Flash

"REFLECTION ON ETERNAL LIFE" 11/28/11

“LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?  YOU HAVE THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE .”
 
John 6:68
 
 
 
In the Gospel of John, at the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  Right now, in the depth of your heart, think about how this would affect you personally if Jesus literally washed your feet.  Jesus is God.  God getting down on his knees to wash our/my feet seems incomprehensible. In the Jewish culture, only slaves would wash the feet of others, and if a Jewish family owned a Jewish slave, even the Jewish slave would never be expected to so such a thing. Why would our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ do the work of a slave?
 
Jesus' purpose is twofold.  The first is to show his mathetes that the divine power and authority he will bestow upon them, in the person of the Holy Spirit, after his death and resurrection, is be used by them not to seek their own glory, but to humbly serve all those he will place before them, and not to "lord it over others," like the rabbis and Pharisees have done. 
 
FYI:  To see this humility and Sacred Scripture come alive in your life and parish, please attend our Churches magnificent Easter Triduum in 2012, beginning with Holy Thursday, April 5th where your priest will wash the feet of his parishioners, just as Jesus washed the feet of his Apostles.
 
Jesus understood the human temptation of seeking ones own glory once power and authority are received; in fact a couple of Jesus’ Apostles sought their own glory.  For example when James and John came to Jesus and asked him this big favor, “Grant that in your glory, we may sit one at your right and the other at your left,” and Jesus responds, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:37; 42:45.  Amen to the Blood. 
 
By humbly washing the feet of his Apostles, Jesus reveals to his mathetes, and to you and I today in his Word, that he was sent by his Father, as Savior and Servant, to rescue and ransom many, and that his disciples are and will be sent by him in the same manner, namely, as instruments of salvation and as servants.  “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the world.”  Acts 13:47 .
 
Take this to heart.  All Sowers are aware of this important teaching because we are taught that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit and therefore sent by Jesus in the same manner St. Paul was, as instruments of salvation.  However, as we have learned and seen firsthand, Temples can be attacked and destroyed, just like the Temple in Jerusalem was, therefore we must live a life of: prayer, Word, Sacrament, and SERVICE, to protect our Temples , and fulfill Jesus’ will and plan in our daily lives.
 
The second purpose of this foot washing of his mathetes is to prepare their hearts to accept his passion, death, and resurrection, leading to life eternal with Jesus.  You see the foot washing symbolizes Jesus’ death.  This meaning often remains hidden to the reader of the bible, but through the sending and excellence of Catholic theologians like Fr. Raymond E. Brown, the depth and revelation of the Word is brought forth.  (Fr. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, P. 568). 
 
This is another teaching moment for Jesus to his mathetes.  Mathetes are always learning, you will be taught something new everyday by Jesus as you read his Word.  Jesus is attempting to reveal to them who he really is, to help them understand who the true Messiah is, that he is not an earthly Messiah, one who seeks palaces, fame, armies, and wealth, no Jesus’ kingdom is heaven, as he clearly states to Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to you.”  John 19:36.   
 
The purpose of his teaching points to his death in the washing of his mathetes feet in this way: if they are unable to accept that he, as the Messiah, would humble himself to the point of washing their feet, as only a slave of their day would be expected to, then how could they possibly believe that the Messiah, the person they left everything to follow, the person they had personally watched turn water into wine, walk on water, feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and couple of fish, cure a man born blind from birth, and raise Lazarus from the dead, would allow himself to be taken by force, whipped, beat, spit on, stripped naked in front of his Holy mother, hung on a cross like a common criminal, put to death, and rise on the third day?
 
Do you see the problem?  In their Jewish minds they still had the notion that Jesus was a “Conquering Messiah,” a Messiah that would destroy all of Israel ’s enemies and restore her to worldly prominence and power and them along with her.  Without understanding who Jesus really was and is, witnessing their Lord suffering in such a horrible way would have totally devastated their faith.  As you know this exact problem did happened, Jesus was crucified, and many mathetes fled in fear, not ALL , but many.  So he is preparing them now for a truth they will only understand later, at Pentecost, when Jesus breaths the Holy Spirit into their hearts.
 
