I am sometimes shocked when I hear people say things like “I want to live forever!” The ones who have that to say are usually young, have no ailments and no real stresses in their life. But “forever”, wow! Times change, friends leave, money runs out, forever could turn out to be a very, very looooong and tedious time! In reality a figure of speech, I guess, but none the less, a kind of surprise!
Yet, in our current society, we have no lack of hidden and overt signs that point to a desire to be “eternal”. There is the beauty culture that will charge you any exorbitant amount for the “magic serum” that makes wrinkles disappear. We have anti-aging diets which will supposedly extend your life expectancy. There are exercise programs which claim to take years off of your well-worn body. If you have money there is the knife and we even have perfected removing and replacing “parts” of the body which wear out with age. Currently there are dating sites for those over sixty because sixty is the “new forty”! We aim at, pretend about and fantasize that we can actually control aging and make the clock move backwards. Yet we disrespect the elderly and hide them away where society really can’t see them.
We are pre-occupied with the concept of controlling “forever”. I don’t get it, but I suppose I could stretch my understanding of people who want the power to warp time into something that they define and direct. Mostly I find these to be people who have health, wealth and pleasant circumstances in their life. Makes me wonder if they would have the same wish if they were ill or alone or depressed. I digress. The obvious fact, though is the idea that those who express this grandiose wish are the ones who really don’t see farther than the end of their own noses!
However, if you have been paying attention to your life and faith maybe you already have something that the rich and famous long for. It’s a matter of perspective, the ability to see the big picture as opposed to the small picture. It has nothing to do with money, spas or diet. If you are Catholic, you already possess eternity! Not pie in the sky, not a maybe someday, but here and now, you possess and are participating in eternity along with all the Saints and believers who have gone before you! Your participation in eternity began the day you were born. God gifted it to you.
So we do not lose heart. … [W]e look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Our entire time on this planet is an exercise in living in two dimensions at the same time, the now and eternity. From the beginning the Church has taken up that mantle. You might even be surprised to know that the connection to that living of eternity goes farther back than you might imagine.
In the struggles of the early Church, Christians did their best to participate in this new life which included, most significantly, The Supper. Established by Jesus with his own two hands you might be surprised to find out that The “original” Supper is not much different than what you experience at any Mass. It seems that The Church has been offering us participation in eternity right from the beginning, without a pause and right up to today. The text that follows is from Saint Justin Martyr who was writing around 140 A.D.
Justin on the Eucharist, first from chapter 65, Administration of the Sacraments:
“Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.
And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ge’noito [so be it].they carry away a portion.
“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins[ i.e. baptism], and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.
For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66)
So, in reality, from the very beginning, we are right in the middle of the practice of living forever! Does that give you a different perspective about who you are and the way that you are supposed to serve your generous God? He has put forever right in your hand!
…as though religion is just about this-worldly ethics, social justice, or psychological well-being. No, the Christian faith is about a journey beyond this world to the heavenly Jerusalem. Bishop Robert Barron – Gospel reflection – 5/9/2017
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham