When I was young I was taught that the purpose of life and the aim of living well was basically to save my soul. It was a somewhat narrow view. It didn’t take into account that bit of the creed said each Sunday about the resurrection of the body. Nor did it give sufficient attention to the fact that we are saved as a people, not just individually. It was not Good News in the flesh and in the here and now.
In his synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus reads from the prophet Isaias and sums up his mission as setting the downtrodden free. His Good News includes giving sight to the blind and giving a Year of Favour that was good for everyone. It is a mission that includes the body as well as the soul, and the community as well as the individual. We believe in the Communion of Saints. It was not just me as an individual in relation to my God but it includes others.
I have a well catechised friend who doesn’t now believe in the resurrection of the body. It is a step too far for her. It seems to me to be a dodgy Christian position that doesn’t adhere to that line of the ancient creed, although I do admit that all religious language needs to be interpreted. While we believe in a bodily resurrection, we don’t know exactly what that will be like. In the New Testament we have the risen Christ eating fish and going through walls. But whatever our experience will be, we will not be disembodied spirits but spiritual bodies. We will live in a way that we do not experience here. We will be taken up bodily into the Trinity and this in communion with others.
We are all missionaries who go forth to preach and live this message. It is Good News for all: our future saved as a people and unjust structures that make real loving impossible will be something of the past.
We are to be divinized, drawn into life with God. This is our destiny. This is not pie in the sky but a magnetizing vision to draw us into a future and to root us in work here in the present. Our heads are not lost in the clouds. Part of our mission is to make the world a better place. That is the work that demonstrates that we have faith. It is a result of realizing that we are loved in our sin and called to a covenant with everyone and everything. We are willing to die for the life of the world. We have experienced liberation and therefore we live differently.
There are many big issues of today that concern the religious person such as care for our common home; a just peace to end various wars; the fight against human trafficking; the sharing of the world’s resources that belong to everyone; the protection of people from womb to tomb that takes in those issues as abortion and euthanasia; gender issues.
The complications of the world we are creating is brought home to me at the moment in a case I know of personally. A male friend has a same sex partner. They have found an egg donor and surrogate “mothers” overseas. Each of the male partners has provided sperm for fertilizing the eggs of the unknown donor to be put into two known surrogate “mothers”. The babies will be born on specific days by caesarean section. Now that’s planning for you. It is a brave new world where whatever is technically possible is judged as okay. It can’t be wrong because it feels so right! The norm of man/woman/child bonding into a family is absent. Also, while the issue the child may later have vis-à-vis “who is my biological mother” are acknowledged, there is a priority given to the needs of the consenting adults to acquire children over other considerations.
We need a vision that has our feet on the ground and involves the big issues of our day but that has a glimpse at the future beyond earthy death and that gives us a reason to struggle. Fortunately, in the end, we believe that all will be well.