Tag Archives: afterlife

Good Will Doing

Ephesians 6:7-8

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

They say (whoever they are) that the good you do for another will be given back to you. Do this good thing now and you will be rewarded later in kind. And all of this rather fits in with the idea of Karma and what goes around comes around, whether good or bad. But… I don’t know that I see the proof of this in real life – do you? Too often, it seems that people get away with doing bad things – and even profit from those less than savory deeds. And too many kind, generous people, who do for others selflessly, get taken advantage of and walked all over. Where’s the cosmic justice?

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Bible Bursts. Please forgive me if I’m a bit rusty. It has never been my habit to pick up the Bible and turn to a random page when something is troubling me or just as daily instruction. I only began doing so when I conceived this writing challenge, which was originally designed to get me back to the habit of writing. You see, I was mainly interested in my craft and not really my soul. However, over the years, I have not only returned to regular and productive writing, but I have also gained deeper appreciation for the words within the Bible – as well as the Bible itself. I have begun to see the Bible, truly, as Sacred Scripture, the inspired word of God. And that’s good thing.

I am a true believing and practicing Christian, a member of the Catholic Church, which I believe to be the Mystical Body of Christ. But, I still have my little hangups. There are still some parts of the religion (that is, what is practiced) and the Faith (meaning what is believed) with which I have real difficulty. And, every now and then, I’m still washed over by the ghosts of my non-Christian past, those doubts and disbeliefs that I had once embraced. What does any of this have to do with today’s randomly selected piece of Scripture? The verses speak of divine justice, of God rewarding those who do good. Soon after reading them, my thoughts turned to doubt, didn’t they? I asked: Where’s the cosmic justice?

And I know that one answer to that question is found in the belief of Heaven and Hell. Those who do good here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Heaven, while those who do evil here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Hell. Simple. And, yet… requiring SUCH a leap of faith. We have no indisputable proof that any of this is true. And we cannot even offer the promises written in the Bible as proof – because believing that the promises written in the Bible are true requires faith and, therefore, cannot be indisputably proven as fact. I might venture as far as to say that there is enough historical documentation outside of the Bible, reporting what eyewitnesses said and did, to declare that Jesus of Nazareth’s not being dead after his crucifixion is probable. But, his Ascension into Heaven? Continuing with our “probable” case, the fact that his followers and those who knew him may never have seen him again doesn’t prove that he “went to Heaven”. He could have disappeared into the mist and kept walking, going to live far away, in obscurity, while tales of his life and death got naturally exaggerated until they were eventually written down, thus exaggerated and embellished – in the Bible.

These are the doubts. These are the doubts that got the better of me in the past and still plague me now, from time to time. These are the doubts that many, many, many people have. We are not alone. There is, however, another thing that “they” say (whoever they are) and that is this: paralysis by analysis.

One can certainly overanalyze anything. And everything. Our God-given gift of reason can bring us to many wonderful and amazing lands of discovery in this beautiful existence that is reality. But, reason can only bring us so far. We can analyze the stories told in the Bible, as well as the historical evidence for figures in the Bible and their earliest followers, and we can even, reasonably, arrive at conclusions of possibility, or even probability. But, our God-given gift of reason is only designed to bring us so far – and no further. We are not meant to prove the Messianic power and Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. We are not meant to prove that he is God Incarnate. God doesn’t want us to prove it.

God wants us to live it.

And in order to live the truth of Jesus, we need to love it – and in order to love it, we need to leap to it.

There is something about a human being taking a leap of faith that is more beautiful, powerful, awesome, and amazing than any other act from any other creature EVER. I even dare to say that a human being taking a leap of faith is something that even God Godself cannot do. God knows everything that exists. God knows each and every one of us intimately and infinitely. But, for us to come into a personal relationship with God, we must leap with faith.

