Monday, June 22, 2009

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

- Luke 21:29-36

I read in commentary that there are two ways, historically, of interpreting the passage about "this generation" (verse 32). "This generation" may refer to Jesus' contemporaries and "all things" pertains to the capture of Jerusalem. On the other hand, "this generation" may be the new Christian generation and "all things" include the return of Christ. The latter is the preferred interpretation, I read, of the Church Fathers. However, I think once again we're speaking of both together - at least I tend to see it that way. I continue with the impression that the two events - the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem and the final end, the end of the age and the return of the Son of Man - are inextricably linked in some important spiritual way. I find it a little peculiar, grammatically, that Jesus' words do not read "until all these things have taken place," but rather "until all things have taken place." This puts a sort of eschatological turn onto the phrase and the story. We are in the midst of cataclysmic world-changing events. The spiritual reality is clear - and we know, given the time in which this passage is taking place, that the defeat of the great Enemy is near, that the reality of that Judgment and that second coming is assured, and that time and its nature overlap in terms of an eternal reality and our temporal reality.

Regardless of how we choose to look at these passages, one message is particularly clear - that the important thing is not precisely when or at what date these events occur, but rather how we view them and are prepared for them. Do we accept this a spiritual reality, and do we live with it in our conscious awareness of our own state of being as if we accept this as fact? Are we part of this "acceptable time" and do we live our lives accordingly? I think these are the important questions that remain unanswered, and for us to answer for ourselves. Where are we in this grand scheme of things, and what signs do we remember or witness around us in the world that remind us that we have a consciousness of something to remember for ourselves, when we choose how we'll live out our lives?

Ultimately, notions of Judgment and of cataclysmic upheaval, of great important change and transitions impact each of us in our own lives. We each must relate to them as individuals, although they concern in some sense the whole human race. It's as individuals that we come to Judgment - or so I believe. We're told "the very hairs on our heads are numbered" and that this Spirit is as close to us as our heart, that even the Trinity Itself indwells us as human beings. So we must remember, I think, that these "signs" are for us to recall to ourselves and to remember that it is a part of our consciousness to be aware of a higher reality, of something that asks us who we are, where we are in our lives, how we are doing in terms of spiritual reality. And that's how we stay prepared. It's that consciousness that teaches us that we have a different measure by which we're measured than the competition of life day by day, and how we're doing in that particular fight and struggle. There's a "good fight" going on as well that we have to give our attention to, and pay respects accordingly with our choices.

It's all voluntary, of course, this "good fight," this spiritual struggle. Jesus tells us to "be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." No one will escape this reality, in time. All religions, I believe, teach us about a kind of a code, something that is external to the reality of the life we live day to day, but nevertheless something of which we must be aware. It's that cognizance that drives us to understand that "we" are not all there is, that there's a measure by which we're measured that we must take into account and which pulls us out of ourselves, and gives us that uniquely human capacity for self-consciousness - to contemplate who we are, how we're doing. Jesus teaches us nothing if not to be vigilant in this awareness, not to lapse in our understanding of this sense within ourselves of this other reality that is always there, for every generation and all people.

I received a quotation via email the other day, and I'd like to share it here. It's from a Buddhist spiritual leader, and I think it fits our sense well of the consciousness about life and this "struggle" that we are to retain. Jesus as Logos, as universal reality toward which we all struggle, is something we may find reflected all over the world, in some sense, to my understanding.

"On this small planet, in the daily dreams of our life, beneficial deeds are always recommended, simply because we are all born to help each other.
By sharing our love with different expressions and through the practice of generosity, morality and understanding, we will then be fulfilling our purpose of being members of the human race." - His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa May 2009

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