Preparing for eternity
The Baltimore Catechism tells us that “God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.” Similarly, St. Augustine wrote: “Thou hast made us for Thyself O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” We were created to enjoy eternal happiness with God. God is our destiny.
Jesus likens our lives on Earth to a journey on which we should strive to reach the end for which we were created:
“The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mat 7:13) As to the way, Jesus tells us: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
Jesus came to show God’s love for us through His death on the cross, and to show us how to live that we might have eternal life. He tells us, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments,” and “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that our journey on Earth will end. As a cross made of ashes is traced on our foreheads, we are charitably admonished: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” If we prepare, by living rightly, for this awe filled, eternity-defining moment of death, we can hope to confidently face it like St. Paul: “…the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
Satan, however, as his temptation of Jesus in the desert shows, will try to lure us off the road that leads to eternal life.
Fr. Baker, in his book, Preach the Word, says, “The weapons we need to defeat the devil are well known: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, self-denial, the sacraments, reading the Bible, avoiding the near occasions of sin such as immoral television, videos, music, magazines and internet pornography. We should know our faith well and be familiar with the Bible, especially the New Testament. Note how Jesus defeats the devil with three quotes from Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8… The purpose of Lent is conversion of heart--- turning away from inordinate attachment to creatures and turning to God.” (p. 55)
The prayer and self-denial that we willingly undertake during Lent will help us so that we are better able to deny ourselves, and to bear and offer up the unavoidable sufferings of life. “The point,” says Fr. Baker, “is to make our suffering salvific--- to offer it up to God in union with Christ for our own salvation and that of others.”(p. 66) Bishop Sheen puts it this way: “Our Lord is now in heaven. He therefore can suffer no more in His human nature but He can suffer more in our human natures. So He reaches out to other human natures, to yours and mine, and asks us to do as the thief did, namely, to incorporate ourselves to Him on the Cross, that sharing in His Crucifixion we might also share in His Resurrection, and that made partakers of His Cross we might also be made partakers of His glory in heaven.” (Calvary and the Mass, p. 32)
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Comments on Jesus’ temptation in the desert, by Fr. George Rutler:
“The temptation to turn stone to bread is the seductive power of disordered passions: trying to gratify the wants of the flesh with gossamer seductions that never satisfy for very long. Besides uncontrolled sexuality, this includes gossip, anger and abuse, such as that of drugs and drink, and creates an illusion of pleasure that God alone can give without end. The temptation to defy gravity afflicts human souls by wallowing in fantasy every day, ogling at what others have. The temptation to rule kingdoms is the seduction of the ego to measure ourselves by the prestige others accord us.” Mar 1, 2020