Okay. I seem to be seriously digressing. I’m obviously more than a bit rusty! My basic point is that I don’t like to say out loud, or even to think, that acts of human kindness will be rewarded after death. Something inside of me fights against the idea that God is conditioning us to “good” behavior with the promise of yummy treats at the end of the day. Surely Heaven must be so much more – even so much other – than that. And I also resist the idea that God is conditioning our behavior here on earth with a stick and a carrot. Like, “Treat your cranky old neighbor kindly and generously and then you will see – a stranger will give you a check for 10,000 dollars!” Or, “Tisk, tisk, you better not knock your little brother to the ground or else you’ll find a hornet in your shirt and get stung!” Yeah, I don’t think so. I could be wrong – I could most definitely be wrong, God knows! – but I don’t think that God meets out cosmic justice with an elaborate system of punishments and rewards.

I do think, however, and I do believe, that goodness is its own reward. And I don’t mean that feeling of satisfaction for having done something “good”. I mean what these Scripture passages from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are hinting at. Doing “good” and being “good” isn’t about what we do or say to our fellow human beings. When God calls for acts of charity, God is calling for acts of love, and, as Saint Paul tells us in another letter to another group of people, we can perform many marvelous acts – but if we have not love, real love, then we are nothing. Doing good and being good is about being in intimate union with Goodness Itself. “Goodness Itself” is God. And yes, that can mean following God’s commandments and thereby doing God’s will – but it means so much more. Because we could follow all of the commandments – but if we do not do so with real love, then we’re missing the mark. It’s all about loving.

As the verse for today says, it’s not about the good service that we do to our fellow Men, it’s about the good service that we do for God, for the sake of God – and we can do nothing for the sake of God unless we are doing it because we love God. Not because we want to please God so that we will be rewarded and not punished. No. Because we really love God, we joyfully do the things of God, paying no mind to the consequences. This joyfully doing is real joy, true joy. Just pleasing other human beings, or doing things for the sake of avoiding punishment or getting reward, isn’t going to cut it. The most beautiful thing that we can do as human beings is to take a leap of faith – and the most joyful thing that we can do as human beings is to love God, to whom we leap freely and unselfishly.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

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Thy Money Perish with Thee

Money, money, money…

Acts 8:17-22

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

“… He has died as a ransom to set them free…” (Hebrews 9:15)

There is much Christian theology that seeks to explain redemption, the salvation that comes through Christ on the Cross, with financial analogies.  I don’t like any of them.  It’s not that the analogies don’t make sense or fail to hit the important point – that through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross comes forgiveness of sins – but money and purchasing and possessing just seem to have nothing to do with spirituality and divine grace.  Christianity isn’t about reconciling the account books.  The religion is, rather, about love – about being loved and loving.  And even the Beatles know that “money can’t buy me love.”

And, yet… In Catholic Christianity, people pay for Masses to be said on behalf of deceased loved ones and the salvation of their souls.  “Free will” or “love” donations are asked of people attending Christian services or revival meetings, and a basket is passed around.  In some denominations, members are required to tithe, to give 10% of their earnings to the church.  It seems that money certainly does matter – even in religions that are about spirituality and God’s unconditional love of souls.  How do we justify this?  With human good and the purpose of money…

Human Good

We are only human.  Our divinely created bodies of flesh and blood live upon this earth and are dependent upon earthly things for continued life here.  God looks upon all that He has created and sees that it is good – earth is good, all flora and fauna are good, and the human body is good.  As GK Chesterton once wrote: “There are no bad things.  Only bad uses of things.”  And what is good for the good human body is good food, good water, and good shelter.  Companionship with other human beings is also good for the body – as it is good for the soul.  For, every human person is both body AND soul.  Our souls animate our bodies.  In our desire to save our souls, we are not to forsake our bodies.  When Scripture and theologians address the “desires of the flesh” as being contrary to the good of the soul, the flesh does not merely mean the body.  Rather, “the flesh” is all of our self-centered desires and tendencies – the human will when it is contrary to Divine Will.  God wills the good of the human person – which is the good of both the body AND the soul.

