Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eternal Life II

It is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30). Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi 27

Reflection - A directee of mine once told me that she didn’t really look forward to eternal life, since it just seemed to be a infinite duration of our own being. Life is hard and full of struggles and travails: who wants it to go on forever? Such was her reasoning.

The encyclical Spe Salvi tackles this squarely. Eternal life is not just a duration of what we now know life to be. Life, for you, may be something basically enjoyable with bits of suffering interspersed; it may be mostly horrible with bits of happiness interspersed. For most of us, it’s an intermingling of the two, right? Joy and sorrow, pain and bliss, and lots of in-between ordinariness, the plain bread of daily living. Who would want all of that to go on forever?

Eternal life, in the Christian tradition, means something different than that. While the details remain sketchy, probably because we really don’t have the vocabulary or capacity to really understand or describe them, it is essentially a translation into love, an expansion of our being, through-with-and-in Jesus Christ, into what the Holy Father calls here ‘simply life’. In our life on earth, life and death are continually mixed together. We live, but the principles of disintegration and dissolution are constantly manifested in our being. There, we will simply live, simply be, which means simply love, which means simply be held in this mysterious relationship with Life Itself, with Love Itself, with God Himself.

And this is truly our hope – that there is a life offered us in which all death is finally destroyed and removed, in which we can finally be free of the ancient curse, in which we can finally stand straight, breathe freely, and throw ourselves with wild abandon into the endless dance and fire of love beyond measure and telling, the unknown life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever and ever.

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