“God is the giver of all life, human and divine.” Those words come from the Baptism ceremony in the blessing of the parents. God is the giver of all life. All that is has been created in God’s love. We are made for God. Most of creation cannot know – mountains, seas, the earth – they simply exist but they do give great glory to God; all creatures give God glory in a richer way – they are alive, are blessed to pass on the gift of that life, but then die.
Human beings are alive, pass on the gifts of life and are destined for eternal life with God. This is a revelation that grew slowly in the minds of the people of Israel and finds its fullest expression in the Book of Wisdom, written about fifty years before Jesus was born. Jesus came to a people ready to receive the full revelation of the resurrection of the dead: we shall live with God forever.
Jesus lived the life of a faithful Jew – Synagogue and Temple – but offered a new understanding of loving and being loved by God. He said that he came that we might have life and have it to the full. Following him, we may share divine love! It is a wonderful invitation: in this life we follow Christ, in eternal life we live with God.
The New Testament speaks of two kingdoms of God (kingdoms of heaven, the truth is the same): the kingdom of God to which everyone belongs, and the kingdom of Christ which lasts until the end of time and allows us, even now, to share something of the life of eternity – above all, in our prayer.
The sign of being in Christ’s kingdom is baptism: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus to Nicodemus in chapter 3 of St John’s Gospel. Nicodemus belonged to God in his faithful following of the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, but he glimpsed something/someone new in Jesus. Jesus invited him to share new life through baptism: he did, and was one who helped bring Jesus’ dead body down from the cross. He was a faithful Jew, a faithful Christian.
Two kingdoms. At the end of time Jesus will hand over his kingdom to his Heavenly Father and there will be one eternal kingdom of God for which the whole human race has been created. How the Church has struggled down the centuries to understand and express that truth: all are made for eternal life with God. Christ’s followers know that wonderful truth and their mission is to share it with the world by example and inspiration.
God bless us with a happy and prayerful Christmas,
(22nd December 2019)