Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jesus as the "Principle" of Eternal Life

In today's daily Mass reading from Hebrews, the author speaks of how God has "subjected" all things to Jesus. The interesting and obvious point for consideration is "what does subjection to Christ mean?" There are probably a number of avenues that could be taken in addressing this question. Perhaps the most frequently pursued avenue would be the "juridical" one. This implies that "all things", meaning, for the most part, historical events, cultures, human actions and human persons will be judged either favorably or unfavorably by Jesus. While this certainly is one valid way of talking about how all "things" have been subjected to Christ, their may be other avenues to pursue that are more essential and even foundational in nature. These considerations pertain to the way in which Christ's life is "normative" for truly authentic human existence. By "normative" I don't meant that everyone is living according to the way Christ lived (this obviously is NOT the case), but, rather, that the path to true human flourishing and the path to eternal life is paved by the way that Christ lived, suffered, sacrificed, and died. Another way that all things have been subjected to Christ that is of interest is the fact that all things are to be "summed up" in Christ (meaning, that they come to their fullness and are "gifted" with eternal existence, for more on this, see 1 Corinthians, 15:27-28).

With regard to Christ's life being "normative" for human flourishing this side of heaven, what are we talking about? What we are referring to here is "paschal mystery." First, "Paschal" refers to the precise manner in which Christ chose to live and love: where he spent most of his time, whom he companioned with and who he reached out to, his high degree of being simultaneously self-possessed (through his awareness of who he was and who God was) and "self-dispossessed" (through his constant outreach to others to understand them and serve their needs), and, finally, his resolute decision to love even to the point of suffering and sacrifice unto death. Second, this path is "paschal" because it is the "way" in which we will encounter Christ as person and principle and be "shepherded" to eternal life in and through the Holy Spirit. The "mysterious" aspect of the phrase "paschal mystery" is the counter-intuitive truth that fullness of flourishing and life ironically comes from the "death" that is involved in giving our lives in service to others. While there are many examples that can be cited of how people practically follow the path of "paschal mystery", the one that stands out most obviously for me is that of a loving parent. A parent who is lovingly attentive to the needs of his or her child necessarily makes many personal sacrifices so their child can grow and hopefully flourish. In living this way, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they encounter Christ in the process of parenting and in their child and embrace the "principle" of Christ in giving themselves fully to the project of parenting.

Finally, all things are subjected to Christ in terms of their destiny to be "summed up" in Christ. One way of imagining what this mysterious notion means is to visualize Christ as the "funneling" point of an hour glass. Now imagine each grain of sand in the upper half of the hour glass being all creatures and persons. To say that all things are subjected to Christ or are "summed up" in Christ means in a sense that all things and persons "pass through" him and find "final, eternal, and ultimate existence" in and through Christ. Therefore, Christ would not only be the "funneling point" but also the "bottom half" of the hour glass that "receives", "contains", or "holds" all things and all persons in eternity. The best part of being "received", "contained", and "held" in Christ is that through, with, and in Christ (and God) we are given the gift of our fullest selves and are empowered to give this gift freely, fully, and unhesitatingly for all eternity! In other words, eternal life in Christ and subjection to Christ means that the New Heavens and New Earth will be characterized to an indescribable degree by the unconditional gifting and receiving of every creature and human person from one to the other in a "dance" that will constantly deepen and that will be unending! By allowing ourselves to be subjected to Jesus as the "principle" of Eternal life, this is precisely what we are preparing ourselves for! Pat, TOR