"For a small reward, a man will hurry away on a long journey; while for eternal life, many will hardly take a single step." - Thomas a Kempis: (1380 – 1471: was a Dutch canon regular of the late medieval period and the author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the most popular and best known Christian books on devotion.)
Scripture Text: (1 JN 5:5-13)
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three who testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
I can almost see John standing with outreached hands saying, “Don’t you get it? What else can I say to you to make you understand?” That is John’s message in today’s First Reading from Mass. He tells us water, blood, the spirit and human understanding should make the point. But beyond that, don’t you hear the Father? If you believe, you will have eternal life, and if you believe, you will know that Jesus has brought us eternal life.
In this reading, John is speaking to a people who for the most part didn’t seem to have a very strong belief in eternal life. But he is also speaking to us. This may be a good time to think a bit about how strongly we actually do believe in eternal life. The average life expectancy for humanity is 66.7 years across the globe. If you compare that to eternity, it’s not much at all and yet our focus is definitely on this life. We put so much of ourselves into celebrations—birthdays, Christmas, Halloween—but it seems like our preparation for eternal life is an afterthought. If our Faith was stronger, wouldn’t we be spending most of our time preparing for eternal life and less time preparing for Halloween? Wouldn’t we be overjoyed when someone enters the Kingdom? And wouldn’t we live lives that show that we know that 66, 70, 80 or even a hundred years of this life are but nothing compared to eternal life?
As we begin this year of 2016, let’s ask ourselves, what will I do this year to get ready for eternal life? But let’s also give ourselves a break; after all, we’re only human. Hopefully this year of mercy will encourage us to be merciful to our neighbors but also to be merciful to ourselves and to remember that we can bathe in God’s mercy anytime we ask for it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.