that the one about the good thief is surely one of the most sublime not only of this Passion narrative but of the entire four gospels.
‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ These words constitute the first canonisation in history. And what a unique canonisation that was! It was done not by a pope but by Jesus Christ himself, the very Son of God. Theologians might well argue about whether or not a pontifical canonisation is an infallible act of the Magisterium, but they have no doubt about this one: it was unquestionably infallible. Furthermore, it involved not a virtuous person but a criminal. Finally, it was not performed amid the pomp and circumstance of a pontifical pageantry but in the sordid setting of a public execution, the canoniser and the canonised being both nailed to a cross.
What induced Jesus to canonise this particular criminal? Just two things, the only things that Jesus required from the Jews when he initiated his public ministry: ‘Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ (Mk 1:15) This man repented, he admitted his sinfulness: ‘have you no fear of God,’ he asked the other criminal, ‘for you are subject to the same
condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes.’ He also had a groping faith in Jesus, since he said to him: ’Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Repentance and one single act of faith insured his eternal salvation.
Let us remember this when we are tempted to despair of ever reaching heaven. If we are sorry for our sins and reach out to Jesus, we are sure to find ourselves one day ’with him in Paradise.’
365 Days With the Lord Nil Guillemetter SJ