Saturday, 8 December 2012

8th December 2012

From the Gospel of Jesus, the world has learned about human value, dignity and freedom in relation to God. This is a source of confidence and hope that worthwhile and meaningful life is possible for all who embrace trustfully a way of living and serving God and each other in the face of our limitations and weaknesses. Relatively little is said in the Gospels about life beyond this mortal existence. The Gospel concentrates on dealing with the present, finding eternal life in the here and now. Yet the context In which Jesus teaches is always the imminence of the End of all things. 

As St Paul teaches, decades later about the meaning of Christ's resurrection in the face of mortality he insists: "If for this life only Christ has given us hope, we of all people are most to be pitied.." The mystery of resurrection applies in a manner inadequately understood to all human beings he explains. He improvises as he follows his own train of thought.

Paul was re-born into an experience of Christ's resurrection and the indwelling Spirit. An intellectual and scholar, he has to work out what this all means. He has to invent ways of expressing new thoughts to explain God's graciousness to others. e says about other things that he's passing on only what was handed down to him as a convert, but he believes he too has the creative Spirit to think about matters not covered in what he'd learned. He is certain it is proper and honest to speak of both a temporal and an eternal realm, perfusing each other, God and human beings belong together in both. Temporal life ends, yet as he says: "The gift of God is eternal life."

Greek platonic ideas permeated and influence the culture of cosmopolitan first century Judaism. Immortality of the soul, transmigration of souls and re-incarnation, would not have been alien, nor would they have been mainstream to those with ancient Semitic roots. For three centuries before the Second Temple was destroyed, the idea prevailed that immortality was a reward from God for martyrdom or outstanding holiness. Immortality was not therefore an inherent property of the soul which made transmigration and re-incarnation feasible for all, but a conditional gift, earned from God.

The Gospel affirms all life is divine gift, that God is indiscriminately generous with grace, mercy and love. Gifts can be accepted, embraced, used or ignored, refused, neglected, however. Life in this world and in eternity depends on the response humans make to God's creative initiative. We aren't ignorant of the choices from the outset. The longing to 'be forever' lies deep within us. Awareness of the life enhancing, transcending nature of goodness, beauty, truth and justice invites openness to the divine, and to communion with God. But because we are created free, contradiction of higher values is also a reality challenging us to discover who we are, and what life consists of.

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