This is eternal life

Ascension image from Bamberg Apocalypse 11CHow may the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus help us engage with life more fully? Is that a preposterous question? Some might say it is, by requiring that the Gospel of John meet some kind of scientific criterion of what is meaningful. However, my view is that we do John an injustice to confine his writing in such a way. In matters of science, John has nothing in particular to say. In matters of faith, John is seriously challenging us to consider “life in its fullness.” (Jn.10:10) For John preaches a gospel of “oneness,” of unity between God and the whole universe. If you read the Gospel of John in that kind of light, you will surely be blest by it.

Have you ever heard the Dr. Seuss story about the Sneetches? There were two kinds: “Star-Belly Sneetches” and “Plain-Belly Sneetches.” History and tradition had led the star-belly kind to assume superiority over the plain-bellies. For some reason the plain-bellies had come to accept their unique fate as lesser beings. That is, until one day …. More seriously, in human history, the separation of peoples and presumptions about them have twisted amazing diversity and difference into mutual loathing, domination, slavery and exclusion. Humans perpetuate all kinds of false mythologies for their own proud or greedy purposes. Historically, we may be aware that humans have tried to harness various fields of human inquiry, including theology and science, to justify their prejudice. Thankfully there is better science and theology available to us today, if we care to raise our awareness and practice what we learn. Genetics, stem cell studies and astrophysics are very different fields of science. Yet, in recent years, a consensus is building amongst those sciences that points to a certain oneness across the huge diversity of life-forms.

The Gospel of John is a major theological source for us as we explore and seek to understand the nature of life and the being of God. In the prayer of Jesus found in John chapter 17 we are offered a wonderful insight into the faith and the mind of a great theologian.

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17: 21-22)

As we have now for many centuries acknowledged a cosmology without an up or down, John’s Gospel is the least troubled by cosmology. The secret of eternal life is given with this revelation in John’s Gospel. Eternal life with Jesus is available now. You will notice that John’s Gospel does not have a specific Ascension nor a specific public Pentecost event. The presence of Jesus is available now, as Jesus promised to his disciples. They need nothing more than a continually nourished connection with him, the True Vine. They share his life, his breath and his ongoing companionship. Union with him pre-supposes your readiness to acknowledge oneness with others. Oneness with God presumes reconciliation with all life! It’s an amazing message.