But what is “life more abundantly”? The easy answer is eternal happiness in heaven, but that’s not an answer that regards us here and now. Is there some other kind of taste we could be enjoying, beforehand?
The foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb (the hors d’oeuvres, as it were) is the Eucharist—something that, sadly, we’re deprived of right now. But assuming that we are back in the normal track of sacramental worship in community, this is also not enough. The Eucharist is the fuel for our more abundant life—it’s not that life, as such. We need to turn to the early Church for a hint.
St Irenaeus in the 2nd century suggested, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” What would this look like? A couple of centuries later, St Augustine gave us a hint. In an excerpt from a sermon (from the “Office of Readings” for Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter), he observes that we are able to love God because God first loved us. And so we can sing a new song. This love overflows to love of others; it overflows into forgiveness and reconciliation and peace. Anyone who can live this life is surely “fully alive,” surely living “more abundantly.”
We are socially distanced from one another. Sadly, some of us are (and have been) emotionally distanced from others well before the pandemic gripped us. But barriers can be broken down by intentional acts: think of phone calls or notes or emails or texts. Think of prayer specifically for others. St Therese of Lisieux died at age 24 in a cloistered convent; yet she is a patron saint of missionaries because of her burning desire and her prayers. We can be “missionaries” in the same kind of way…
We can choose to live the life of the Kingdom here and now, without closing our eyes to the tragedies of reality. We may even be inspired to involve ourselves in relieving others’ sufferings and sorrows as a result. But it begins by knowing, experiencing, the fact that we are loved and have been shown mercy and have been reconciled—only then can we love and be merciful and reconciling toward others. While writing this I am listening to a piece by the 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg: “The Transfigured Night.” Why is it night? Because the woman confesses she has been unfaithful. Why is it transfigured? Because he offers her forgiveness, acceptance, and love. This is “life more abundantly,” precisely because it engenders more healing and mercy—because it endangers more life. And what does it take? “I’m so sorry”; “I apologize”; “I forgive you”; “That’s OK; let’s go forward from here”; “Thank you! I love you!”
I want life more abundantly: here and now.