Monday, May 12, 2014

What is life to the full anyway?

Dear Friends,

Have you ever pushed away from the table with the words “I’m full”? Usually when we say that, we mean we can’t eat any more – we can’t take in any more. In hearing a lecture, we may not be able to absorb another thought.

Consider a thimble, a bucket and a swimming pool. Fill each to the brim with water. Which is the fullest? Of course, it’s a trick question. Each is as full as it can be. What differs in each is the capacity for fullness. Each cannot take in any more.

In the Gospel, Jesus says:
I have come that you might have life,
and have it to the full.
(John 10.10)

Have you reached life to the full? I respectfully submit that you have not and I have not. We can each take in more.

What is life to the full anyway? It is just beyond us. It is never found in this life, even at the moment when we think we have it. Heaven is fullness of life, and heaven is just beyond us.

Many of us with long memories recall being taught or at least inferring from what we were taught that this life was all about preparing for heaven. This life was an antechamber. Heaven was all that is important. This life was to be endured, suffered through, trod through without savoring – for savoring life in this world threatened eternal life. In this way of thinking, life here and now was deemphasized.

Through the new vision of the mission of Jesus articulated by Vatican II, people have increased their love for the world. Health, the potential for travel, satellites that bring distant paces into our electronic devices – these have helped us relish life. The danger of this way of thinking is to put heaven on a closet shelf and forget about it.

It’s time to regain the balance:
to pay close attention to this life and to pay close attention to heaven.

Heaven is another name for the fullness of life that Jesus the Risen One promised. It is the fruit that never becomes overripe, the face and voice that never cease to appeal to us. Heaven is the insight that never fades, the music that always stirs us, the love that glows with vitality and never diminishes.

Heaven is the fullness of all human relationships summed up in the depth of our relationship with God.

“God,” the Book of Revelation tells us, “will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more – neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain any more – for the former things have passed away… God shall dwell with us.”

But let’s not think of heaven as some far distant place beyond the galaxies. Paradoxically, heaven is right here, in the people and places we love. Just beyond us. Here and now.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning reminds us
    "Earth is crammed with heaven
    And every common bush afire with God;
    And only she who sees takes off her shoes. 
    The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”

~Joan Sobala, SSJ