The Purpose of Money

All that money really is is a “modern” substitute for the bartering exchange of goods and services.  I raise sheep and have a lot of wool.  You have the talent and tools for turning wool into clothing and bedding.  I give you my wool and, in exchange, you give me an agreed-upon amount of bedding and clothing.  You will have extra woolen goods with which you can barter with someone else for firewood to keep you warm.  That person who has a lot of firewood also gives some to me in exchange for some lamb or mutton.  I also exchange some of my sheep for food, which a local farmer grows and I cannot.  We all get along, giving and receiving just what we need to maintain our lives as we are living them.  It’s all very simple and, yet, rather complicated as villages grow larger, more goods are introduced into the market, and more services are required.  Buying and selling with standard currency merely standardizes and simplifies this process.  I now sell my wool at the marketplace for money and use that money to buy what I need from others.  Money, therefore, is to be used for the good of the human person.

Temptation, Sin, Salvation, and Jesus Christ…

Temptation

In the simple bartering process, some people had the clever ability to gain more goods than they needed and to be able to exchange them for luxuries.  Money makes it even easier for those clever people to gain more and more.  And the temptation is to amass wealth, with rich foods, luxurious clothing, and elaborate shelters.  The human body naturally responds to good food, warmth, and comfort, experiencing these things as pleasure.  And there is nothing wrong with that in the sight of God.  What is wrong, what is out of order for the good of the human person, is when greed for these things causes the person to lose sight of the good of his or her fellow human beings – or even to lose sight of his or her own immortal good.

Sin

Greed, lust, and gluttony are the sins that we commit when we want, not what is good in the sight of God, but, rather, what is pleasurable for our own flesh.  There is a self-centeredness at the root of these sins, from which also stems envy (wanting what others have) and sloth (wanting to gain without working or giving) and pride (wanting to be the one who gains, who is envied, who controls).  Pride is also this self-centeredness itself.  For, we put ourselves and our own selfish desires at the center of life and of how life should be lived – denying the good that God, Our Creator and Sustainer, intends.  And we are wrathfully angry (another of the deadly sins) when we are thwarted from getting our way.

Salvation

The reason that these self-centered, self-worshiping kinds of sins are called “deadly” is because, when we succumb to them and live our lives in sin, we use our God-given spiritual gifts of intellect, memory/imagination, and free will to live lives that end only in death.  What hell.  Amassed wealth is not eternal.  Narcissistic pleasures are not immortal.  But, the human person is made for the eternal, for the immortal.  The human body must be cared for with physical nourishment, sustenance, and protection just as the human soul must be cared for with spiritual nourishment, sustenance, and protection.  I am one creature of body and soul.  Neither my body nor my soul are to be indulged at the expense of who I am: a physical creature with a spiritual soul, made in the image of God to reflect God, embracing and sharing all that is of God, in this life on earth and continuing my divinely created life in the world to come, which is Heaven.  When I love and live in the good things of God, and make use of these good things in a way that is keeping with the intention of God, then I know and will perpetually know eternal good – the good that is God.  Lovingness helps us keep this divine perspective, God-centered, eternally experiencing what is truly good.  Selfishness, with all those deadly sins, turns us away from what is right in God’s sight and makes us self-centered, living lives that will end with the death of the body.  No loving eternity.

