"Rejoice that your names are written in heaven" Jesus says, in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20), to the seventy-two disciples who have just returned from their first round of ministry. They are amazed that spirits submit to them, and Jesus tells them that their joy ought to be found not in experiences of power-as amazing and noble as these may be-but in having their names inscribed in heaven. What does this mean? That there is a large celestial book in which, in exquisite golden calligraphy, the angels write the names of those destined to make it through the pearly gates? Jesus speaks in the present tense, and there is no book in the proper sense of the term. The name refers to the person. Heaven refers to the life of God-not some vague after-life. Our person, deep inside, somehow, now, by grace, participates in the life of God. St. Augustine (+430) tells us: "out of compassion for us, the Son descended from heaven, and although He ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in Him by grace."
The bottom line is: we are in intimate relationship with God. It may not always feel like it. There may be moments of doubt. And, we are most free to come and go. Regardless, however, of feelings of emptiness, struggles to believe, and unfaithful goings, our hearts are held by the One who faithfully indwells us.
St Augustine, in his autobiography, testifies to the faithfulness of the Lord:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector