Eternal Life: An Inconvenient Truth

Elaine Wainwright RSM

When we think of eternal life we imagine it in the future according to our linear view of time: past … to present … to future. In the Israel of the first century, a future reference like ‘eternal life’ was imaginary. In a culture … whose time process was cyclical rather than linear, with the main focus being on the present rather than a linear long-term future, the future imaginary, “eternal life”, reflected back into the present on how one ought to live now. In other words, the reference to ‘eternal life’ was about ethics in the present rather than about an unknown future….
What is the invitation to us today? What do we have at the expense of others that could be given to/returned to them? First, as in the gospel, we can look to our material possessions. How do we live simply in a material-rich culture so that everyone has what they need to live? Or will we too go away sad because we have many possessions.
And what of time? How do we give of our time in an activity rich culture in which there is such demand to be here, to be there, to do any number of activities. How will we make time available for those in need of another? Or do we go away sad because we have and hold our time to ourselves and for ourselves?
And what of our very person? How will we give of ourselves in love, in relationship in a world that is supposedly communication rich but often connection and love poor – a world in which every moment thousands of people are texting or on mobile phones but often are lonely and sad. Do we really give of our person to others in relationships with a quality that generates love? Or do we go away sad because our giving of ourselves lacks depth?
Jesus’ invitation is to leave and to follow, to live the gospel as he lived it, to do the work of bringing in God’s kingdom, God’s transformative dream for the human community…. To do the extra beyond the keeping of the commandments will change our lives, will turn our world upside down….
This is the challenge of the living and active word of God which goes to the very heart of our being…. We take with us to that place the invitation, the challenge of Jesus, the vision of the basileia or kingdom as God’s transformative dream, the hard data and images and metaphors from our culture, and the very stuff of our day to day lives. In that quiet inner place, we cannot escape. We are naked and laid bare … and it is there that we will be invited … to render an account. Impossible we are tempted to say but the gospel says no: with God all things are possible – you can live a truly ethical life and you can live it now and you can imagine the future of inheriting eternal life! With God all things are possible!
From “Eternal Life: An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)

Posted by: Bp. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara

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