February 9, 2015 ,
Monday of week 5 in Ordinary Time
Jesus Is Forever Now
In the beginning was the Word… All things came into being through him.
There is a parallel between the story of creation and the story of our “new creation” through grace. What follows is an “allegorical interpretation” of the creation story; that is, a reflection drawn from it that is neither scriptural nor scientific, but suggested by both.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland.
We attribute to Jesus, as the “Word of God” (John 1:1), the order and intelligibility of creation.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created… all things have been created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15).
The first act of the Word was to separate light from darkness.
Then God said, “Let there be light… God then separated the light from the darkness.
This was a preview of the separation of truth from falsehood by the Word made flesh.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
The Word then brought order out of the chaos of “formless” creation.
Then God said, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.” And God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. God called the dome “the sky.”
All water comes “from above,” from rain. But the Word separated the waters, so that in those below the sky, life could begin.
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin…”
All life comes out of the sea—although ultimately, all is “from above,” from God.
Divine life also comes “from above,” from God. But it comes to us through water, the water of Baptism. And this water is “gathered into a single basin…” The water of Baptism is offered in the Church as “source of life,” the single sea in which divine life has its origin.
Divine life is visibly offered, and is normally given, in Baptism, through the visible ministry of the Church visibly existing on earth (John 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; 2Peter 3:5). By exception, however, those who do not recognize the Church can receive divine life through “Baptism of desire.”
In the sea itself, life is limited to what can live in water—like the life of an unborn child immersed in the amniotic fluid of its mother’s womb. And nothing can move beyond the water. So in the creation of the world, when the Word said: “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin…” the purpose was:
“…so that the dry land may appear.”
God called the dry land “the earth,” and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
Now new life forms could evolve out of the sea, able to live on land, surrounded by air instead of water, and able to produce life by using, not just water, but elements taken from the earth. In the same way, because divine life is normally given through the human ministry of the Church, acting on earth, the Church can draw on everything human to nurture and extend the new life of those “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). As Christians pass through the womb of the Church into the adult life of grace, they are able to "breathe the Spirit pure," to “live by the Spirit,” and “be guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) in all of their interactions with the world.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed…God saw how good it was.
To give divine life Jesus brought about the same multiplicity of “life-giving plants” in his Church as in creation. Paul uses the image of the body to teach that through Christ the Word, the whole Church is organized and ordered to achieve its end through the distinct functioning of many different parts. The Church, “joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1Corinthians12:4).
As “the light that shines in the darkness,” the Word made flesh used the same tactic of multiplying himself in others:
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was... Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.”
Jesus came as the “light of the world” (John 9:5). But he said to his disciples, ““You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). All Christians are to “serve as luminaries to shed light upon the earth.”
In the creation story in Genesis we see a preview of the Word creating and forming his Church: bringing about life through “water and the Spirit,” preserving unity while separating activity into different functions, producing order and harmony, and preserving identity while simulating change. Comparing the two creations helps us.
Human life comes from the earth as well as from the sea. And, depending on which of these two sources we look at, we get a different view of human existence.
On the one hand, there is the ocean: although teeming with multiple life forms, it is in itself all one, uniform from shore to shore, unchanging, enduring, its surface ruffled by brief and local storms, but in its depths always quiet and the same.
Then there is earth: constantly developing; changing from jungle to desert, from mountain to plain, from glacial ice to tropical rain forest, repeatedly reformatted by earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. Its human population is in perpetual motion, geographically and culturally, its civilizations and social environments continually being transformed by wars and conquests, technology and economics, good and bad religion, education, politics and business practices.
Then, sharing in the characteristics of both sea and earth, there is the Church. Ever old and ever new. The Church is both stability and change, enduring source and ever-evolving realization. The Church is both human and divine, temporal and eternal. The Church is Jesus: the Word made flesh existing in his body on earth, “yesterday, today and the same forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And constantly undergoing change.
When Jesus came to earth, it was like someone walking out of the sea. The permanent became present where all is temporary; the enduring where all is transient; the immutable where all is in motion. The unchanging and unchangeable Word of God spoke himself in the unstable words of human cultural expression. The eternal Word became passing flesh, speaking passing words that would never pass away into the moving stream of our rapidly passing earth.
And that is the key to it: “passing.” The human, enfleshed presence of the Word keeps passing from Jesus into all the successive members of his body on earth. Jesus rose from the dead to live in all who would die in him by Baptism. And in them the unchanging Word of God continues to speak himself in and through all the changing words and cultures of human time and space. Establishing order. Giving direction. Bringing all of creation into unity through coordination to a single end in fulfillment of God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
This is the mystery of the “end time.” In Christ all things in heaven and on earth will be “united,” “gathered up,” “summed up,” “recapitulated,” “brought together under a single head.” This is Paul’s vision, shrouded in mystery, impossible to express, of the end for which all things were created. At the end, all mysteries are one mystery: the mystery of Christ “brought to full stature.”
The goal of all creation is Jesus himself, the “perfect man,” the body of Christ, head and members, all of humanity brought to the fullness of perfection in the Church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-2).
The gifts he gave were… for building up the body of Christ, until we all become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature (Ephesians 4:11-13).
“In Christ,” in the Church, we find the order that always was, is now, and ever will be—which, paradoxically, we are still working to bring about. The source of life has become a single, identifiable body giving life through Baptism. That life is eternal, coming to fullness in time “as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Jesus, eternal Word made flesh, is the key to it.
Do I choose to see my life, and all human life, as Jesus coming to full stature in me and the human race?
Prayer and Practice: Keep saying, all day long: “Jesus, I give you my body. Live your life with me, live your life in me, live your life through me.”
Discuss: How do you experience both stability and change in the Church?