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Jesus' Death and Our Fate, Part Two: Journey Toward God
Regarding the teaching of the faith, what Christians come to realize is that we are not learning to assent to a list of propositions. We are not only learning something. No, we are coming to know someone -- a person. As the disciples received the faith primarily by believing in a person they knew intimately—Jesus—so are we on our way to a knowledge that can only really be spoken of in terms of vision. After death, we will not simply know something important about God. Rather, we will be like God, for we will see him as he truly is.
In the Eucharist, Christians learn that God has provided food for the journey of this life. It is a foretaste of the love we will share with God and with others in heaven. At the Eucharistic table, we can look back to Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, but we can also look forward in hope to the marriage banquet at the end of all things.
With the practice of almsgiving, Christians begin to understand the generosity of God, who desires to share his life with us even now, but perfectly in eternity. In showing mercy and generosity to others, we testify to God's mercy in sending Christ and his generosity in sending the Spirit. So, when we meet others' needs out of love for them, we are already participating in that life with God, where he will be all in all, where there will be no more weeping, mourning, suffering, or need.
Given that the 20th century has shown us so clearly that we cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and recreate the world as we know it ought to be, Christian meditation on time's relationship to eternity is urgent. Instead of faith in a loving God, many now prize honesty about the allegedly cold, hard facts. Instead of hope in the goodness and justice of God, many prize courage in the face of what seems to be eternal annihilation. And instead of love for God and neighbor, many prize authenticity and responsibility as the only values that will make life together remotely bearable. The Christian vision of this life and of the life to come calls us higher by showing us that God, in his infinite mercy and generosity, has made a way for us through time and into eternity, where we will finally come to rest in him.
Matthew Levering is Professor of Theology at the University of Dayton and a Distinguished Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. His most recent publications include Jewish-Christian Dialogue and the Life of Wisdom, Christ and the Catholic Priesthood, Participatory Biblical Exegesis, The Betrayal of Charity, and Biblical Natural Law. He lives in Dayton, Ohio.
Jason Heron is a Graduate Student Fellow in the Center for Scriptural Exegesis, Philosophy, and Doctrine at the University of Dayton.