Scripture: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3)
Somehow we’ve always wanted someone to come back from the dead and tell us what life is like after death. And in this Easter Season we rejoice that Someone has. Jesus has not been resuscitated, but rather resurrected: a new and glorious life, full, wholesome, complete, fulfilled in the living God. The Risen Christ is, of course, disappointingly silent about the things we want to know, beyond the huge fact that there really is life after death. But in fact, in his last instruction to his disciples on the eve of his own death, he did tell us exactly what we need to know: eternal life is knowing God.
What about the details? What will we look like? What will we do? Surely not just strum harps all the time! But wait: there is no time after death.
Jesus gives us the heart of the matter. The details will have to wait. Doing, achieving, acquiring – all those words will fall away, hard as it seems to us to let them go. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the Word made flesh. (Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit elsewhere). You’ve heard, I’m sure, that biblical knowing is not the mind acquiring facts. It is entering into a communion with another person that is profound beyond words. The best the biblical world can do for an example is the mutual self-giving in an ideal sexual union. On this side of the grave, in a world still riddled with sin, we can’t imagine that any more than we can imagine life without time.
But we have hints and signs and foretastes in our human experience: a true friendship or marriage that grows from depth to depth, an experience of Christ in word, sacrament, and community that draws us more and more out of our selfishness into mutual love: these are the previews that must keep us going until we get there. And they are our responsibilities now. What are your deepest relationships? Can you imagine them growing into the kind of communion in Christ that St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ describes? What can you do – or stop doing – to move toward that? Are you willing to know and be known at that depth? If not, why not? What are you afraid of?