Put Out into the Deep

The Promise of Eternal Life

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

As we celebrate Easter this year, my approach to this great feast of our redemption has been shaped by reading two interesting studies on the faith of Catholics and Christians today and how the changing landscape has forced us to concentrate on the basics.

There are two recent studies on this topic. The first, entitled “To believe or not to believe, What believers and non-believers say about life, death and each other,” is compiled of Catholics, Protestants, Jews and secular humanists. It compares their current beliefs to the religion of their origin. Those who have left behind their religion of origin have also left their belief in eternal life. As we celebrate Easter today, we need to challenge ourselves about our own belief about eternal life.

The second study, entitled “Going, Going, Gone; The Dynamics and Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,” looks at young Catholics ages 15 to 25 years. This study is perhaps even more revealing about young people who have disaffiliated themselves from their Catholic faith. Over 3,000 young people were interviewed, half of whom had left any religion, becoming what is known as “Nones.” The other half had either left the Catholic faith, joined another religion or had become atheists.

Certainly, the facts are telling and indicated the necessity to preach about Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead. The common element between these two studies is that most people have become secular humanists. This means that basically good people, even ethical people, did not base their faith on any religious tenets but rather on more human tenets. In the end, they have lost their belief of eternal life and that there is something more to this life than the here and now.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, As we celebrate Easter this year, my approach to this great feast of our redemption has been shaped by reading two interesting studies on the faith of Catholics and Christians today and how the changing landscape has forced us to concentrate on the basics.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Resurrection, we must understand its connection to the promise of eternal life that is basic to our faith today. Today, we read in John’s Gospel his account to us from the Resurrection event to which John was an eyewitness. John followed Simon Peter into the tomb and saw that it was empty.

In the last line of the Gospel today, John describes their confusion, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture, that He had to rise from the dead.” We too are in that same situation today. We do not yet completely understand what it means to rise from the dead; for Jesus or for ourselves.

St. Paul, the great preacher of the Resurrection, one who had not been an eyewitness to the Resurrection but who met Christ on the road to Damascus, reminds us in the second letter to the Corinthians, that “Knowing that He who raised the Lord will bring us with you into His presence.”

Yes, the Resurrection of Jesus becomes the pattern of our own death and resurrection. We too will be reunited with the Christ whom we have worshiped in this life, and with the Father and Spirit. It is His constant preaching over and over again that we will be glorified, that we will experience eternal life. It is a life beyond our understanding, but one that we are guaranteed because Jesus, Himself, rose from the dead. If we believe in Him, we too will experience that life without end, a life that we understand to be a life led in God’s presence to His love. We all can understand love in our lives in one way or another. To experience love eternally in an infinite way is certainly something we all can aspire to do.

The power of the exalted and glorified Jesus is to give life to those who accept Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus’ gift of eternal life is the final manifestation of His unity with the Father. He will take us to Himself, for it is this reason He came into the world that none should be lost and all should be saved and experience eternal life.

The hope of eternal life is nothing new in religious thinking. In non-Christian religions, especially in the tradition of the Hebrew Scripture, the Jewish wisdom connects knowledge of God to eternal life.

The theme of eternal life in the New Testament treats the Resurrection as having some unity within the person that is not a division of soul and body. Rather, it is a unitive event. Our bodies become glorious like the body of the Risen Lord Himself. It is a more holistic view of the Resurrection that is presented to us in the Scriptures, unlike the many images that, unfortunately, we see today – persons transformed into angelic beings. No, it is in our very selves that we are united to Christ in His Resurrection. Unless we believe in the power of God, we will not be able to experience His Resurrection. We have received the promise of our resurrection in our baptism. We died with Christ and we are to rise with Him.

On Easter, we renew the promises of our baptism. We renounce Satan and all of his works and we bind ourselves to the Trinity, professing our faith in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   We remember the promise of our baptism that we too are to live eternally with God.

Each life, as it begins, is a journey of putting out into the deep mystery of life itself. Many seem to lose their way and never reach the horizon that is the promise of eternal life. But for those who believe, we know that there is something more, that we are destined for glory as we continue living our life of faith in Jesus Christ. Easter is the time when we reaffirm that faith and accept the promise that we are to live eternally with the Lord.

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One thought on “The Promise of Eternal Life

  1. Talk of secular humanists. These people will justify their course by accusing religious people, christians specifically, of living a their lives with little or no faith. As believers, we have a great role to play by living examplery lives.
    Otherwise faith according to my experience comes with 1st knowing the truth…and patience in keeping focus. Great article bishop.