One of my favorite verses in the Bible is I John 3:2. Here is a lectio divina meditation I recently wrote about this verse.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
I think there is a tendency to pay attention to the second half of the verse. “We shall be like God… we shall see God as God is.” It’s a powerful promise and a lovely summation of what has been called the Beatific Vision.
Incidentally, I once had a conversation with a monk who said he didn’t care for the term “Beatific Vision” because it seemed too static, and rendered us as passive observers of God’s glory rather than active participants in the Divine Nature (see II Peter 1:4), so he suggested a better descriptor would be the Beatifying Communion.
I like that. the Beatifying Communion: we will be like God, for we will see God as God is. And in that seeing, we do not passively observe, but actively participate. Such participatory communion (what the mystics call “Union with God”) will not only thrill us, but it will transfigure us — we will be changed, from glory to glory, by the eternal presence of God with us.
And here’s the best part of all: that transfiguration has already begun.
We are God’s children now.
I think the second part of I John 3:2 only makes sense in light of the first part. The party has already begun. We are God’s children now. We may be in exile, “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears,” but we are assured of Divine Love as a present and future reality in our lives. Death cannot destroy us. Loss cannot destroy us. Suffering cannot destroy us. This is not a hope for some future liberation. The revolution will not be televised — because it’s already happening.
But — but — you knew there would be a but, right? Okay, it’s a paradox. Because suffering, death, loss, fear, addiction, sin, violence, abuse — all those things are still real. We are living in the paradox of the already and the not-yet.
We are already God’s children. We are already participating in the Divine Nature. But we are not yet fully liberated. We are not yet free from sin. We are not yet transfigured into “what we will be.” That has not yet been revealed.
It’s a mystery — silly mysticism, it’s always about what is hidden, not yet revealed, what remains a mystery, if only for a while. We are God’s children now and where we are going is even better, although it’s hidden, it’s a mystery. But we have some hints. We will see God as God is, and we will be like God.
The abbot of the monastery where I’m a Lay Cistercian tells the story of one time, in prayer, Jesus came to him and said, “what do you want?” The monk replied, “to love like you love.” Can there be a better prayer?
May we all yearn to love like Christ loves — for God is love, and when we love, as Christ loves, we participate in God. We embody are already-real splendor as children of God, and we live moment into moment into that unforeseen, hidden future, where we will be what we cannot yet see. But we can trust it will be splendid.
Sigh. Take a deep breath. Now I am reminded of the title of a book about mindfulness: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. We can reflect on 1 John 3:2, and touch the ecstasy that God offers us, here and now, and in the transfigured future. It fills me with hope. And then, I get up from my prayer time, and I review the list of things that need to be done. And I go do them.