Why are we here?

It was tea break and Samantha, a mentally handicapped teenager at the community workshop asked, “Why are we here?” One of the assistants answered her, “To make crafts for sale so as to raise some income for the house.” But Samantha wasn’t satisfied. “I know that. But why are we here?” The assistant, beginning to be irritated said, “Well, you’re a funny one. Anyone for more tea?”

It is strange that we evade questions about the purpose of life. For many, life itself is such a struggle there is no time or energy to think beyond the immediate. We get caught up in the flow and just hope things will work out. “The future will look after itself.” I know someone quite well who is highly intelligent. He says he is an atheist and – if I understand him correctly – all human effort contributes to the common good of all people and gradually builds a just and prosperous world society.

Many today would go along with that and just get on with life as it presents itself. But a Christian would call such a view impoverished. It is true we are working for a better world but it is also a world in which each individual finds fulfilment – both here and hereafter. There is a dimension to human life that cannot be fully satisfied in this life because our capacity is limited while our desire is without boundaries. Death is an entrance into a new way of living where my desires can be finally and fully realised.

Paul knew this. It was the implication of the incarnation of the Son of God who became flesh in Jesus to push the boundaries of human life to their limit. Having reached that limit he died. But his death then opened that door to the new life where there would be no limits. “He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, according to his good pleasure which he determined beforehand in Christ, for him to act upon when the times had run their course: that he would bring everything together under Christ as head” (Eph 1:9-10). The Greek word means ‘recapitulation’: everything will be fulfilled in Christ. In him personally, first of all, and then in every person who ‘cleaves’ to him.

This week-end we remember the one dear to his heart, his own mother, Mary. The Church honours her and ascribes to her this fulfilment in body and spirit. The Church in the East and the West have long held that she “was taken up” (assumed) wholly into heaven at her death. Among the earliest beliefs of the Church was the ‘resurrection of the body’ – something that people have tried to explain ever since. But though we cannot get our mind around it, it is an expression of fulfilment. And it has always been held to be fitting that this state was enjoyed by Mary.

This means that the answer to Samantha’s question takes us into our future where all our longings will be fulfilled and our hearts will be finally at rest.

Post published in: Faith

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