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“Amen, I say to you,today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43Luke's is the only gospel to include these words which conclude the story about the two thieves crucified with Jesus. One ridiculed Jesus as being unable to save himself and them while the second defends Jesus and asks to be included in his kingdom. Jesus' words are directed to him but really to us. Stories and words get included in the scripture because they have meaning for us, those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus even thousands of years later.
Too often I think about life after death as being something totally different from life now, and of course it is in many ways. But there is a fundamental reality that carries on and through death. My incorporation into the very being (body) of Jesus is that fundamental reality.
I think Jesus could have said, "today you are with me in Paradise." Or he could have said, "today you are with me." Or he could have said, "today you are in Paradise." Or he could have said, "today you will be with me." All these carry the same meaning. What is Paradise anyway? It is being with, incorporated into, Jesus in a way that changes our life today and continues on through and after our death. "Being with Jesus" and "being in Paradise" are equivalent expressions. They each define the other.
This is not something that is offered to some but to all. The extent to which I accept that invitation and enter into that reality determines the extent of my relationship. Prayer for me is best understood as being with the Divine One and Jesus the image of the Divine One in a way that deepens that relationship and changes my life.