You see, since the fall of Adam and Eve, death always had the last word, NO ONE HAD EVER RISEN FROM THE DEAD, this is critically important to understand. However Jesus is One Divine Person, fully human, fully Divine, and as such, for the first time ever, death did NOT have the final word, no the WORD had the final Word and Jesus destroys death and sin by rising from the dead and sending the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who metanoia (repent), believe, and follow him to eternal life, this is exactly what happened.  After Jesus is glorified, the mathetes REMEMBERED WHAT JESUS SAID AND DID, and they follow that teaching:
 
“What I am doing, you so not understand, but you will understand later.”  John 13:7.  “His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that all these things were written about him, and that he had done this for him.” John 12:16.  The same happened to Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples who went to the tomb to bury Jesus, when the men (angels) remind them of what Jesus had said before his arrest and crucifixion the Word says, “And they remembered his words.”  Luke 24:8.
 
How could they be expected to believe the truth of anything that Jesus said and did, if in the end, he was treated like a common criminal, and hung on a cross?  Jesus knew this.  Jesus is God.  God know these things. So Jesus teaches them something NOW that they will only understand LATER when enlightened by the Holy Spirit. 
 
We remember from the synoptic Gospels that the Apostles were having a hard time accepting or even understanding that Jesus must be crucified and rise on the third day, "Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon and after they have scourged him the will kill him, but on the third day he will rise."  "But they understood nothing of this, the word remained hidden from them and they failed to comprehend what he said." Luke 18, 31-34. 
 
So Jesus begins to wash the feet of his mathetes, and when he gets to Peter, Peter says, "You will never wash my feet."  Peter Peter pumpkin eater, here we go again. Peter is brash, defiant, defensive, ripe for another lesson, another teaching from his Master, and so Jesus responds to Peter, "Unless I wash your feet, you will have no inheritance with me."   John 13, 8.  Ouch!!
 
Telling Peter he had no inheritance was a big big deal, and essential to a correct understanding of what John the Evangelist believed and taught the Christian community he lead about eternal life.  Peter is shaken to his core, he is thinking I left everything to follow you, and now I get nothing?  No inheritance.  Peter was reluctant to allow Jesus to wash his feet, because he was raised as a Jew, and as we have mentioned, in the Jewish world, only a slave washed the feet of others. Peter would never allow his Lord to act as a slave and wash his dirty feet.
 
Jesus quickly changes Peter's mind and heart by using one really significant and important word for all Jewish people, the word inheritance, in this context, meaning to the Jews, their share of the Promised Land.  Peter immediately understood the nuances of what Jesus was saying to him, “If I do not wash your feet Peter, you will have no inheritance, with me.”  Peter backtracks, changes his mind, goes in the opposite direction, because this word inheritance would have trumped all of his Jewish sensibilities about Jesus washing his feet. 
 
Yes, the Greek word that is translated here as inheritance, is meros, as used in the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, to translate the word that signified the inheritance that the Father promised to Israel, namely the Promised Land.  All twelve tribes of Israel, except that of Levi, the Priestly tribe, (Numbers 18:20), were promised, by the Father a share, a part of, a heritage, an inheritance, in the Promised Land, “The Lord spoke to Moses on the plains of Moab…You shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you this land as your property.  You shall apportion the land among yourselves by lot, clan by clan, assigning a large heritage to a large group and a small heritage to small group,”  Numbers 33, 50:54.  
 
As a faithful Jewish man, Peter knew and lived with this promise.  For an absolutely brilliant interpretation of the foot washing and meros, please read Raymond E. Brown, “The Gospel according to John XIII-XXI,” Anchor Bible, P. 564-566.  The Promised Land was and is today for Israel , tied to every aspect of their faith, especially that of their covenant with the Father, this is significant. 
 
Also remember that in the Gospel of John, the Last Supper is not a revelation of Jesus’ true presence in the Body and Blood, the Eucharist, this is found in John 6, however in the Synoptics, at the Last Supper Jesus says, without accident, “This cup is the NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD.” Luke 22:20.  To his mathetes, to all who believe in and follow him, Jesus is revealing and promising a NEW PROMISED LAND , not an earthly one, but a heavenly one.  Amen.
 
