Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Change Did Jesus Want?

The summary of a talk given at a YMCA meeting at Kottarakara on Nov 14, 2013

YMCA celebrates this week as its prayer week all over the world, and its topic of meditation is "Be the change". In relation to this, let us ask some fundamental questions: What kind of change do we want, and how do we expect the change to take place? As this is an organization based on Christian principles, we need to make sure that our answers are aligned with the Christian ideals and principles. We may modify the questions as follows: What kind of change did Jesus want, and how did Jesus expect the change to happen? Whatever Jesus wanted is what the christian church would want today, and whatever Jesus did to make the change is what the Christian church is supposed to do today. 

What change did Jesus want?
Jesus wanted our world to become heaven. The change Jesus wanted was nothing less than this. Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of heaven. The mystery of the kingdom of heaven was the topic of his talks everywhere. He encouraged people to pray, "Let thy kingdom come!"

We imagine that there is a world up there called heaven. When we say our world become heaven, we mean its becoming like heaven or its becoming a part of heaven. In the Lord's prayer, God is the king of the kingdom of heaven, and human beings, the children of God, request God to extend the rule of God to earth as well.

No one has ever seen heaven. So we have to imagine heaven. Our mental picture of heaven cannot be the same. However, we see heaven as the ideal world. Heaven may be defined as the ideal world; only the ideal varies from one to another. There is a well known story of a swan inviting a dork to visit heaven. The swan described heaven as a beautiful place with attractive landscape, with plenty of fruit trees, etc.  But the dork was not interested in such a heaven. All that he wanted to know was this: Are there crabs in heaven? A cat's heaven will have a lot of rats, and a dog's heaven will have a lot of bones.  A child's heaven will be a place of candies and toys. A countryside dweller might imagine heaven as a city, but a city dweller might imagine heaven as a peaceful countryside.

The Bible gives us two pictures of heaven-- one at the very beginning of the Bible, and one at the very end. At the beginning, the Bible gives us a picture of the Garden of Eden. It is a place where God dwells with people. Everything is at perfect harmony. At the very end, we see the new heaven and new earth. There also God dwells with people, and everything is at perfect harmony. 

St. Paul says that the Kingdom of God is not about food and drinks, but it is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

All relationships are intact in heaven. There are no walls of separation of any kind. There is perfect unity and love and harmony in all relationships. As a result there is joy and peace in heaven. There is a story of a child making a tour in heaven and hell with his tour guide, an angel. The angel showed him hell first. It was a mess there. Although there was plenty of food there, the inhabitants of hell were all hungry and frustrated, for they couldn't bend their elbow. They loudly cursed each other and God for their miserable situation. Now the angel took him to heaven. To his amazement, the inhabitants of heaven also had the same handicap-- they couldn't bend their elbow. However, they were joyfully eating food by serving each other. There was love, peace and joy there.

Jesus wanted our world to become like heaven-- a place of love, joy and peace. He wanted all people to live together as a family.  

How did Jesus want the world become heaven?
Aristotle thought that the world would become a more peaceful place without war if it were one brought under one king. His disciple, Alexander, tried to put it into practice by conquering the known world. Karl Marx thought that a classless society can be made in the world, and some nations tried to put it into practice. But we know that all these attempts failed. It seems that at the beginning of his career, Jesus also was tempted to bring heaven by force. One of the temptations of Satan was to become a king and make the world heaven-like. However, Jesus rejected it. He knew that heaven is not something that can be forced on people. Hell is often forced on people, but not heaven. Heaven is to be willingly chosen by people.

Adam was given the choice, and he rejected heaven and chose hell. Following his example, a lot of people continue to reject heaven and choose hell all over the world. Jesus, however, chose heaven, and showed us an example.

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like yeast. A very small amount of yeast has the power to leaven the entire dough. Similarly, heaven has the power to spread unseen and unnoticed throughout the world. 

Jesus did not make the entire world heaven. He himself lived in heaven. His thoughts, words and acts were heavenly. He invited people to follow his example. Even today his invitation stands, and a lot of people respond to his call. Baptism is the expression of a decision to reject Satan and his ways, and to follow Jesus and his ways.

You and I cannot make the world heaven. However, I have the power to live in heaven if I choose to, and you have it too. None of us have the power to force someone to heaven though. When my neighbor sees me living joyfully in heaven, he might get attracted to heaven, and may choose to live in heaven. This is the only way heaven can spread.

Peter advices women in his epistle not to try to change their spouses. All that they need to do is to be an example living a heavenly life. Any attempt to change their spouse can have negative effect.

Jesus compared human individuals and communities to a field that can choose its plants and trees. We can choose to have thorns and useless weeds or fruit trees and vegetables. If our life is filled with the thorns of evils, we have the option now to pluck them out and plant fruit trees.

God wants to help us do this. But a lot of people remain in their miserable life of evil ways. They belong to two groups. One group of people are not aware of the fact that they are sick and need healing. They think that they are already healthy and they don't the help of anybody. The other group of people are aware that they are sick, but they don't think they can be cured. They don't seek help either.

The Pharisees in the gospels belong to the first group. They think they are already righteous, and that they don't need any help. Many other people Jesus met, such as the sick one at the pool of Bethsaida, feel absolutely doomed, and they don't seek help either. The people who actively sought the help of Jesus belong to the third category, and they had a chance to be changed. The gospels say that they had faith. They knew that they were sick, and they believed that they could be healed. Which of these three groups do we belong to?


Cicily Sunny, New Jersey said...

Dear John,
I liked your article. It reminded me of a book named "burning Hell and Eternal Heaven" by Sharon Ann George. I have been circulating this book among the Indian and American community for the past two years. When Sharon was 17, she died, and came back to life. When she died for one hour, her soul was taken to hell and heaven. She has written everything she saw there. Again more than tweny times her soul was taken to the eternal abode. It is a very true description of what she saw in hell and heaven. It is in Malayalm and English. One copy is only 100 rupees. It is a must read book.
Sharon is married and about 25 years old now. Their home is at Thiruvalla. She is an evangelist.

Fr. Mathew C. Chacko said...

Jesus wants us to live our life appreciating God's love and show that by loving, caring and serving others to bring us all to the salvation He earned for us by His death and resurrection. Thus preparing ourselves and others for His promised 2nd Coming! is our goal. Do all these with the Holy Church of which Jesus Himself is the head. May God help us all! Fr. Mathew C. Chacko

Raji Johnson, Austin, Texas said...
Stories of life, death and faith: 'To Heaven and Back'
Is heaven real? What does it feel like to die? CNN's "To Heaven and Back," airing Sunday, explores the experiences of three people.

Estrella De Maria Peissel said...

I read your article and enjoyed it. My only hope is for people to work more on making this a better world to live in:)