by Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah
“Jesus said, ‘I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10.
The atheist philosopher of the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, who was notoriously known for his assumption that ‘God is dead”, once said: “if Christians want me to believe in their redeemer, they need to look more redeemed.” To Nietzsche most Christians looked just as burdened, clueless and lost as everybody else. When he looked into their eyes, he did not see hope, excitement, joy, and a sense of purpose. They seemed to be still wandering around the Sinai desert, emaciated and anaemic; their faces full more of impossibilities than possibilities.
Abundant life is eternal life, a life that begins when we receive baptism in to Christ, and goes on throughout all eternity. The biblical definition of life — specifically eternal life – is provided by Jesus Himself: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, or occupation. As a matter of fact, the only thing it does mention is knowledge of God, which is the key to a truly abundant life.
Our Lord gives life in abundance, He is the Author of life and the Source of strength for His people. His word as contained in the scriptures and the teachings of the church are meant to sustain in us the seed implanted by the Lord Himself. Sadly, we are witnessing the bastardization of the word of God. At the time in our society when people are yearning for the true teaching and in place of it they are offered lies and fake prophecies and fantasies that are mere figments of imagination of the minds. Just St. Paul captures it succinctly that: ‘For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’ (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
A keen observer will tell you that the proliferation of churches, the multiplicity of miracle centers and the ubiquity of healers, diviners and prosperity preachers is a fulfillment of Paul’s warning to Timothy as cited in the passage above. But we are glad that a devotional work like the Daily Strength Devotional has come in handy to fill the void of the genuine yearnings of our people for the true word of God. I commend the audacious move and the deliberate steps taken to ensure that God’s people are well served. This will serve as a daily tonic to nourish our souls.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC ARTICLE 3) we read (SACRED SCRIPTURE 108) the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living”.73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”74
But there are two things that ought to make us think again, two things that are tied up with Theology, though it is the kind of theology that opens up perspectives rather than closing them down. Here’s the first. When theologians in the past talked, as they regularly did, about the ‘simplicity’ of God’s nature, what they meant was not that God had only a limited range of life or activity. They meant that all sorts of things that we think of separately – justice and mercy, knowledge and love, and so on – are the same in God. When God does what God does, we may see it from different angles (and sometimes get muddled by thinking that these different aspects are in contradiction with each other), but for Him it is the same thing: He is just being God.
Before we begin to have visions of lavish homes, expensive cars, worldwide cruises, and more money than we know what to do with, we need to pause and think about what Jesus teaches regarding this abundant life. The Bible tells us that wealth; prestige, position, and power in this world are not God’s priorities for us (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). In terms of economic, academic, and social status, most Christians do not come from the privileged classes. Clearly, then, abundant life does not consist of an abundance of material things. If that were the case, Jesus would have been the wealthiest of men. But just the opposite is true (Matthew 8:20).
Jesus offers life in all its fullness: true simplicity (which is integrity, wholeness of perception and action), and true communion (which is frustrated and distorted when we try to live only out of our self-protective instincts). To pray that Jesus may give us life in its fullness is to be ready to be moved into that integrity and that mutuality which belong to Christ’s people as the supreme and distinctive gifts they have to share with the world.
May the Lord bless this venture and make His Word bear fruits in the hearts of your readers. Amen.
Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria