The second word from the cross is “Truly, I say unto you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
R.J. Neuhaus begins this meditation with:
The first one home was a thief. Jesus is not very fastidious about the company he keeps.
Legend names the two thieves crucified with Jesus as Dysmas and Gestas. Dysmas is the “good thief” who makes the request that sparks Jesus’ reply here. And Dysmas gives hope to us all. If Dysmas, who as they say in dealmaking “brought nothing to the table,” can be hoisted into paradise, then why not me, who also has nothing of value to trade with God. Dysmas knows he deserves his punishment, but he longs, as we all long, for paradise.
Neuhaus again (from Death On A Friday Afternoon: Meditations On The Last Words Of Jesus From The Cross:
“For perfection we were made. We don’t know what it would look like or feel like, but we must settle for nothing less. This longing is the source of the hunger and dissatisfaction that mark our lives; it drives our ambition…The hunger is for nothing less than paradise, nothing less than perfect communion with the Absolute—with the Good, the True and the Beautiful—communion with the perfectly One in whom all fragments of our scattered existence come together at last and forever. We must not stifle this longing. It is a holy dissatisfaction. Such dissatisfaction is not a sickness to be healed but the seed of a promise to be fulfilled.”