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Center for Action and Contemplation

Universal Resurrection

Monday, December 18, 2017


Universal Resurrection
Monday, December 18, 2017

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the ultimate symbol of the universal pattern of union with the divine: “When Christ is revealed, and he is your life, you will be revealed in all your glory with him” (Colossians 3:4). God’s clear goal and direction for humanity is mutual indwelling, where “the mystery is Christ within you, your hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Henceforth we know our true and lasting life in the new “force field” that Paul calls the Body of Christ, not in any individual or private perfection. If it is private, then it is not perfection. We live no longer, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). This is a knowing so grand that only the Whole Body can fully experience it. We simply participate.

After his resurrection, Jesus tells the disciples, “I am not a ghost! I have flesh and bones, as you can see” (Luke 24:39). To Thomas, Jesus says, “Put your finger in my wounds!” (John 20:27). In other words, “I am human!”—which means to be wounded and yet resurrected at the same time. Jesus returns to his physical body unlimited by space or time, without any regret or recrimination. This is the utterly counterintuitive message of the Risen Jesus.

Jesus reveals the purpose and fullness of humanity, which is “that we are able to share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), even in this wounded and wounding world. Through our “divine adoption,” we share in Jesus’ inheritance as “heirs of the same promise” (Galatians 3:29). Our code word for that is heaven. As Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions, and I have gone ahead to prepare a place for you. . . . I shall return to take you with me so that you may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

I do believe in the “bodily” resurrection of Jesus or my basic premise of body and spirit being one (incarnation) does not stand! I am quite traditional and orthodox here. Resurrection does not only mean an eternal reward in the future. “As now, so later!” Resurrection is the Incarnation taken to its full and logical conclusion. What we choose now, we will indeed be. It is our own decision (which is why almost all the world religions posit some idea called “hell”). We must protect the idea of human freedom, because love can only exist in the realm of freedom. God wants love partners, not robots or clients.

Heaven is first of all now and therefore surely later. If God loves and accepts us now in our broken state, why would the divine policy change after our death? It is the same God and we are the same humans. For many of the early Eastern Fathers of the Church and for the mystics, salvation was not a question of if but when. How soon are you ready to allow God to show infinite love to you? Many do seem to wait until the very end. Some of the Church Fathers said that once we see the Infinite Mercy, we wouldn’t be able to resist it. (That is what Catholics actually meant by our strangely formulated belief in purgatory.)

Universal restoration or apokatastasis (see Acts 3:21) was recognized by many in the Eastern Church, but Western Christianity, both Roman and Protestant, paid little attention. We interpreted the New Testament largely in terms of individual and private salvation, which is hardly salvation. Only a very, very few win by our stingy criteria. We still wait for “the new heaven and the new earth” promised by Isaiah (65:17) and again at the very end of the Bible (Revelation 21:1).

Gateway to Silence:
Going home to Love

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 85-86; and
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 212.

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