We enter Paradise in the Cross

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
The Seven Last Words, 02 April 2023
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2014.

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:42

Every time we feel good, whenever we see something so beautiful, whenever we are with those we love, we describe the feelings as “like paradise” or “heaven”. For us, paradise is all bliss. No sickness, no problems, no sufferings, nothing bad, nothing dark, nothing unpleasant. It is all good. In fact, perfect.

And that is why heaven or paradise is! From the ancient Persian word paradiso, it referred to the innermost room in the palace where only the most trusted ministers of the King were allowed to enter along with his immediate family, From that came the idea that paradise must be so beautiful that the Greek translators of the Bible used it to refer to heaven as God’s dwelling. After all, our God is the only One who is perfect and supreme than any king in the world.

Recall that when Adam and Eve sinned, they were banished from Paradise that was henceforth closed until that Good Friday when Jesus promised Paradise – of all people – to a former thief!

Yes, Paradise is for every sinner ready to beg forgiveness, ready to claim Jesus Christ as our Savior!

And that is just one of the surprising things about Paradise or Heaven according to Jesus on that Good Friday.

See that Jesus never promised “Paradise” when He was freely going around Galilee, preaching and healing the people, when He was dining with sinners and tax collectors, when He was very well and strong.

Jesus promised Paradise when he was dying there on the Cross, not when He was strong and free!

See also how He said the words to Dimas, “today you will be with me in Paradise”.

Jesus promised Paradise at that very moment they were on the Cross, hanging and dying. Not later when they died nor on Sunday when He resurrected from the dead.

Jesus promised Paradise at that very moment they were suffering and dying, in extreme, excruciating pains never imagined by anyone, presumably with all the fears, negative thoughts and feelings that went with it.

And that is precisely when we enter Paradise with Jesus, too.

When we are suffering from our sickness and disabilities especially over a long period of time, when we are deep in pains in our heart for all the hurts inflicted by a loved one, when we are old and bed-ridden awaiting the final moment of death, when we are in agony for the loss of a loved one, when deep in trials and disappointments, or whenever we are so weak and dying literally or figuratively speaking.

That is when we slowly enter Paradise.

In a world where the most prescribed medicine is the pain reliever, where everything is invented to minimize even eradicate difficulties and hardships, Jesus is reminding us that we enter Paradise when we are with Him suffering there on the Cross.

That is the value and meaning of the Cross we always evade these days. It is not all suffering but also a foretaste of eternal bliss, of perfect joy and happiness because it is during our darkest moments in life that we get a glimpse of Christ’s eternal light, when we are transformed and made stronger and better as persons soon enough to be worthy to enter the most exclusive circle of all – Paradise – to dwell in the Lord with His angels and Saints.

Let us pray for those going through many sufferings these days, including ourselves.

Lord Jesus Christ,
before all these pains and trials
came to my life, 
You were there FIRST for me on the Cross;
You were there FIRST for me to suffer and die
on the Cross.
 Let me stay with you on Your Cross
so I may enter Paradise with You,
right now,
right here.
Amen.
One of the most beautiful front page photos I have seen in many years. Taken in August 2021 when we were in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases, the photo evokes Paradise, “right here, right now” while people were suffering in Jesus, with Jesus and through Jesus. Photo from inquirer.net.

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