The Jewish people will fight to the death to protect their meros, their Promised Land, and that is why Peter quickly changes his mind.  However Peter is still not clear on the concept because he thinks that more washing means more inheritance, he is still imagining an earthly kingdom, and not a heavenly one.  Peter needs more teaching, more Word, more time with Jesus, don’t we all. 
 
Yes, he needs more teaching, he needs to learn, and that is why when he asks to be washed, from head to toe, Jesus says no, your inheritance, your life with me will be in My kingdom in heaven, not on earth and is received solely through your faith in my death and resurrection, not is the washing itself. 
 
Peter could have stayed foolish and arrogant and refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet.  The washing is a symbol that Peter will share Jesus’ life in heaven, if he allows Jesus to wash him and believes in his death and resurrection.  This is big.  Remember the first and constant teaching of the “Good News,” the Gospel, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Remember, salvation is an invitation, we can and often did turn down Jesus’ invitation to be washed clean of sin, through a life of selfishness, greed, violence, pride, lust, revenge, hate, jealousy, and slander.
 
Jesus is telling Peter, and now you and I this:  I do not promise you an earthly Promised Land, I promise you something infinitely greater, I promise you eternal happiness, eternal life, you, and everyone else, who believe in me and are washed in my Blood, Resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit.   
 
Mathetes, what I want you to take today from the Sacred Scripture, is that Jesus' word to Peter are eternal and for everyone, "Unless I was you, you will have no inheritance with me."   Jesus is talking about his death and resurrection and OUR salvation and our entire reading of every verse in the bible, throughout this reflection, will be understood in this Light.  I have to wash you.  No one else can do this.  It is not something you do to yourself, only I can save you, only through faith in me will you be able to live in my Kingdom.
 
Do you see the majesty?  May the Word revealed to you the glory of your faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has washed your feet.  Yes, do not be like Peter and reject the foot washing.  Yes, by virtue of your Catholic faith, Jesus has washed your feet. You have been cleansed in the fire of the Holy Spirit and washed in the Blood of Jesus Christ in your metanoia, in Baptism, Reconciliation, and Eucharist.  Jesus and only Jesus, is your inheritance, your Promised Land, your meros, your heritage.   
 
Know this.  Treasure this. Love this.  Rejoice in this.  Jesus promises a heavenly Promised Land, a heritage, a portion of his kingdom, an  inheritance, a life eternal, to all those who repent and follow him, that's you.  This is an everlasting promise, sealed with his Blood, proved to you by the Spirit of Pentecost that dwells within you. 
 
Jesus, as the Word made flesh, has personally made you as a believer a promise of eternal life, sealed with his Blood, proved by his Resurrection and your reception of the Holy Spirit.  Why is it that so many people in the world have chosen not to believe in Jesus Christ and his promise of eternal life?  Along with the obvious reasons that too many people are selfish, trapped by the idols of money, power, fame, sex, and possessions, there is the issue of receiving something for “free.”
 
Have you ever heard the saying, “If something sounds too good to be true…it probably is?”  In our society, when someone tries to give us something for “free” with no strings attached, in the end there always seem to be some strings attached because in every generation there will be people trying to find new and ingenious ways to induce us into thinking that they can be trusted and believed so we will fall prey to their lies, scams, and schemes that are only intend to enrich themselves but leave the believer shattered, duped, broke, and angry.
 
For example, the likes of Bernie Madoff, who used a Ponzi scheme to steal roughly 50 billion dollars from unknowing investors who for years were receiving interest rates on their investments that were simply  “Too good to be true.”  Or the emails we get from someone in Nigeria telling us we won $50,000.00 and we just need to wire them $500 to collect our prize money.  The list of opportunities to receive things for “free” which we know are not really “free” goes on and on in our lives, often on a daily basis.
 
