August 16, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
August 16, 2015
Fr. George Smiga
In today’s gospel, Jesus again presents himself as the living bread that has come down from heaven. And he promises us three times that if we eat this bread, we will live forever. That’s quite a promise, isn’t it? Eternal life. And since that promise is so important, we should understand it correctly.
When Jesus says that he is going to give us eternal life, he is not presenting that life to us like a present in a box that we unwrap and possess. Jesus instead is telling us that he will work with us to see that the present life that we are living will continue forever. Eternal life, then, is something that we contribute to, something that we shape. Our forever is being determined by the life we live today. The decisions that we make are building eternity.
Now this truth is captured by Ben Pattison in his book, The Grand Essentials. He says, “I believe that when life has whittled us down, when our joints no longer work and our skin becomes wrinkled, when our capillaries are clogged and hardened, what will remain of us is what we have been all along, in our essence, in our inner spirit.”
He goes on then to give the example of his grandmother. In her mid-eighties, she had lost most of her mental faculties, and she was deteriorating physically. But if you asked her to say the blessing before dinner, she would reach out and grasp the hands of those sitting next to her, a broad smile would come over her face, her eyes would fill with tears as she lifted them to heaven, and her chin would quiver as she poured out her love: love for God, love for the people around that table, love for all people. She could no longer remember the names of those in her family. Life had whittled that away. But what was left was her essence, and that essence was love for God and love for people.
You and I are building our essence today. Who we are in our heart of hearts is being determined by the choices we make. So if we choose to nurture resentment against those who have hurt us, if we choose to feed our anger or embrace prejudice or hatred, when life whittles everything else away, what will remain is anger and hatred. If we choose to place our own comfort and indulgence as the highest good, if we choose pride over compassion or status over service, when everything else falls to the side, our essence will emerge as one of pride and selfishness.
You and I are building our essence today. Jesus promises us eternal life, but he can only work with the life that we give him. So today we should choose to be people of integrity, justice, and love, so that when life whittles everything else away, those good things will emerge as our essence. And it will be that essence that will live forever.