You all know who I am because I have been talked about all through history. I am one of the men who was hanging on a cross next to Jesus and was crucified with him. I have a story to tell that might help you understand what happened that day that Jesus died.
There were two of us that were crucified along with Jesus of Nazareth. I asked for forgiveness from Jesus and was given assurances that I would be with him in Paradise. After I died I was immediately in that Paradise and I am extremely grateful. I wanted you to know why this came to happen and how I can encourage you to make a similar choice like I did. I am with Jesus now for all eternity.
First of all I want you to know that I am an ordinary person who made decisions that were not thoughtful and were outside of the law. I thought no one would notice me and that my offenses were not that bad. But I got used to committing offences and crimes and they became like second nature to me. Let me explain.
My wife and family were poor. Rather that get a job I began stealing food and other essentials for the family. It started out slowly by me stealing just a little at a time ... and no one noticed. My wife kept telling me that bad things would happen to me. She also said that if I was caught she and the children would be affected. Stealing started to become a way of life. Lying also became a way of life. I got so used to lying about the way life was that I did not notice I was doing it. Do you have a bad habit that you are doing now that comes out like a second nature? Perhaps it is holding grudges or finding the weak point in another person. Perhaps it is arguing all of the time because you think you are right and not letting others express their point of view. This is how a bad habit grows into an offence that is not pleasing to God.
Let me tell you how you can change any bad habits or behaviors that you want to. My wife taught me this lesson. You can learn to be self-reflective and think about what you are doing. Being self reflective means taking time each day or weekly to think about you are doing and the way people might perceive the way you are acting. I started to do this when I met Jesus. People would gather around him and start asking him questions. Or he would start telling stories about forgiveness and healing. Not only would Jesus tell the people gathered to help the poor and needy he would do it himself. This really bothered me because I was stealing more and more from all people, even the poor and the rich. In my heart I knew I should do those behaviors but I was unwilling to change because it was too much work to follow my conscience. Being bothered by things is a very good way to become more self reflective to ask yourself why. Having a guilty conscience is a good thing to notice and do something. What are you doing to assess your actions and be prepared to do something about?
One day my accusers started to gather around my house. A few men came and dragged me out. I was taken to the judges and was tried for stealing. I was sentenced to be crucified next to a man called Jesus who was being called King of the Jews by the Romans. A sign was put on his cross that even said he was the King of the Jews. The Jewish people, too, thought Jesus was going to lead them out of poverty and persecution. They looked up to him as their King. I remember that the Romans taunted Jesus and yelled to him that if he was King he should get off of the cross. Jesus just looked at them and said nothing.
My fear was great. My wife and older children came to where I was and told me that they loved me. Jesus kept looking at me with great tenderness. My wife and children were crying. They thought their father was lost forever. They had come to hear Jesus speak many times and believed that his kingdom was not of this world. They were still hoping that I would have a change of heart and be saved.
Another man was being crucified on the other side of Jesus. He kept shouting, "Are you not Christ? Save yourself and us". He kept taunting Jesus again and again. He acted as if he was playing to the crowd accusing Jesus of blasphemy. But Jesus said nothing.
I remembered all of the times I had heard Jesus speaking about God and to remember to be kind to the poor. I realized that I had not been kind. I had been a thief to the poor and the rich. At that moment I realized that I was dying and that I wanted to go to God's kingdom. I was ready to admit my guilt to Jesus. My self-reflection had come almost too late. I asked right then and there "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus answered me, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise".
I saved my life at the last moment by asking for forgiveness that day. Do you know how that feels!!! I did meet Jesus in Paradise later in day. I waited too long to change my life but at least I had a last chance to repent at the end of my life. I urge all of you at Jesus Our Shepherd to do self-reflection daily and even hourly to see if your actions correspond with the teachings of Jesus; especially when our actions affect the poor and the lowly. Your lives will change and your actions will be clear.
Paradise is a good place to be. Yet there is much time to change the world for good now. I am often referred to as the good thief. I would prefer to be the person who had an awakening and was welcomed home.