So you and I, growing up in this environment of always being aware that liars and scammers sincerely believe W. C. Fields classic line “Never give a sucker an even break,” and are trying their best to cheat us by offering something “free,” it is easy to understand why there are so many non believers in the world.  So along with wanton idolatry of the self/power/money/possessions/science/secular intelligence, and all other false gods, the thought of receiving something “free” from God is a deterrent to some people’s ability to believe.
 
Yes, the Christian message and Gospel is that Jesus died for my/our sins.  I did not pay Jesus to do this, I wasn’t even born when he did this so obviously my “good works/deeds” were not a cause for his actions, I did not have to ask Jesus to do this, Jesus did this in obedience to his Father, who sent him on this mission of mercy and love.
 
So I/we have received this forgiveness as “gift,” it is “free,” no strings attached, because the gift itself is “priceless.”  Nobody, no one could “buy” the forgiveness of their sins. Every ounce of gold, silver, or diamonds ever mined in the entire history of the world would not suffice as payment for the dying of our sins because the price was paid in full by the Lamb, the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ.  As we will see, this gift is called Redemption.
 
But Redemption is not the end of the Churches teaching on forgiveness, nor the end of the Gospel, because now comes the most “unbelievable” part of the Christian faith.  The part where too many “rational” and “educated” people, simply deny because they cannot understand nor believe it’s truth, namely that not only did Jesus die for our sins, but now he offers, without cost, the personal forgiveness of every ugly/hateful/despicable act and sin we have ever committed, yes, in our forgiveness of personal sins, through repentance, faith, and flowing him, Jesus offers  us his life NOW , which is a reflection of what a believer will live at their personal death or the second coming of Jesus, namely, eternal life, or as John Paul II called it, “unending happiness.”
 
What would so great and priceless gift cost someone?  Again, this is the problem, non believers always think in human terms, what their experience has been here on earth and not heavenly, spiritual, and everlasting ones.  Because they have never known unconditional mercy and love, they cannot believe it actually exists, for example, “you missed a house payment, your house will be in foreclosure on Monday,”  “you don’t have insurance, take your child to another hospital,” “you are homeless, take care, be well fed, I will keep you in my prayers.”
 
To many “well educated,” “sophisticated,” and “well off,” tend to think that there is no such thing in the world available to them and that anything they receive from someone else, including God, must have some strings attached.  Many, because they have no experience with spiritual/supernatural gifts, do not even believe that God exists and they think in terms of what they have experienced on earth, they think they need to give some kind of earthly/monetary payment in order to receive something back.
 
This is a huge error and stumbling block to faith because the truth and reality is that the gift is “spiritual” not “physical/earthly/monetary and so the response is not one of the world but one that is “above” the world, supernatural, namely a response of faith, to believe in and follow Jesus, what they need to do is not make a “payment,” Jesus did that. No, what they must choose to do is “not of this world,” it is spiritual, namely: metanoia (repent), believe (faith), and (follow), be a mathetes, a disciple of Jesus.
This is the precious and priceless gift of salvation which so many non believers have a hard time grasping because in reality it sounds “too easy,” too “simple,” or as we mentioned earlier they are too trapped in the “self” and the “world.”  You see we are accustomed to “doing” something for the things we receive especially for those that are precious to us.  Yes, we want to know how much it will cost, how many payments we need to make, we want to calculate if we can afford it along with the rent, insurance, credit cards, groceries, clothing, and all the other monthly costs we have. 
 
The truth is much different.  You and I as Christians, in our personal experience of a life in and with the Holy Spirit, must know how to explain this truth to others. The first letter of Peter asks the Church to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” 1 Peter 3:15.  Our “Hope” is Jesus Christ and the salvation of our body, souls, and spirits, which comes from faith in him. 
 
In today’s reflection, I “Hope” to be obedient to this Word and command, and through prayer, study, and Spirit, open the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Gospel of John, the Pauline epistles, the letters of John, the Book of Revelation, the teaching of the Magisterium, the Church Fathers, and an understanding of realized eschatology, and give a systematic and accurate picture of a topic and “spiritual reality,” that is near and dear to my heart, faith, and walk in the Father’s vineyard with Jesus Christ and his Church, through the majesty and power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Yes, today’s reflection is something I literally think about everyday, many times a day, not only because it effects my daily walk in the vineyard and my understanding of the Word, Sacrament, and Church, but also because it is a dogma of the Christian faith which has been proclaimed to the entire world by Jesus and his Church, the Catholic Church for two thousand years, namely that through faith in Jesus Christ a person is saved, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  Acts 4:12 , and many more to follow.
 
