Eternal Life is Here and Now

08-26-2018Weekly ReflectionFather Prince Raja

With today's gospel reading we conclude the five weeks of reflection on the Bread of Life from John 6. I would like to focus on two very important related concepts that are mentioned in the gospel text of today, which are very dear to Evangelist John: the contrast between spirit and flesh, and the expression, "Eternal Life".

Spirit and Flesh: Layers of Desires

St Augustine famously prayed, "Oh Master, give me chastity and continence, but not yet." What we see in this prayer is a tension between spirit and flesh. What St. Augustine is expressing is a desire to be chaste (which perhaps is at a deeper level), but there is also a desire to be wayward. That is why Jesus says, "It is the spirit that gives life, t he flesh has nothing to offer" (Jn 6:63).

Eternal life: Life in God

It is not rare in Christian conversations to pick up a perception that most Christians have: that eternal life equals heaven. Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth (Vol.1) says, 'Eternal life' is not – as the modern reader might immediately assume – life after death, in contrast to this present life, which is transient and not eternal. Eternal life' is life itself, real life, which can also be living in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize 'life' here and now, real life that can no longer be destroyed by anything or anyone. Eternal life' is thus a relational event… Through relationship with the one who is himself life [- God in Jesus], man too comes alive.

Let us try to understand this. We say God is eternal. So, communing with God, that is, sharing in the life of God, is eternal life. And St Augustine defines eternity as "a continuous now". For God, there is no past and future but only the now. And God is here. Therefore, eternal life is here and now.

What Chapter 6 of John has brought to our attention is that it is possible to commune with God, to share in eternal life, by eating the flesh of Jesus! This is quite straight-forward: when I eat the bread which is the body of Christ it becomes part of me, and I become one with the bread that is Christ. So I become one with God! At this point the tension between the flesh and spirit disappears into eternity. Yes, Jesus says, "Whoever eats me will also draw life from me" (Jn 6:57).

So we pray, "By the mystery of this bread and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."