Although Jesus was full of love and could communicate it to others whilst He was on earth, God’s plan was initially limited. In other words, in entering into a world of space and time, Jesus was necessarily limited by the laws of space and time. To put it simply, he could only be at one place at a time. Meeting him, therefore, would necessitate coming and going, arriving and departing, and even his closest disciples could not be with him all the time. As for the rest of the world, they would not have a chance.
However, after the Resurrection, he was not just restored to life, but to a totally new form of life. After being united with God, he re-entered the world in such a way, that he could not only be with but within anyone who chose to receive him. This did not just apply to those living when he rose from the dead, but to those who were to come later, to the end of time. “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20). The plan of God, then, is that through Jesus Christ alive and living now, God’s own love is being poured out and into all who would receive it, drawing them into a mystical brother and sisterhood. Then, with him in us, and we in him, we will be open to receive the same supernatural life and love that progressively penetrated Jesus during his life on earth. In other words, Jesus Christ is the first and most perfect of all mystics. To be a Christian, then, means accepting the invitation to enter into him now, in order to receive all that he received, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
A modern rendering of the scriptures might enable us to understand God’s plan a little more clearly. “In the beginning was loving energy and this loving-energy was God. Loving energy was within God from the beginning, and it was God, and through and in him, all things came into being. All that came into being had its life in his love. It was love that shaped the sea and the seaside, the moors, and the mountain, the fish and the foul, the fern and the forest, and mammals and mankind.” The Paradise in which the first man and woman found themselves symbolised why God created it in the first place that others might simply enjoy what it is like to be alive, and to love and to be loved. The irresistible human impulse to share what is good, beautiful and true with others, is god given. God gives it because it is his gift to give. It is the sublime gift that impelled Him to want to share with others, in space and time what he has experienced from the beginning of time.
That is why the love in whom the world was created, was made flesh and blood and made his home among human beings. This had been God’s plan from the beginning, never an afterthought because man had chosen to sin, according to the Franciscan Theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus. That is why, inspired by the vision of St Francis, he insisted that the birth in space and time of a perfect human being demanded a perfect human mother, hence what came to be called the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. In the very instant the plan to make love-made-flesh was conceived, then a mother of flesh and blood was conceived too, to give birth to Him. As Scotus put it, “To will the end, is to will the means too.” The plan demanded a perfect mother so that nothing from either nature or nurture could mar the perfect human being that Jesus was to become, as the masterpiece of God’s creation, bursting within with uncreated life and love.
The story of man’s first fall is a story with a point, and the point is not just about the weakness that flawed human beings at the beginning of time, but about the weakness that flaws human beings at all times. This does not mean that they are not open to love or to loving, it just means that their capacity for love is seriously stymied by a virulent strain of selfishness that is endemic to the human race. The explosion of love unlimited when Jesus rose from the dead, means that there is hope where there seemed to be no hope before. What happened on the first Pentecost is happening every day for those who believe that Jesus is as close to them as they are to themselves. It means that weak human love can be surcharged with the divine, for those who freely choose to admit it into their inner being. It means that from being as close to us as we are ourselves, as St Augustine put it, the love of Jesus can draw us even closer until we are one with him in body, mind, and spirit. One, not just with his being, but with his acting too, with his loving and with the One who receives and returns his loving. If this is not good news, then what is?
Years ago when I was studying philosophy, a phrase from a lecturer hit me between the eyes, then buried itself within my brain where it has been lodged ever since. It has been a source of inspiration and help throughout my life. The phrase is simply, “God’s will is that you choose.” If through utter goodness God chose to shower His love upon us, that gift will nevertheless be in vain if we do not choose to receive it. Love cannot be forced. Forced love is quite impossible. It is logically impossible, physically impossible, metaphysically impossible, impossible in every way. Forced love is a contradiction in terms, it is what was called when we were at school, an oxymoron.
In the Apocalypse, Jesus is pictured standing and knocking at a door. His words are deeply moving and mystically profound. “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him” (Revelation 3:20). It is our choice whether or not we choose to open that door. These words inspired the famous painting by William Holman Hunt showing that the door at which Jesus knocks is overgrown and has long been unopened. The door in his painting has no handle and can therefore only be opened from the inside! If we do choose to open it, then this is the point at which the spiritual life starts in earnest. It is the point too at which the only love that can successfully surcharge our own with all that it needs, begins to pour in. Now the process is underway of receiving in ever greater abundance, the love that can make us what we are meant to be from the ruins of what we are.