Yes, for us as Christians, we need to know and be able to share that we are not saved by meditating ourselves into a higher state of being, by following the tenets of Hinduism, Buddha, or Islam, by our banks accounts, power, prestige, or education.  No, salvation, which as we just saw, must be understood first through the ancient Catholic Church dogma that the entire world was “redeemed” when the Father sent his Lamb, his Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins and open the gates of heaven that were closed to the world by the sin of Adam and Eve, “He is the expiation for our sins, and not just for our sins only but for those of the entire world.”  1 John 2:2.
 
As a mathetes and Christian it is important to learn the difference between and not to confuse “Redeemed/Redemption with salvation.  Just because we are “redeemed” by Jesus’ Blood and resurrection does not mean we are saved/automatic and permanent participants in eternal life.  From the moment of Jesus’ Blood, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit, the entire human race from the first man born to the last man to be born has been redeemed but not every person is saved. What does this mean?  Let us go to the Word and the Church’s Magisterium.
The word translated as “redemption” in the bible, is from the Greek word apolytrosis, which means: “Freeing for ransom, but it may also have the general sense of release.  In the Gospel of Luke 21:28 it means the definitive eschatological redemption of the new aeon for which the disciples are to watch expectantly.”  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, P. 546.
 
What this means is that redemption is the one time, never to be repeated act of love and mercy where Jesus’ Blood is the expiation, the price paid, the ransom given by the Son to the Father for the sins of the world, as the Word reveals, “In him we have redemption by his Blood, the forgiveness of transgressions.” Ephesisans 1:7   “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.  They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:23-24.  “He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”  Hebrews 9:12.  
 
Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit are the proof, the evidence, that all he revealed and everything we believe as a Church about Redemption is TRUE .
Redemption IS eternal, Jesus’ death on the cross, his victory over sin and satan, is never to be repeated again. 
 
Yes, Jesus, on the cross has the eternal victory over satan and sin, he will not have to defeat this spiritual enemy again, when Jesus comes again, in the Parousia, he will come in glory not in battle, “For the Son of Man will come in with his angels in his Father’s glory and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”  Matthew 16:27. See also Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; 13:36; Luke 9:26; 21:27.  This truth is proved by his resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit.
 
The gift of salvation flows from and can never be separated from God’s gift of redemption.  But the crucial and intrinsic difference between redemption and salvation is that the gift of salvation is an invitation that must be personally accepted, “Some ignored the invitation and went away,” Mt. 22:5, “He told a parable to those who had been invited,” Luke 14:7.  Salvation is a choice, it is an individual and personal surrender of the self, repentance, and acceptance of Jesus as ones Lord and Savior, which is thwarted by greed, violence, addictions, lust, lies, jealousy, hate, revenge, fornication, selfishness, slander, etc.
 
For example, St. Paul knows know and teaches the truth of the being redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, “In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7, however to the Church in Rome, the Apostle also reveals his belief that not all those who shared his former Jewish faith are saved and this troubles him greatly, “Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God is for their salvation.”  Romans 10:1.  See also how the Apostle continues this teaching in Romans 11:13-14 “and thus save some of them.”
 
The Magisterium, the teaching branch of the Church describes Jesus’ invitation to eternal life in this way: “By his Revelation, the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.  The adequate response to this invitation is faith.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 142.
 
I am not and cannot be saved because my mom, dad, friends, or pastor is holy and faithful to Jesus.  No, salvation is individual and personal, so the faith of my mom, dad, friend, or pastor, are their salvation but I am saved when I personally surrender my life to Jesus Christ, when I finally hear Jesus voice saying “Follow me,” when I finally here God’s voice saying “I love you,” when I am “born from above” and have a metanoia, believe in and follow Jesus, and enter into a lifelong relationship and covenant with Jesus and his Church, through prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service. 
 
