What is Eternal life?

17 August 2009 Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time
Judges 2, 11-19; Psalm 106; Matthew 19, 16-22

In the Gospel, the young man asked Jesus, “What good must I do to gain eternal life?” Let us first begin with a clear understanding of “eternal life”. The first thing that comes to our mind is that eternal life means a life that is forever. Why? The Greek word for eternal is aionios, meaning “lasting for ever”; it is eternal because God himself is eternal. Thus eternal life is life as God lives it; as befits God, as is characteristic of God. To attain eternal life is therefore to live as God lives; to love as God loves.

Jesus first asked if the young man has kept the commandments. And he enumerates those that pertain to the love of one’s neighbors namely:

“You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And the young man said that he has. So Jesus said, that he has to give up everything: his riches, his possessions and give all of them to the poor, and follow Him. But the young man couldn’t do it and he went away sad.

If eternal life is life as God lives it; then the answer of Jesus is for him to follow God who is selfless and utterly gracious. As love Himself, God always thinks of the other. And the quality of His love is utterly all out. God so loved the world that He gave us His Only Son.

St. Ignatius of Loyola taught us a principle: AMDG, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. For the Greater Glory of God. It means that we give glory to God when we mirror a characteristic of God in the things that we do. When we create a thing of beauty such as a painting, a song, a poem, a photograph, a lay-out, an interior design, etc, we mirror God’s beauty. When we study and acquire knowledge and begin to appreciate the world around us, we reflect the knowledge and wisdom of God. When we become kind to people and easily forgive others, then we show the kindness and mercy of God.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius said that we must pray for a magnanimity of heart, a heart that is total in its giving and serving others. It demands from us all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds. At the end of the retreat, Ignatius would ask those on retreat to pray for the grace to be able to surrender everything and follow Christ. This is the Suscipe*, known as the “Take and Receive.” The appropriate response to a love that is all encompassing and totally giving is a heart that is molded the same way as God’s.

And why do we do all these things? Because it is what God does. It is how God lives. And this is how to live eternally.

*Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe: Take, Lord and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. Whatever I have or hold, You have given to me, and I return them all to you wholly according to You will. Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen.

**An example of actions that does not give glory to God. Incidentally, Conrado de Quiros posted his article in Filipino, at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, saying that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has given a face to greed; she has spent less than a million in Philippine currency in a high end restaurant in New York, while the Philippine nation was in mourning for the loss of former President Corazon Aquino who was known for her simplicity of life.

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