses his faith in Jesus. Jesus tells him “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Christian tradition has taken the story (found only in Luke’s Gospel) and come up with a variety of responses. Though unnamed and unknown in the Gospel, that did not stop Christians from coming up with the back story. The Good Thief is called Dismas in the West, Demas among the Coptic Christians of Egypt, and Rakh in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Tales have been spun of his background as a brigand and murder who roamed the deserts of Palestine. A number of Easter Orthodox hymns for Good Friday feature the Good Thief.
This desire to fill in the story is an important part of the Christian imagination. It suggests an intimacy with biblical characters. Their story is ours as well.