Eternity, Eternity, Eternity! Equipping Oneself in the Light of Eternity!
Before an army went into battle in olden times the leader would shout out the war-cry which would then resonate through the voices of thousands of soldiers stirring them to courage in the battle about to begin. If there is one word that our society today needs to hear the priest shout aloud so that it resonates and echoes through the souls first of Catholics and then of secularized society it is the word Eternity!
Eternity! For in our days we live in a society that aggressively asserts itself to be “secularized”, a society that closes itself into time and refuses to consider the possibility of realities outside of time, of life after death; it refuses to countenance the presence of eternity in legislation and culture. Thus the word “eternity” has become an outlawed word for an outlawed reality.
And yet it is the one concept that explains all, that gives meaning to all that the Catholic Faith stands for, to all that the Catholic priest is, his very raison d’etre, his mission which is not for time but beyond time.
The priest-saints never ceased to think and pray about eternity -the eternity of God and the eternity of the soul, the eternity of Heaven and Hell – for as a second century anonymous Christian stated
“We must not underestimate the significance of our salvation, because this would be to circumscribe our hope of glory. It is a sin to regard the message of salvation as trivial and we too share this guilt whenever we do not realize whence we were called and who called us and to what place he called us and what suffering and endurance Jesus Christ showed in saving us.”
For eternity can empower us to perceive God almost as someone breathing close to us; it can become the vaccine against the escapism of a mass-media culture; the doorway that will allow us to bring our age to leave its dark prison of secularism for the sunlight and the vast open landscapes of Reality.
The Priest: A Man relevant for his Time because he has the Truths of Eternity
The priest who daily goes on his knees to enter into Eternity will never cease to be relevant for he has peered into the deepest levels of reality while others stay on the surface; there he comes to know the heart of God and the heart of man and so he rises with a knowledge of the eternal truths that place him on the vantage point from which he can judge the spirit of the age and his God-given role. These eternal truths are like that spot in St.Peter’s Square where you see the numerous columns of Bernini’s colonnade, though at first glance looking like a thick haphazard forest, suddenly fall into line. The saints have always stood on that supreme sighting spot and with the utter certainty of the great truths they have towered above all the fashions and political correctness of each era.
Thus you become a teacher of men: a window through which they can see the transcendent meaning to life. This desire of man was brought out dramatically in the movie “ “The War to end all Wars” when soldiers, frustrated and suffering, approached one of their own : “You’re a teacher. Tell us: is there a meaning to our suffering?”
Purpose-Driven Equipping: Equipped to Make an Everlasting Difference
Since an Ignatian’s mission, no matter which of a 1001 roles he may exercise, is always in the light of eternity, so all of an Ignatian’s formation is in the light of eternity.
This colors all of the various stages; it is the leit-motif; it confers a certain grim seriousness; but it also gives verve; and it demands all you’ve got – which is possible by the supernatural power of sanctifying grace.