Now, it’s certainly true that, from time to time, people do ask Jesus about such things in the Gospels. I think of the rich young ruler who asks what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Yet, even here, “eternal life” can mean “life lived from an eternal perspective,” “life in relationship with the Eternal One – the God of heaven and earth.”
And most of the time, people just ask Jesus for very practical, bread-and-butter assistance. Healing from disease, deliverance from evil, forgiveness, explanation of his teaching or about the Law, why he and his disciples live like they do, when the Kingdom of God is going to come in its fullness. Even his preaching about the Kingdom of God is primarily about this world – about the Reign and Sovereignty of God in this life…not just the life to come!
In that, Jesus is very consistent with the whole message of the Law and the Prophets he came to fulfill. After all, what did Isaiah promise in our first Reading today? “New heavens” yes, but also “a new earth!” What does God promise his people?
“Jerusalem a joy, without weeping or the cry of distress…” in other words, Peace in the Middle East!
“No more…infant(s) that live but a few days…” in other words, An end to infant mortality!
“No old people who do not live out a lifetime…” in other words, Adequate health care and the eradication of disease!
“They shall build houses and inhabit them…” No more homelessness!
“They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…”Agricultural reform, clean air and water!
“They shall not build and another inhabit…” No colonial expansion and invading other people’s land!
“They shall not labor in vain…” A living wage, and fair return for one’s work!
And finally, “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…” Even the natural order will find a new harmony!
Those who think our emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals is too “secular” should spend some time with the 65th Chapter of Isaiah…and with the life and teaching of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Of course, the Christian hope also includes our vision of heaven (which the Catechism describes as “eternal life in our enjoyment of God” BCP 862), but it primarily defines that even that hope as “living with confidence in the newness and fullness of life, and awaiting the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purposes for the world.”
Surely those purposes include peace, and the end of killing…justice, and the end of suffering…and the healing of a little boy!
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