....all that see the Son, and believe in him, may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. Jesus says this at the end of the Gospel reading from John today. Over the course of history the phrase "the last day" has caused substantive conversation and dispute. Are all those millions of souls who have gone before us waiting on this last day to "come back?" Have they not been allowed into heaven and eternal rest just yet because that last day has yet to come? Has the last day already come, at the end of the Triduum we approach during Holy Week? Are we in the last day now?
We talk about not reading Scripture literally, but, instead, based on "the three legged stool" of the written word (Scripture), how it has been understood through time (Tradition), and how we understand it now (Reason): all three, Scripture, Tradition and Reason, weighted equally. If this phrase "the last day" (when all are to be raised up), is not to be understood literally, than what does it mean?
Just before this phrase, Jesus is teaching the crowds about what belief is, what true life can and should be like. Jesus tells the crowd that he is the bread of life come down from heaven, given by God to teach us how to live. The crowds have asked Jesus for a sign similar to the one Moses performed when bread (manna) was given to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus corrects them saying not Moses, but God provided the sign, and that bread, although nourishing, did not change how the world operates. To follow and accept and be like him does change the world, Jesus says.
What if "the last day" is a metaphor. A metaphor of how we are truly to live our lives, not for ourselves, but for those Jesus reached out to: the poor, sick, lame, forgotten, cast aside? Perhaps we are in a continuous last day doing the work Jesus modeled for us.
Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Panel 3 of Four Fold Action: Broken. 2008. jfd+