The Condemned Thief


But our very Life came down to earth and bore
our death, and slew it with the very abundance of his own life.

–St. Augustine

It was a day of fading beauty. The dawn
had been much like any other dawn—crisply,
slowly breaking over the black horizon.
This day—Life would die, but through death conquer death.
And on this day I, too, was condemned to die.
Stealing was my crime: hunger drove me, impelled

me for my family’s sake. I could not bear
their hollow faces looking sadly at me,
wondering why they had no food. What could I do?
I could not sit idly wringing my hands
as my helpless children starved. I took some bread,
some money from an unsuspecting Jew:

it was successful—he did not know. Work was
still scarce, and so I stole again, and ate.
But then I was found out, imprisoned, condemned
to die. The Romans had no mercy for me:
I was only a poor peasant, not even
a citizen of Rome. I was without hope.

And so they crucified me, up on that hill.
The way there was long and laborious,
carrying a cross in front of two others
condemned as well—another thief, and one who
seemed to me the most innocent and guilty
of all men. He was not tall, nor beautiful.

In appearance, he was rugged, worn by the
passing years. And yet there rested on his face
a light unlike that of any other man,
a light enhanced by near anguish of death.
Around me were murmurs, whispers of questions,
scornful mockeries. They all were full of hate.

As they stretched him up, nailed his hands, his feet
unto the cross, affixed a placard at his head,
and proclaimed: “This is the King of the Jews,”
the crowd cried out, yet more derisively,
“He has saved others—now let him save himself!”
All this he bore meekly, as though he knew

That death, his death, would bring eternal life
to those condemned to death. And as they hung
me next to him, I knew, beyond all faith,
that verily he was King of the Jews.

And so it was that I could do none else
but beg for pardon when I was stretched up
next to him, pleading, “Lord, remember me
when thou comest into thy kingdom.” He,
the Son of God, humbly replied to me,
“This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

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