In many Christian circles we find an obsession with heaven. The way many of these Christians put it, becoming Christian is about earning an entrance ticket into heaven. This easily becomes a reason for not engaging the world, for ignoring its plights, and for a self-centered life of faith. Eternity becomes something that will happen someday, that we will enjoy at the end of time.
The world in this point of view becomes a place for “passing thru.” So human reality, earthly reality, embodied existence becomes another stumbling block to the real life promised some day, to the real concern of God, to our “spiritual life.”
In today’s reading on our journey Scott McKnight gives us a helpful corrective. He tells us that “[w]hat is finally eternal is love, and heaven and eternal life are terms that house what is truly eternal: love.” (168) In loving God, neighbor, self, we are participating in the divine life, we are participating and inaugurating eternal life. Love keeps us centered, hopeful and inspired on being about God’s own nature in the world. We, as embodied beings, making incarnate God’s nature for the many who are not yet responding to God’s initiative in their life.
We might be at a point in our Lenten journey where tiredness is beginning to set in. We are ready for celebration, we are ready to take on that which we gave up, we are ready to sing Alleluia once again. Those things might seem like the heaven that we are waiting for, so near and yet so far away.
The promise of the Gospel is the promise of eternal life that begins today. We do not have to wait. The God we serve gave us an embodied savior and through that savior has taught us to love in the same way. Let us go into these last days loving. Knowing that in our loving we are participating in God’s own nature, knowing that in loving we are making possible heaven right here on earth.
As we prepare to hear the story of Jesus’ last days let us also remember that our embodied existence is no stumbling block. In fact our savior reminded us in his suffering and death that this world, this created order, is worthy, sacred, God’s own image in the world. God’s love for that world tells us something about the power of God’s Spirit within us that allows our loving to be an agent of participating in the eternal life of God-self. Thanks be to God!