Jesus Christ

God became a human being to set us straight.  Christ Jesus, being God-Incarnate, eternally sanctifies the human person – the human body and the human soul – in the most profoundly intimate way, by living as we live, hungering and thirsting as we do, dining as we dine, sleeping and waking, working as we work, tiring as we tire, enjoying human companionship as we so enjoy.  God lived bodily on earth.  And it was so very, very good!  And, at the end of his earthly life, Christ Jesus agonized as we agonize, suffered as we suffer, and died as we die.  But, the blood that he shed on the Cross was beautifully given to God his Father with the perfect fullness of love.  He was not self-centered (even though we might foolishly, semantically argue that he was, since he was God, and he was God-centered) for all that Christ did, he did for our good, for the human good.  It is God’s most perfect intention for human beings to flourish here on earth and eternally in Heaven – to know real love and to be really loving, for love is the one immortal good.  This perfect human good was most perfectly and fully realized by Jesus Christ in his sacrifice on the Cross – and this perfect human good is perfect alignment with the good and goodness of God.  It is our salvation, Christ is our salvation.  Saved from selfish sins and lives that end in death – Saved for immortal good and eternal love.  If we just follow him.

We don’t need to think of redemption as Jesus paying a price.  Christ Jesus was and is willing to do anything for our good.  The Crucifixion and the Resurrection is most definitely for our good.  The Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit is most definitely for our good.  It is not for our pride, for our greed, for our lust, for our gluttony, for our sloth, for our envy, or for our wrath.  Christianity is living the Mystery of Christ so that we may not die in sin, but, rather, live in the salvation of love – forever – our resurrected, glorified bodies and our souls reunited after this earth passes away and our minds and hearts most fully opened, infinitely and eternally opened, to the good that is God.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

Give Glory to Him for the Hour

Revelation 14:6-7

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Waiting for the end of the world?  Waiting for some calamity to strike – a meteor, nuclear war, Facebook filing Chapter 11?  People hold up signs saying “The End Is Near” and expect Doomsday to meet them around the corner.  But, the world doesn’t have to end, the earth explode, for the hour of the Lord to come.  That hour is right now.  And now.  And now.  And – yup, here it is again.  Because time and space belong to the eternal and infinite Source – to “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God.”[1]  This is His house.  He’s already here.

If we wait for man-made apocalypse or the natural expiration of our solar system – or even if we wait until we are on our deathbeds because of terminal illness or old age – until we think about eternity, ultimate reality, the human soul, and what lies beyond this life, then we aren’t fully living.  We are not fully human, fully alive, unless we look beyond ourselves – not only beyond our own personal needs in the giving of love and charity, but also beyond our own skins, beyond our own eyeballs.  We did not create ourselves.  We did not bring ourselves into being.  There is an Uncreated Creator, an Uncaused Cause.  As the poet Rumi says,

“I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.

Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.”

And earlier in the poem, My Soul Is from Elsewhere, as translated by Coleman Banks, Rumi speaks the timeless human question:

“Who looks out with my eyes?  What is the soul?

I cannot stop asking.”

Neither can I stop asking and never should I cease to plunge myself into the Mystery of Being.  The Unmoved Mover stirs my heart with restlessness until it rests in the heart of the Beloved One, Infinite/Eternal Love.

And angels fly in the midst of heaven, beyond the seeing of my corporal eyes, with the message from the foundation of Creation – What is, is.  Do not be blind.  Too willing to shut off any detection of the spiritual, lest we know that the end is here.  The end that is the beginning – not like the pointless going around of a circle, or a nifty Jedi/Zen trick of the mind.  What truly is, is, always was and always will be.  Eternity isn’t something after.  Eternity is here and now.  And, to the One Who is the Source of All Being, the key moment is eternally now.  The moment of import, the moment that impacts my immortal soul, is now.  It was never waiting for me at the end of my days or at the End of Days.  My home, my true self, my eternity, was always where it should be, though I may not possess the eyes to see.

The glory of life is that it is given.  To thank and celebrate with the Giver is to revel in the gift.  “The glory of God is Man fully alive”[2]– let’s not wait until our beautiful bodies splash back into the pool.  As we are sent forth, let us leap up in joy and praising, giving glory to the Hour of the Lord as God glories in our eyes wide open, our souls full throttle, the message of the angels received… and the love given given in return.  Home.  Now and always.


[1] Saint Thomas Aquinas

[2] Saint Irenaeus