Reflection – Thursday 7th May 2020
One of the great joys of the Easter season in which we are now in, is that we are reminded time and time again, through the Scriptures, that the Resurrection of Jesus does not merely concern an historical individual living some 2000 years ago in a far-flung province of the Roman Empire. Rather, it has an incredible impact on the lives of every human being who has come into this world since that time – and on all others, too.
Jesus, by overcoming death and by rising to the Resurrection life, has enabled us also to be partakers of his Resurrection. No longer, since his self-sacrifice on the Cross, does the entire human race face the condemnation which is due to it because of sin and subsequent alienation from God. Rather, Jesus has opened wide the gates of Heaven for us! Yes, physical death remains still the consequence of the sinful nature of humanity, but the ‘second death’ of Hell and eternal separation from God need no longer to be feared – if only we repent of our sins and unite ourselves with Jesus through the ways he has appointed.
First, we need to receive baptism. In this, we are mystically united with Jesus in a death like his (baptism is a sharing in the death, burial and rising again of Jesus), as Christ himself insists on. Then, we must endeavour to follow God’s commandments through our way of life. But, acknowledging that we are still prone to sin, we need to seek God’s gracious pardon through continuing repentance (which is why the Sacrament of Confession is so vital). We are given the immense privilege and joy of becoming like Christ through the eating and drinking of Christ’s own Body and Blood, which we receive in order that these gifts transform us into being participants in his life. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, is a stupendous declaration and reflection of this great truth and is truly part of the very heart of the Gospel in its entirety. Giving ourselves to God in his service, we seek to live our lives in his shadow, knowing that we fail in so many and so serious ways, yet trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for us, until at last we enter into the Kingdom and receive the fulness of the vision of God.
It is an amazing fact that we, frail creatures of flesh and blood though we are, are called to become, by adoption, sons and daughters of the living God! The Apostle Paul reminds us time and time again that we are called to be saints, that is, holy ones. Holy, that is, not through our own power and sanctity, but through the almighty power and gift of the Triune God. This is what it means to be a saint – a sharer in the divine nature, which is to be ours through the grace of God! What a tremendous calling! Even the angels themselves, great and powerful though they undoubtedly are, can never receive this gift!
However, it is always possible to reject the call of God, to repudiate his love and forgiveness. God forces nobody. That is the great wonder – and terror – of Free Will. We remain entirely free to reject him. We can (and so often do!) reject him and put all our faith and hope in the things of this world, finally turning our backs completely on him – which leads to the ultimate loss of God, which we term ‘Hell’. Yet we cannot complain, for God owes us nothing and, should we choose to reject his love and free pardon, we reap only what we are due. In accepting God’s offer, though, we gain not a reward for good behaviour, but his free gift of eternal life with him. This is an offer which always remains open to all, whilst we are in this world and should provide us with the impetus not only to live the Christian life ourselves but also, especially, through mission seek to make it a reality for all others, too.
Christianity is a missionary religion precisely because we want other people to know the joy of life in Christ, to know God’s loving forgiveness and to share in Christ’s Resurrection life both here and in heaven. It would be a really great thing if we would commit ourselves anew, as the Church, to spreading the Gospel story and to inviting others to enter our life and to, ultimately, become – yes saints in the Kingdom of God.