An abundant life

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” So, what do you make of the verse? What generally stands out in the hearing and imagination is “the abundant life.” What does it look like? If we don’t have an idea of what it looks like, how will we know when we have it?

Once upon a time in Kenya, an Englishman visiting the central highlands, discovered a beautiful river. Not too far downstream he came upon the chief of the Kikuyu people enjoying a moment of fishing. The chief had a great spot in the shade, the fishing line was tied around his big toe, and the chief seemed like he was napping more than fishing.

The chief had a beautiful string of trout he had already hooked. The Englishman asked how long he had been fishing; the reply was “maybe an hour. It’s hard to know. The fish keep waking me up.” The visitor was amazed, but was even more amazed when, during the conversation, he heard about the astounding productivity of this river for year-round fishing. He saw such great potential for development. So, with great enthusiasm, he explained to the chief how they could build a fishery on this spot.

“Why would I want to do that?”  “So, your people could have jobs and money”

“What would we want with money” “You could buy things to make your life easier; jewelry for your wives.  You could get the latest and best fishing equipment.”

“What would we do with all these fish?”  “You can start another company to transport the fish to the market in Nakuru and Nairobi – then you would have even more money. And more of the tribe would have jobs. And they could build better homes and schools. Some of your best and brightest children could be educated at Oxford and Cambridge and return home to expand your fishery operations.”

You can imagine how the conversation continued to describe an ever-growing empire of commerce and expanding ideas for the good life for the people of the tribe. The Englishman described to the chief a whole lifetime of this operation.

When the visitor finally took a breath, the chief asked, “And when I have built all this for my people, what will I do?”  The Englishman said, “Why you can retire”

“What would I do then?” “You could live the good life….why….you could go fishing whenever you want.”

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” So, what do you make of the verse? What generally stands out in the hearing and imagination is “the abundant life.” What does it look like? If we don’t have an idea of what it looks like, how will we know when we have it?

Certainly, advertisers and marketing companies supply images for our consideration. Self-help books will describe how to achieve it. Some of the “prosperity gospel” churches will that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for you – all you need do is believe… and donate to the church… this increase one’s material wealth and lead to life abundant.

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” So, what do you make of the verse? Clearly, we Catholic do not profess this “name-it-and-claim-it” understanding of the Good News. We have a whole history of people who would tell you they indeed lived an abundant life, poor and persecuted, and in the end, were martyred for their faith. We hear that in the 2nd reading: “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you.” A life full of grace before God? I think that would qualify as an abundant life.

How do you understand living an abundant life? The Kikuyu chief knew he was blessed with the gift of that river. Maybe that’s a place to start – what are your blessings in this life. And let me suggest a trajectory for your reflection.

Let’s just start with “life” – especially the newness of life given us in baptism. It is a washing clean with water and the Holy Spirit. It is a life of faith, love, hope, wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage, knowledge, and reverence. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the gifts that God gives in abundance. Are we good stewards of the gifts given us?

What would you want on your tombstone?  Here lies the person who built the largest fishery in the central highlands of Kenya – or – here lies a person of love, wisdom, courage, and a life well lived? I think it is the second case in which the person was a good steward of the gifts given by God – the one who lived in the light of those gifts and handed them on the people of his or her life.

God came that we would be more loving, more hopeful, more, …. more, everything – and would give it all away, knowing there is more where that came from and the Father will richly pour these gifts into the one who asks for more. As the one who asks, your life is fuller. As the one who gives, your life is more abundant.

Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is knowing what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of those blessings of God.

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” What does it look like in your life? That understanding is the start of a life lived well, lived abundantly in the blessings of God.

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