The term horizon is often defined as where the earth and sky meet. This is actually an apparent horizon or sensible horizon because we see an apparent plane based on our observation point. If we are able to broaden our viewpoint and look beyond the present location we are standing at on the earth, say from the space shuttle, we could then experience a rational or celestial horizon: where the great circle of the celestial sphere whose plane passes through the center of the earth is parallel to the celestial horizon of a given position. Journeying deeper into space we could discuss event horizons, the boundaries marking the limits of black holes.
Before delving any deeper and getting lost in space, let’s return to earth and today’s Gospel where Jesus stated: “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men” (Lk 9:44). What Jesus is doing with this statement is presenting the horizon of the cross, the place where heaven and earth meet, where the physical and the spiritual, where the finite and infinite meet.
Many of Jesus’ followers were and are still confounded by the cross. As Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 22-23).
Paul echoes what Jesus was talking about in today’s Gospel and that was his imminent fate and our ultimate horizon, death. None of us will be able to avoid the final result of our mortality. Jesus taught both through his words and in his death that to be truly free we need to be willing to lose our life to gain it. We have to face and walk through our deepest fears to grow. Our life is not lived until we give it away.
I have come to experience that the more willing we are to face the reality of our own death, the less likely we are to take the time we have for granted, and the better we can live our lives here and now. During our final four months together, JoAnn and I experienced God’s grace because we faced the reality that her time was near, we embraced the gift of the time we had together, and through the prayers of so many, we experienced the infinite presence of the love of God in our midst.
There is so much we can experience and enjoy through the world around us, but if we only limit ourselves to the merely empirical, only to that which we can experience with our physical senses, we limit ourselves. We are transcendental beings and what makes us fully human, alive, and fulfilled is an embrace of both the physical and the spiritual, of both reason and faith, the horizon where the finite and infinite meet, where earth and heaven are one. This union happens in Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, and those who die with him will also rise with him.