Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent
[Scripture Readings: Is 49:8-15; Jn 517-30]
Eternal life! When St. Teresa of Avila was only seven years old she used to think about the meaning of eternal life and eternal death. Sometimes she would cry out: “O Eternity, Eternity! To rejoice for all eternity! To be tormented for all eternity! To be in joy without end! To be in pain without end. Oh, who can find words to describe it?”
One dictionary definition of eternity is “Time without end.” But for God eternity is “infinite existence all at once.” There's no sequence because nothing can be added or taken away from what is infinite.
A scientist, I think it was Albert Einstein, compared God's eternal existence to all of time in this way. He said, take a roll of movie film, and cut each frame apart. Stack the frames one on top of the other until you have a perfect cube. Every frame inside the cube is a present moment, with the frames underneath forming the past, and the frames above forming the future. At one corner of the cube is the beginning of time and the opposite corner of the cube is the end of time. But God is outside the cube, always present to all of time.
Now, we are called to share in God's own divine nature, God's eternity! That will be life in its fullness where nothing will pass away, where all joys will be present without diminishment. But for those who choose to be lost, who will not share in divine life, eternity will be like time without end, enduring pain forever and ever. St. Benedict urges us think about these things when he tells us in the Instruments of Good Works, “To be in dread of hell, and to desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit. And never to despair of God's mercy.”1 “Even if a mother should forget, God will never forget you” (Is. 49:15).