CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2021 / 12:39 am (CNA).- EWTN host Raymond Arroyo is releasing a new children’s book recounting the legend of The Good Thief, one of the men crucified alongside Jesus on Good Friday.
“The Thief Who Stole Heaven,” written by Arroyo and illustrated by Randy Gallegos, is set to be released March 9.
Arroyo is the author of several children’s books, including the “Will Wilder” adventure series and, most recently, “The Spider Who Saved Christmas,” released during fall 2020.
His latest book concerns the life of a man commonly referred to as The Good Thief and known in Christian tradition by the name Dismas, which in Greek means “sunset” or “death.”
In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist records the words of the two men crucified on either side of Jesus on Golgotha.
One of the criminals ridicules Jesus and urges Him to save himself and them; while the other recognizes Jesus’ innocence, and asks Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom,” to which Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Though the Bible does not provide any details of The Good Thief’s life, Arroyo researched extrabiblical Christian sources for potential insight into who The Good Thief was.
The name “Dismas” appears to have been first attributed to The Good Thief in the fourth-century apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, Arroyo found.
“Among the writings of the saints and Church Fathers, I discovered a trail of legends and rich insights into the character of the ‘good thief’—many of which I used to tell my version of his story,” Arroyo wrote in the book’s afterword.
For example, the Arabic “Gospel of the Infancy”— which is not accepted as part of the Bible— nevertheless records Joseph, Mary, and Jesus encountering Dismas during their flight from Bethlehem to Egypt.
Several saints, such as St. John Chrysostom, spoke of Dismas as a brutal robber and murderer. In Arroyo’s book, Dismas is given a tragic backstory that leads him to a life of crime, robbing and murdering travelers on the road.
But when Dismas encounters Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus, he is moved to show the family mercy.
“The line Dismas speaks to the Child Jesus in my story is taken from St. Augustine,” Arroyo noted.
“The saint wrote that the thief told the Infant, ‘O most blessed of children, if ever a time should come when I should crave Thy mercy, remember me and forget not what has passed this day.’”
Jesus later shows Dismas mercy as they hang on their crosses and Dismas realizes Jesus is the same baby he encountered years ago.
“The arc of this story is what first drew my attention: how the long shadow of grace can unexpectedly ambush even the greatest of sinners,” Arroyo wrote.
“[I]t was Dismas, a murderer and a thief, who understood and affirmed the divinity of Christ two days before the rest of the world caught on.”
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