Reasons the Good Thief and Ninevites are not meant to encourage deferring our conversion

December 13, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 260
By Venerable Louis of Granada

You will perhaps urge in opposition to all this that the good thief was saved at the last hour.

St. Augustine answers this objection by saying that the good thief received in one hour the grace of conversion and baptism, which being immediately followed by death, his soul went directly to Paradise. Moreover, the conversion of the good thief was one of the many miracles which marked our Saviour’s coming, one of the chief testimonies to His glory.

The rocks were rent; the earth trembled; the sun refused to give his light; the graves were opened and the dead came forth to bear witness to the Divinity of Him Who was crucified. For a like purpose the grace of repentance was bestowed on the good thief, whose confession of Christ was no less wonderful than his conversion, for he acknowledged Christ when the Apostles fled from Him and denied Him; he glorified Christ when the world blasphemed and insulted Him.

This miracle being one of the extraordinary marvels marking the coming of Christ, it is folly to expect that it will be repeated in our behalf.

No; St. Paul tells us that the end of the wicked corresponds to their works. This is a truth which is constantly repeated in Holy Scripture. It is sung by the Psalmist; foretold by the Prophets; announced by the Evangelists; and preached by the Apostles.

Others argue that attrition joined to the sacraments suffices to obtain the pardon of sin, and claim that at the hour of death they will have at least attrition.

But they should remember that the attrition which, joined to the sacraments, obtains the pardon of sin is a special degree of sorrow, and God only can know whether they possess it.

The holy Doctors were not ignorant of the efficacy of attrition joined to the sacraments, yet see how little confidence they had in death-bed repentances. “We give the Sacrament of Penance to such a sinner who asks for it,” says St. Ambrose, “but we give him no assurance of salvation.”

If you cite the example of the Ninivites, whose conversion was the effect of fear, I would remind you not only of the rigorous penance they performed, but of the amendment which was wrought in their lives. Let there be the same amendment in your life, and you will not fail to find equal mercy. But when I see that you no sooner recover your health than you relapse into your former disorders, what am I to think of your repentance?

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