Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

print

God did not make death,
Nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For He fashioned all things that they might have being.
                                                            Wisdom, 1:13–15

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
                                                              John 1:4

 

Jesus is about life. “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  Christianity does not teach the immortality of the soul in the way that theosophists and New Agers teach it.  It does teach this truth: that at the moment of conception God creates in time a person whose name he had known from the foundations of the world, a person with a determinate destiny, with a future that is forever, a person who will know the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in this life and who will then pass through the door marked death to enjoy the vision of God and to sing with the saints the praise and glory of the Creator. 

This is what seen from a human point of view might be considered Plan B, for in the beginning God had intended that the creatures made in His image should live blessedly in the Garden and should answer when He called their names.   What supervened was the serpent, disobedience, and death.  And this is the part of the story we know best, for we live amidst the ruins of rebellion, and in the daily presence of death.  “Who,” said Saint Paul, “will deliver us from this body which is consigned to death? (Romans 7:24)  And the answer is, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ”. 

Jesus is the person in whom life is victorious over death, who commanded the prophet John to write: “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys to death and hades.” (Revelation 1:18)  And at the end of John’s vision he sees that death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire (20:14), with those who have chosen death by joining Satan’s rebellion.  For by our creation we are ordained to live forever.  That any should be lost forever is a dark mystery founded in the inexpressible value of every soul, the reality of freedom, and the providence of God.  But His will is life and His mercy more powerful than Satan’s wrath and deceit, The center of the New Creation is not a Constitution or a Declaration of Rights but a person, Jesus Christ, whose name is Emmanuel, God with us, who will wipe the tears of life from our eyes so that we can behold the light of God’s glory, and the lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:3–4, 23) 

The Christian religion as defining of reality is distinctive in that, while it is framed around certain beliefs expressed in the great creeds to which believers adhere through the gift of faith, it is even more fundamentally about a life lived in, with, and through the divine-human person who was born of Mary and the Holy Spirit in the reign of Augustus, who is the meaning of history because beyond the ambiguities of present experience and the wreckage of time, He lives. His disciples did not believe the truth that He is the Messiah until He spoke to them and they knew that He was alive. He is person writ large as the living meaning of time.  As Christian thought unfolded it became clear that this person was more than a person in that He was not only the person whose death on the cross the Johannine witness remembered, not only the teacher who had perfected the Law to make it a thing of the new heart, but the Word through whom all things were made, who as Word filled the cosmos, so that Paul could say that in Him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible; even the highest choirs of angels, thrones, dominions, and powers were created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:15–20)   And it is His high desire that all should not only have life by believing in Him, for this is the will of the Father, but that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  The purpose of belief is life; “that believing you may have life in His name,” and  beyond belief, it is the will of Christ that those who believe should share in His life by partaking of His very person.  I am, Jesus said, living bread; bread that is and gives life, one may eat of this bread and live forever. (John 6:51)  And in this famous passage from John 6, Jesus identifies the body that will be given for the life of the world on the cross with the living bread that comes down from heaven.  The pathway to life is sharing in Christ’s body and blood.  “As He said to everyman: have life; eat my flesh and drink my blood; otherwise you have no life in you. (John 6:52) These are astonishing words.   If there was one principle in Israel it was the prohibition against drinking the blood of any creature, for the blood was the life, with life understood as analogous to the Greek soul, the very principle of existence, which as such might be offered to God, but which no man could claim as his own.  In the book of Acts, that Christians should refrain from blood was an apostolic concession to Jewish tradition and sensibilities (Acts 15:20).  Body and blood are the Hebrew anthropology, analogous to body and soul in things Gentile, Greek and Roman.  Since Christ is the sacrifice, sharing in His sacrifice as life giving is no more remarkable than the sharing of the sacrifice at Mount Sinai or the sharing of the Passover Lamb.   But the command to share in the divine life by drinking the blood of the Son of Man is an especially compelling command that believers share in the very life of Christ.

The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John was written in a community in which the sacrifice commanded by Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke was certainly celebrated, and it is perhaps characteristic of the Johannine author to elaborate the theology of the thing while assuming that the pattern of the celebration is too well known to require reiteration.  It was surely celebrated to realize the promise Jesus teaches in John 6:  “Abide in me, and I in you;” that He may dwell in us and we in Him.  The language of the New Testament is quite unaccountable except on the thesis that the gift of faith and the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist effected union with Christ who lives throughout time because time is His creature.  For Paul, simply, to live is Christ; believers are to have the mind of Christ.   Surely this union is effected by faith, but it is realized and fed by the Great Thanksgiving through which Jesus is present, offering His body and blood.  The baptized says Paul in Galatians “have put on Christ.” “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)   

 It is difficult to convey the freshness with which the apostolic mission engaged the world, for while there were words to be believed there was so much more to be lived.  And so it remains.  The answer to the claims of Jurassic park, to the argument that He will not appear to have His existence verified by analytic philosophy, to the undoubted fact of the pain of the world must always begin with the impressive intellectual arguments put forward by the Christian mind, but to the  eternal frustration of the Adversary, the irrefutable claim will always be, “I know Him.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *