Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).
Eternal Is Not Everlasting
Our reflection today is about a topic which is not only difficult, but impossible to understand, for us human beings. This is because it is a topic beyond human understanding. Then you may rightfully ask, If this topic is beyond our human understanding why do we reflect on it? Why do we think and ponder about this topic?
We reflect on this topic because although it is beyond our human understanding, God has given us someone who will teach us to understand it. God has led us by his own way so that we can understand it, not with our human understanding but with some other kind of understanding which he has freely given us.
This topic is about the eternal life which we have just heard in our Gospel reading today. Jesus said, "I give them eternal life". Jesus gives us eternal life. What is this eternal life?
The word "eternal" is "aionion" in the original Greek of John's Gospel. "aionion" means that which is without beginning or end. It is different from the word "everlasting" or "aidios" in Greek, which only means without end. Eternal life then is a life which is without beginning or end. In other words it is a life that is always there, even before our worlds were created. It is a life outside of time because time has a beginning and an end.
Most think that eternal is the same as everlasting. They are not the same. In fact in many aspects they are opposite to each other. Eternal is without beginning and without ending. Everlasting is with a beginning but it has no ending in time. If time ends what is everlasting also ends. But what is eternal never ends even if there is no more time, that is, even if there is no more sun or moon or any other heavenly body with which we can measure time. For our present time is measured by the movement of the earth around itself and around the sun. One day is one complete turn of the earth on its axis. One solar year is one complete turn of the planet Earth around the sun. That is how we measure time. But eternal has no measure because it has no beginning and it has no end. Eternal is not the same as everlasting.
As human beings we have never seen something that did not begin. We have seen and experienced many things which have ended but we have not seen or experienced something that did not begin. As human beings we can only understand what is in time. The things around us began sometime in the past, distant or recent. The ideas that we have in our mind have a beginning. That is why as human beings we cannot understand eternal life because it is a life that has no beginning and we have not seen or experienced something that did not begin. We can only see and experience something that has a beginning. But because eternal life has no beginning we have not seen or experienced it as human beings.
What is then the importance of reflecting upon this topic which as human beings we have not seen or experienced, which as human beings, I repeat, we cannot understand?
It is important, very important that we reflect upon this topic because on this depends our living life to the fullest on earth and in heaven. Jesus said that he came that we might have life to the full (John 10:10). Other translations say, Jesus came to give us abundant life. But this abundant life is the eternal life that Jesus gives us. Hence if we do not know what this eternal life is we can never experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
Lest our present discussion seems too difficult or too uninteresting for us to think about, let us go to the heart of this reflection.
If we use our mind even just a bit we realize that the only one who has eternal life is God because he has no beginning and no end. Therefore the life that Jesus said he would give us is the life of God himself. When he said, I give them eternal life, he means that he gives us the life of God himself. It is as if he said, I give them God's life or I give them divine life.
What is wonderful about what we are reflecting is that Jesus has given this eternal life to us and we have actually received it already if we were baptized. This life of God was given to us when we were baptized and our parents and godparents have received this divine life for us.
Our Catechism of the Catholic Church from number 1213 to number 1284 teaches us the benefits this eternal life gives us. By this life we are freed from sin and born again into the family of God. God has truly become our father because he gives us his own life. We become members of Christ's body, the Church, and we are made prophets, priests, and kings. We have become a new creature. We are now part of the kingdom of God. This is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift to us. Nothing can be greater than this gift, neither wealth, beauty or fame. It is a gift because it is given to us freely, without any requirement on our part. This eternal life makes us holy, as holy as God himself. We have become partaker of the nature of God himself. We are now given the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through his gifts. In other words God now guides us in our life, in everything we do.
But why do we seem not to feel or enjoy these benefits? Why do we seem still enslaved by our sins? Why do we get irritable? Why are we surrounded by so many problems in life, material, physical, financial, psychological and spiritual? Why are we not so excited about this eternal life as we would if we won in the lotto?
This is because we have not actualized the eternal life that was given to us. In the Declaration "Dominus Iesus" issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Pope Emeritus Benedict the Sixteenth was still its prefect or head, we read the word "actualize" twice. Because most of us were infants or small children when we received this eternal life in baptism through our parents and godparents we were not aware of it. There was a need to make this eternal life actual in our life. In the analogy used by our Charismatic brothers and sisters there is a need to unpack this gift of eternal life and follow the instruction on how to use it. Otherwise if it remains unpacked we can never enjoy this gift. This actualization of this eternal life is done by the Holy Spirit, according to this Declaration.
Now we understand a bit about this eternal life that Jesus said he gives us. It is the life of God himself, making us live, think, speak and act like God. That is the real abundant life.
Let us then ask the Holy Spirit to make this eternal life actual in our life so that we can truly experience it, feel it, be excited about it, and share it with others or help others actualize it.
We bow our heads to pray.
Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus, you have given us eternal life when we were baptized. Help us to actualize this life in our life so that we can enjoy it while we are still on earth and continue to enjoy it in heaven with you. Amen.