The Word Among Us

October 2018 Issue

Building a Panoramic Vision

A look at God’s grand plan of salvation.

Building a Panoramic Vision: A look at God’s grand plan of salvation.

They don’t happen every day, but they do happen. Those times when we step back and ask questions beginning with the word why. “Why was I happy today but agitated yesterday?” “Why has our home been so peaceful this week but so chaotic last week?” “Why did I get into another needless argument with my brother today?” When these questions arise, we often gloss over them or push them to the side, intending to look at them when we have more time.

Then come the questions that we rarely ask but that lurk just beneath the surface: “What am I doing here?” “Does my life have any purpose?” “Why do good people suffer, while bad people seem to get away with their sins?” While we do occasionally ponder the first set of questions, this second set gets less attention. When the questions come up, we suspect that the answers are too far beyond us, or we may feel afraid of what we might find if we look too closely.

For all of our fears or reluctance, however, the truth is that these questions point us to an answer that is brimming with hope and encouragement. That’s because they bring us face-to-face with God himself, the author of our lives. He alone sees the light and darkness in each of our hearts. He alone governs the world with perfect justice. He alone can explain us to ourselves. And the good news is that he wants to explain us to ourselves. He wants to share his wisdom and his plans with us.

So this month, let’s ask our heavenly Father to give us a share in his own heavenly vision.

Taking a Panoramic View. The most common approach to life today is to give God a place of honor in our minds, but to seek him out intensely only in times of crisis. Only when something dire, such as a serious illness, family turmoil, or the threat of financial ruin befalls us, do we ask Jesus for his help and guidance.

Yet Scripture tells us again and again that God wants to give us his help and guidance all the time, not just when things are difficult. He wants to be with us in our ups and our downs. He wants us to come to him and share our hopes and dreams as well as our worries and frustrations with him.

In the following pages, we want to suggest a simple sketch, in the form of a timeline, that helps to make this point. We call this sketch the “Panorama” because it presents us with a bird’s-eye view of God’s overarching plan for his creation. The Panorama highlights four key interventions of God in history: the creation of the world, Jesus’ coming to earth as a man, the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, and Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of time.

Of course, the Bible describes many other “interventions” from the Lord: the exodus from Egypt, for example, or any one of Jesus’ miracles or the conversion of St. Paul. We could identify God’s interventions in our own lives as well. But the four events above stand out because of their effect on the whole of creation. You could say, in fact, that the first two (creation and the coming of Christ) form brackets around the era of preparation in God’s plan, and the second two (Pentecost and the Second Coming) form brackets around the era of the fulfillment of his plan. So let’s explore each of these interventions to see what they have to teach us.

Creation. At the heart of the story of creation is the truth that love begets love. Just as a husband and wife have children as a sign of their love for each other, God’s love also bears wondrous fruit. His love is always bursting with life and creativity, and we are the result of that love. From the very first moment of creation, God wanted to share his love with a people who would welcome him into their hearts, and we are that people.

We believe that God created men and women in a unique way—with the ability to choose him, to love him, and to become like him. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Man . . . is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life” (CCC, 356).

When he created us, God gave each of us our own unique set of gifts and talents. God wants us to use these gifts to build a world that reflects his glory. He is inviting us to join him in the act of creating a world marked by justice, peace, and mercy.

The wonder of our creation reveals God as a loving Father who delights in sharing his love with his people. It also tells us that we are children of God, members of his family, and a people he can call his own. We can become co-creators with him as we build a home here on earth that is worthy of our generous and good Father.

The Incarnation. We know the story of the Garden of Eden. Our first parents fell into sin by trying to become gods in their own right. Now, in order for us to fulfill the plan that God intended, the power of sin had to be destroyed. The rift between God and his people had to be healed. It’s important to see that even when we were lost and enslaved to sin, God never stopped loving us. He still wanted us to be with him. He remained committed to his original plan. In fact, he loved us so much that he sent his only Son to save us.

Where we had disobeyed God, Jesus surrendered himself to the Father’s will (John 5:30; Luke 22:42). On the cross, he died to sin and ransomed us from the power of sin (Romans 6:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19). By rising from the dead, he revealed his power over death itself. Once again, the way to God was opened.

Through the Incarnation, God made it clear that our sin hadn’t deterred him. He never abandoned us. By highlighting this central event of Jesus coming to die for us, the Panorama proves God’s love for us.

Pentecost. Perhaps more than the previous two interventions, Pentecost shows how deeply God loves us and wants to draw everyone to himself—by pouring out his Holy Spirit on the Church. Speaking to the crowd that gathered before him, Peter proclaimed, “The promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). The gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for the apostles. It wasn’t just for those who had known Jesus. It wasn’t just for the Jews. God was pouring out his Spirit “upon all flesh” (2:17).

Through the Spirit, every one of us can experience God’s presence in a personal, intimate way. We can all receive his love, which empowers us to turn away from sin and become more like Jesus. The Spirit inspires us to take up God’s plan so that we can make the world a clearer reflection of God’s beauty, justice, and peace. He brings us together as his Church and sends us out to share his love with the people around us.

Year after year, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God continues to advance his plan. Only now, that plan involves all of us. We all have a vital part to play. Redeemed by Christ, filled with the Spirit, and united as a Church, each of us can contribute to the kingdom of God until the day when Jesus comes again.

The Second Coming. God’s plan will not be fulfilled until the end of time, when Jesus returns to establish a new heaven and earth. Then, God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Death will be destroyed, and poverty, war, and sickness will vanish forever. There will be no more hatred, abortion, murder, or abuse of any kind. God will wipe away every tear, and we will be completely filled with his life and love.

It’s only at the end, when we are all completely united with God, that we will see fully how everything that happened in this life contributed to the unfolding of his plan. Only then, as we look back through the eyes of our heavenly Father, will we see his wisdom and his provision.

This is why all who know the vitality of the Holy Spirit in their lives are moved to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Everything God ever intended for his people will come to fulfillment as God and his creation are united in an eternal, unbreakable bond of love.

Taste and See. Creation. The Incarnation. Pentecost. The Second Coming. These four events encompass God’s perfect plan for us. They explain where we come from, and they point us to where we are heading.

So try to spend some time contemplating this panoramic view of God’s plan. Ask the Spirit to give you new and deeper insights into your role in his plan. Ask him to show you how much he wants you to experience his presence in your everyday circumstances. In short, let the Holy Spirit lift you up and give you a heavenly vision!