My parents, pastor, and Church can and DID lead to me Jesus but my salvation becomes ontological (a part of my being, who I am essentially) when I personally say yes, to Jesus, when for the first time my life is: Jesus First, Jesus Always, when I personally choose to have all the false gods of selfishness, greed, lust, violence, and slander, removed from my heart by the Holy Spirit through an authentic repentance and confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
 
Again, we are redeemed as a “whole,” and saved as individuals.  Yes, know this, believe this, and share this, a person is saved as an individual when they hear the command and call of Jesus to metanoia (repentance), belief in, and to follow him.  Understanding the importance of each command and being able to enunciate them in a biblical and Catholic way, is intrinsic to being able to answer the ubiquitous question that we as Catholics are often challenged with by other Christians, “ ARE YOU SAVED?” 
 
My answer will be clear in what follows.  To be able to answer this question, we need to understand the meaning of one of what the Catholic Church calls the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love).  The Greek word, used by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 is “love,” when he says, “Faith, hope, love (the Greek word agape) remain, but the greatest of these is love.” The Catholic Church, which writes all her official documents in Latin, often uses the Latin Word and its English translation: Caritas/Charity, for the word love.  See # 1812-1841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for more knowledge on this subject and the Churches definition of Charity.
 
“Hope” is the virtue we want to focus on because in my opinion this is the most misunderstood of the three theological virtues and this misunderstanding can influence a person’s biblical interpretation and therefore understanding of what it means to be “saved.” The misunderstanding comes from the notion that things we “hope” for in faith, are things we cannot know.  This is simply not true, the things we “hope” for are things we cannot see….yet, not things we cannot know, believe, and most importantly live, with all our hearts. The “already but not yet.”
 
The second aspect of “Hope” that I believe is often understood incorrectly is this:  some people use “Hope” in the sense that they not sure that what they hope for can or will ever happen.  As we will see, this notion goes directly against the Churches teaching and also what the bible reveals on what it means to have “Hope.” 
 
What I believe is happening here is that the person misunderstands “Hope” because they are focusing entirely on themselves, their personal failures/weaknesses/sins, and not on the promises of Jesus Christ.  Remember “Hope” is “theological,” from “above,” a supernatural gift, “above” our human nature.  No one is born with the gift of “Hope.” No, “Hope” comes ONLY from faith in Jesus Christ and therefore is not based on our performance/weaknesses/or sins.  Praise be to God and amen to the Blood for this.
 
So of course, if a person’s understanding of what it means to “Hope” in salvation is based on their efforts, their capability to follow Jesus in the manner in which he/she has chosen, in righteousness/holiness, then of course “Hope,” will be something unattainable to them, because they keep proving to themselves over and over again through sin, they are unable to stay faithful to the Church and the Word and so the things they “Hope” in are not things they can believe in or know. 
 
This is a personal error and no one should project their own personal weaknesses on the entire faith.  We are all sinners, however, for millions of us, our “Hope,” is not based on our sins or weaknesses, but on God’s grace, power, and promises in his Word.  More on this later. What this means is that “Faith, hope, and charity” (love) are not from man or the world, they are supernatural (above our human nature) and God’s gifts to his family. 
 
These virtues allow us as believers to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity, and “capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1812 and 1813.  So the Church teaches that through God’s favor, God’s mercy, God’s love, he graciously bestows upon his family the CAPABILITY of acting like his children and living as heirs to eternal life. 
 
The Church goes on to define hope in this way, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire and expect from God both eternal life and the grace we need to attain it.”  This teaching is big and beautiful, please read it again and reflect on its meaning and truth.  Remember this teaching as the Word is revealed.
 
The Church also says, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 882, # 1817.  As the Word reveals, ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful,’  Hebrews 10:23, and ‘The Holy Spirit…he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and becomes heirs in hope of eternal life.’ Titus 3:6-7.  
 
