The Eternal Question

What would you do if you knew that you were dying soon? In recent times, there have been several songs and movies dedicated to that question. Would you create a bucket list and set out to do all those things you always wanted to do but never had the time. Would you give your money away? Reconcile with someone you had hurt or forgive someone who had hurt you? Tell someone you love them? Spend more time with your spouse and your children? The point of that question is to encourage us to take our limited time here seriously and focus on what really matters. It is a good reality check to determine if we are choosing to use our time well and embracing life fully. Yet, those songs and movies don’t fully grasp the issue at hand.

Our life here on earth is a great gift from God, but it comes with great responsibility. We have a duty to use it well, not only because to fritter it away is an insult to the gift-giver, but more importantly because it has eternal ramifications. This isn’t all there is. It is certainly good to go out and experience life and visit new places and appreciate the beauty of this world that God created. We are also called to use our gifts and talents to help make the world a better place. But, the true purpose of this life is to lead us to life with God in heaven.

How do we get there? Generations of Catholics can recite the answer to the question: “Why did God make you?” The answer is “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” That is it – our purpose in a simple nutshell. Of course, the actual living out of that statement is much more difficult. It is readily apparent that none of us can “earn” heaven. It is a gift freely given by God. Christ’s death and resurrection opened the doors of heaven that had been closed due to sin. We do not merit heaven in any way. However, we can certainly lose that gift.

The scholar in this week’s gospel (Luke 10:25-37) has his eyes on the prize. He asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turns the question back on him “What is written in the law.” The scholar recites the highest commandment, You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He then questions Jesus further, asking “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus shares the parable of The Good Samaritan. Our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with.

So, then, this is the litmus test with which we should judge our lives. If today was our last day, if we knew we were going to meet our God and have to answer for our lives, how would we fare? What are our priorities? How did we spend our time? What are the areas of our lives we need to work on? None of us is perfect, but we can keep working on our areas of weakness. We can strive for that ideal of perfect love for God and neighbor. Perhaps we can truly live as if we were dying and have the amount of time we do have left (whether that be one day or a hundred years) be better for it.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic, she blogs at

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  • lkeebler

    John 14:18-24
    18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.