Years ago, when I was a graduate student at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley- yes, that Berkeley- one of my fellow Jesuits lamented that all of Christian theology could ultimately be summarized in three words: already not yet. Eschatology is the formal- and fancy- word for the branch of theology to which my friend referred: God has already come into the world, but the world is not yet fully redeemed. His lament was due to the fact that earning a Master’s of Divinity (M.Div.) degree took three years of study, which seemed to him excessive for understanding this mystery and wonder that could essentially be captured in three words. My friend was exaggerating for humorous effect, of course, but there is still considerable truth in his lament. Already not yet is a fundamental truth not only about theology, but also about life itself.
Those three words have been on my mind especially during this Advent season. The recent death of a long-time friend (about whom I wrote in my last blog entry) has reminded me that my life has notched a considerable amount of already even as I look forward to the not yet that awaits me. I also think of these words as they relate to the young people in whose midst I spend my days. They are clearly skewed in a different direction as there is much more not yet than already for them at this stage of their young lives. My thoughts have done wonders for me in strengthening both my hopes for and my patience with them.
On a larger social scale I have reflected on the reality that we already people are called in a special way to respond compassionately to the not yet people around us. And in this context the distinction is not about age but about the disparity between opportunity and good fortune that exists among people. In my life I have had an abundance of already in the blessing department, and I am called to share those blessings with others even more generously than is presently the case. In so doing, the not yet still to come in my life will be all the more richly blessed.
Until next time…