Monday, November 3, 2014

Christian Hope: Life after Life

All Souls Day

 Many people are fascinated with the future, especially after this earthly life.  There are books about near-death experiences: Proof of Heaven.  Embraced by the Light. Life after Death.  Life After Life.  Etc.  People describe moving out of their physical bodies, through a dark tunnel into the presence of an overpowering light to evaluate their lives.

Rubens' Resurrection
Some experts say that these people were not describing death as much as a new and deeper experience of human consciousness.

 The Bible captures the ambivalence of change magnificently:  there is an appointed time for everything,... a time to be born, a time to die, etc.

What is the Christian response to the shape of the future?

Hope.

Hope is a fundamental human characteristic.  We are forever seeking to go beyond the here and now, to dream the impossible dream.  We want to reach beyond ourselves for that which is yet to come.
         
There are images of hope weaving in and out of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Initially, the hopes of the ancient Hebrews were very concrete; land, sons and daughters, peace and prosperity.  God always faithful despite their unfaithfulness.  And when the hopes of the Hebrews were dashed with the fall of the Southern Kingdom, God began to build up new and better hopes for them: a Messianic era, a Messiah who would rescue them from all enemies, even the enemy of death.
Paul in his letter to the Christian community in Rome proclaims that hope triumphs over despair, because Jesus, crucified and risen and in our midst by the power of the Spirit, has reestablished our friendship with God.

And in the Gospel according to John, Jesus worked seven signs that reveal his identity as the Son of God. They who live as sons and daughters of God, will have eternal life.  The New Testament is rooted and grounded in Jesus of Nazareth.   Jesus is our hope.  At the very core of Christianity is the central reality that Jesus appeared alive to the disciples after his death.  God by the power of the Spirit transformed the earthly Jesus into a heavenly Jesus.  And one day we, like Jesus, will make an evolutionary leap into a new reality.  By virtue of Baptism, we experience the beginnings of that future – life with God forever.
         
Christian hope is the conviction that the universe has ultimate meaning, that Christ in his Second Coming will bring to completion the process of transformation begun in his resurrection.

This hope challenges us to do everything we can to usher in that future: to create order out of chaos, to promote creativity over destruction; to advocate peace.  Above all, this hope challenges us to reach out with compassion and generosity and forgiveness to that which alone is of everlasting value in the community:  the human person.

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