What comes through in the life and letters of St. Paul is his single-minded desire to be with the Lord. He is joyful to do the work of the Lord in this life, but he is even more overjoyed at the prospect of laying down this earthly body that he might be completely with God in heaven.
This is to be our attitude as well.
It always amazes me how Paul can be so joyful, even when writing from a prison, as in his letter to the Philippians. Even when Paul has infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distress (I’m stealing Paul’s thunder from 2 Corinthians12:10), he takes pleasure in them!
And yet his real goal is to dwell with God in His eternal house not made with hands. In fact, the reason he is able to take joy in suffering, being made strong in his weakness, is because He is clothed with Jesus Christ.
Paul, therefore, groans. He groans not just because the creation is sinful and subject to futility, as in Romans 8, but even more because he longs “to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven (verse 2.) This is exactly Paul’s point: not how terrible life is here on earth, but how terrible it is in comparison to the exceeding glory and joy that is found in the total presence of God in heaven.
Paul’s language of clothing is both interesting and important. What is this habitation that is from heaven? In some sense, Paul seems to be referring to our new resurrection bodies. Personally, every day I groan to be given a new body that doesn’t tire so easily. Every once in a while I still dream that I have the ability to run cross-country distances at a fast pace like I did when I was in junior high and high school. I can’t wait to be given my resurrection body!
And we should meditate on the perfect bodies we will have in heaven, which do not wear out or down, and which are not diseased and decaying. This is part of the hope and joy of heaven, and it is well worth meditating on.
But the clothing Paul is talking about is, I believe, something even more wonderful. Our new clothing is Jesus Christ Himself, whom we are commanded to put on in this life but can put on only very imperfectly. He is our new clothing, our new flesh, our new body. Paul wants to be clothed so that he is no longer naked, that is uncovered. Jesus is the covering that Adam and Eve desperately sought in the Garden of Eden, when all they could think of was fig leaves. God graciously provided them with skins from a sacrificed animal, so that they could be clothed (Genesis3:21). God Himself clothed Adam and Eve (He made them “breeches,” according to the Breeches or Geneva Bible); He is the one who covered them from their nakedness before Him. The animal sacrifice was only a temporary covering that was to lead them to the true covering of the blood and life of Jesus Christ.
And God has prepared us for this very thing (verse 5.)
So then, it is good to be in the body here on earth and to worship and serve Him with this groaning temporary tent. But it is better by far to be clothed with Christ perfectly in heaven.
While here on earth, then, we should have one eye that gazes intently on the fullness of Christ in heaven for which we groan; but with the other eye we should look for Jesus where He may be found on earth. Either way, our eyes should be on Jesus as the heavenly clothing we put on each day.
Prayer: Father, show me Yourself today through Your Son. Capture me today with a vision of Your kingdom and power and glory that I might truly see You. Encourage me with the hope of my eternal home with You and my permanent resurrected body. While I serve you in this life, may You give me the grace to be clothed with Your Son and to serve You all the days of my life with joy and faith.
Points for Meditation:
- Take every infirmity in your body today and meditate on its perfect healing in heaven. Then thank God for His promise to heal each infirmity.
- Allow yourself to express groans of desire to be with God. Do not allow this groan to be a complaint about this life, but use it only as a means of seeking God more fervently.
Resolution: I resolve to gaze intently into heaven today and to meditate on my eternal home in heaven. I resolve as well to serve God as His dwelling here on earth, while I await my permanent dwelling place with God.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day