Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life
by Bishop Michael G. Duca
For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2Tim. 4:6-8
Do you remember the movie, The Bucket List? The movie is about two terminally ill men who meet in a hospital room and decide to try and empty their “bucket lists” – their lists of all the things they want to do before they die, before they “kick the bucket.” Luckily, one of the men is a millionaire and they set out to do as much as they can before they die.
And while we might all have these kinds of lists and hopes, I am certain that a bucket list is not a big enough goal for us as Christians who believe in and stand in the light of the Resurrection of Christ. Just a few days ago, on the first day of this month (no foolin’), we celebrated Easter Sunday and proclaimed with faith-filled voices, “The Lord is Risen.” With this proclamation, we confessed our faith: that our lives do not end with the death of our physical bodies, but rather are reborn to an eternal life. So if this is our faith, then the motivating principle of our lives should not be “to do as much as we can before we die,” but rather we should say, “I want to do as much as I can to be ready for Eternal Life, to be ready to enter the heavenly kingdom where every tear is wiped away and I will never die again.”
This is actually a more positive and freeing way to look at life. First, we avoid the constant feeling of frustration because of the things we never got to do. We also avoid the constant sadness resulting from death approaching and robbing us of opportunity and freedom. We stop looking at death as this inevitable thief and see it though the eyes of faith as the path to our own Resurrection.
When we are focused on getting ready for our Resurrection, we do not stop living but we may live differently and live, in fact, more intentionally and integrally. Here are two attitudes that may be changed by seeing the ending of this life as the beginning of eternal life.
Sacrificial love takes on a new, positive meaning in our lives. To love sacrificially means that we need to give our limited time, energy, and maybe even treasure, to help someone we love or live up to the demands of our commitments of love. This can be hard to do if we see our time as “running out,” or that we are losing time before we die to do what we want. But if we see our life with an eternal plan, we are able to see that love is the way we get ready for eternal life, that there will be a reward for this act of love maybe in this life (and there often is), but certainly we will be rewarded in the joy of eternal life.
Living more simply, we know, allows us time and energy to be freer to concentrate on relationships of love with family, spouse, children and friends. It allows us to deepen our relationship with God and to make time for those who need our help. If we are preparing for the next life, we will tend to live more simply, choosing to lighten our load as we age instead of accumulating as though we will live forever. We will put our time and effort into the heavenly treasure we can take with us, and this lasting treasure is always gifted to us through love.
I do not want to sound like we should be happy to die, but rather I am suggesting a deeper spiritual orientation. If we are living to only empty our bucket list, then it seems like we are always running from death, even to the point of desperately trying to hold on to our youth, our stuff and our money in order to stave off death and live like we will never die. We should not live our lives as though we are running from the pursuing Death, but rather let us always be running toward Eternal Life. If we run this “good race,” as Saint Paul calls our life of faith, then we know we will pass through death, but that is not our goal and it will not slow us down. This allows us to live not in fear, but rather in HOPE. Death is not the end, but the portal, the gate to our salvation. That is the positive goal that should motivate our lives and be animated by our faith in Jesus Christ, who showed us the way when He arose from the dead. The more we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, the more we are free to live in the freedom and joy that comes from hope in Life Eternal.