You Will Have Eternal Life
by Fr. Jack McArdle
Everyone who believes in me will have eternal life. (John 3:15)
I entitled this series Jesus Said It… and I believe Him. When I read this promise, I repeated those words of the title to myself. It is a simple, direct, and uncomplicated promise. The result of believing it, however, reaches as far as eternity. In chapter three of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes a very clear statement about how we can attain to salvation. "We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us" (Romans 3:25).
Notice the balance between the two elements. Jesus died for us, and we believe that. In another translation it is "his blood and our faith that secures our salvation." It is what Jesus has done, and whether we believe and accept that. There is a serious onus on us regarding our salvation. Once again, we need to remember that God offers us salvation; he doesn't give it to us. I could hold out a book until I get a pain in my arm, and have to lower my arm, and it doesn't become yours, until you step forward and accept it.
There is no might or maybe in any of Jesus' promises. If I believe in him, I will have eternal life. In practice, what does believing in him mean? It means listening to his word, accepting that he is speaking the truth, and acting on what he says. There is a difference between faith and belief. You decide you want to have your car serviced. You are a visitor to these parts, so you ask me where you should go. I recommend a particular garage. You go there, because I said so, and you are acting on belief. You get your car serviced; you are satisfied with the job, and the price is reasonable.
The next time you are here, you decide to get your car serviced again, and you go back to the same garage. This time, you are acting on faith, because now you yourself know that they will do a good job, and the price will be reasonable. I learn to believe in Jesus by acting on his word, and, when I discover that his word is trustworthy and reliable, I grow in faith.
My particular reason for wanting to reflect on these promises is to answer this question for myself : What difference does it make for me to accept this promise as truth, and to entrust my whole future to the certainty of that promise being fulfilled for me? It should make a profound difference. It should make all the difference in the world. I am alive now, but I will die some day. This promise tells me that I possess a life that will never end. Physical death is of no importance, if I believe that I, the real me, and not the body, will continue to live for all eternity. Not only will I live for all eternity, but this eternity will be spent sharing the fullness of life with the Trinity, the angels, saints, and those people belonging to me who believed these promises of Jesus. I sometimes say that I would not like to live to be a hundred, because, no matter how alert I might be, I would surely depend on others for most things.
The promise we are now considering tells me that I will live forever, and that, in that next stage my life will be completely free to enjoy it to the full, in a way that would be completely impossible now, in this mortal body. Lord Jesus, I believe in you, and I know that my belief opens the door for me to enter a life, right now, that is eternal. Today is the beginning of that life, as I walk the way of faith with you. I depend totally on your Spirit to increase and strengthen my faith.
The Imitation of Christ tells of a monk before the Blessed Sacrament, who kept repeating "If I only knew I would persevere. If I only knew I would persevere." After a while a voice from the tabernacle spoke "And if you knew you would persevere, what would you do? Do now what you would do then, and you will persevere." What a profound difference it should make to my life when I believe this promise of Jesus. Living my life, while keeping this promise in mind, and knowing how my life will end, that is faith, that is belief. Speaking to the crowds on the morning of Pentecost, Peter said "He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name" (Acts 3:17-18).
Belief in Jesus is at the core of the gospel. This must surely be the work of the Spirit, because, being human, my belief seems to always be accompanied by doubts. I cannot hope to be any other way, unless the Spirit comes to my rescue. I believe that an honest heartfelt cry to the Spirit to implant a conviction about this promise in my heart, is a prayer that will surely be answered. Even to make the cry is a very clear declaration : I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.
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