It is common for educators and career coaches to emphasize the importance of being goal-oriented. To reach a goal, they tell us, we must commit ourselves to take all the necessary steps, whether they are few or many. The goal must be real, attainable, and measurable. As we work towards the goal, we must have discipline, strength, endurance, encouragement, and intermediary rewards.
Today’s readings remind us that the Resurrection has introduced into human life the possibility of a much greater goal than we would ever have imagined. The true goal of our life here on earth is not a fancy house, a big bank account, or a successful career. The goal of life on earth is to gain eternal life in Heaven. This goal is indeed real! John shares with us his vision of it in today’s second reading. He sees what is certain to come, “a new heaven and a new earth.” We can gain great consolation and inspiration as we reflect on the goal God himself has set for our future: “He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” No more hardships, despair, frustration, illness, or sadness – this is not an empty dream but a real destination to work for.
This heavenly goal is not attainable by human effort, however. We can only reach it by divine grace. It is attainable because Jesus has opened Heaven for us by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and he himself has said, “… I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may also be” (Jn 14:3).
But is this goal of eternal life measurable? Certainly it is immeasurable in the sense that there is no limit to what God has in store for those who love him (cf. 1 Cor 2:9). Still, there is a measure involved because we ourselves are limited. The more we open ourselves to God’s gift – following his commandment of love – the more we can receive. As Jesus says, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk 6:38).
As we work towards the goal of eternal life, we will encounter many roadblocks and hardships. One reason for this is that Satan does not want us to reach this goal; he does everything he can to thwart our efforts and to destroy us in the process. Our fallen human nature is another reason for these hardships. There is something in us that prefers temporary advantages to eternal blessings, and we must constantly discipline this unruly part of ourselves.
Hardships, however, do not have to become obstacles to our progress. God allows us to experience trials in order to strengthen us. St. Paul says in today’s first reading, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Why is it necessary? Because as our Leader – Jesus – goes, so must we, his followers. We also must undergo trials because we need to be purified, so that all that is not holy is removed from us – our pride, selfishness, and evil tendencies. We cannot attain our goal of being with God in Heaven for all eternity unless we are transformed in holiness, to be holy as Jesus is holy. Because God is love, we must be love; we must allow his love in us to achieve its purpose.
In the Gospel, Jesus says, “My children…. I give you a new commandment, love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” The measure of our love for one another is Jesus’ love for us! How does Jesus love us? With selfless, sacrificial love, with limitless mercy and patience, always desiring what is best for us. He allows us to experience his love and mercy for us by making a gift of himself to us. When we strive to love one another, Jesus works in us and through us in such a way that others can recognize us as his disciples. What we want others to see is not our achievements but what God has done in us. It is his gift that gives us the hope and the possibility of reaching our goal, his goal for us, eternal life.
Knowing that my goal in life is to gain eternal life, what obstacles do I face? Why do I tend to prefer temporal advantages over the blessings of eternal life? How do I witness to others the love and mercy that God has for me in spite of my sin?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.