Please read this again, everything that I will write about salvation and eternal life is based on God’s Word and what the Church reveals about “Hope,” God’s grace, God’s promises, and the power and authority of the Holy Spirit present in all believers who seek Jesus in Word and Sacrament. 
 
The salient truth is that the theological virtue of “Hope” is God’s personal gift of encouragement to all Christians so they can persevere in faith through times of suffering, trials, temptations, closed doors, betrayals, controversies in the Church, lost jobs, sickness, family divisions, lies, slanders, and everything else that tries to take us down and away from Jesus and his Church.  Throughout this reflection, when we speak of "perseverance," we will always mean "remaining in Jesus Christ" as the true Vine, and we his branches.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, whom dwells within us as Temple, we remain on the Vine. (John 15).
 
Notice the Churches emphasis on relying on God’s strength and not our own, on trusting in God’s promises with good reason, namely the reception of God the Holy Spirit.  Faith is united to “Hope” as the bible reveals, “Faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1.  Things that are “realized” are things that have occurred, they are present and experienced
 
St. Paul’s and now mine and your “realization,” our “evidence” of God’s power, presence, and promises, is the receiving of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul revealed to the Church in Corinth, “He has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as first installment.”  2 Corinthians 1:22.  For me, this is clear and unmistakable revelation, and what I have experienced as a Christian of metanoia.
 
Yes, God has chosen Paul of Tarsus, not only as his Apostle to the Gentiles, (Romans 11:13), but also as the Apostle of Hope, for in fact the Greek word translated as "To Hope," in the bible, elpizo, is rare in the Gospels, (Matthew 12:21; Luke 23:8; 24:21; and John 5:45).  You see Jesus was with the mathetes, Jesus was present, everything they could possibly "Hope" for was living with them.  But when Jesus was crucified, when he buried, and the mathetes went away sad, hiding in "Fear of the Jews," then the need for "Hope" in the Spirit, became absolutely essential for their walk of faith.
 
That is why, in the Pauline corpus, we find the word "Hope" used over 47 times, this is important.  St. Paul explained over and over again, that even though we as Christians do not see Jesus, even though we cannot touch Jesus, ride in a boat with Jesus, watch him perform miracles, as the Apostles did, Jesus is present to them, Jesus is alive, Jesus knows, heals, cares for, and loves them.  This is St. Pauls and the Churches absolute belief and the "Hope" that will never dissapoint them as mathetes, because of what Jesus has given to them, as mathetes, as he reveals to the Church in Rome,
 
"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-4.  Amen.
 
No Spirit: no inheritance, no spiritual family, no participation in God’s life as one of his children, “But you are not of the flesh; on the contrary you are in the Spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you, whoever does NOT have the Spirit of Christ does NOT belong to him,” and “for those who are led by the Spirit of God ARE children of God.”  Romans 8:9; 8:14.  Amen to the Blood, much more on this to follow.
 
All this is essentially important to what I believe is a correct understanding of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and how a Spirit filled believer, through faith, hope and love, participates in that salvation now as they journey to a world where their citizenship will be eternal and not temporary. 
 
The Church teaches that there are only three theological virtues and truth that “Hope” is one of them is not to be overlooked.  Jesus knew that the most blessed faith is the one that you and I have, a faith that is without seeing, as he pointed out to the Apostle Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.”  John 20:29.
 
Jesus knew and now the Church teaches that in order for a believer to be able to persevere in faith in times of suffering and persecution, to believe and not doubt, to trust without fear, we would need some HELP, and that help is above our nature, it is “supernatural,” a divine gift and presence from God which strengthens, encourages, empowers us a Christians to “finish the race,” and never doubt in the Word and promises of our Savior Jesus Christ.
 
This understanding of “Hope” is exactly what St. Paul’s lived and taught as evidenced by his letter to his good friend and colleague Titus, “Paul, a slave of God and an Apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth, in the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began.”  Titus 1: 1-2.  Amen to the Blood of his promise.
 
Again, as we just saw, St. Paul’s testified, taught, and experienced that God the Holy Spirit is not Someone a believer “Hopes” to know, to receive, to experience, to live with,  no, the Holy Spirit IS God’s first gift/first installment of his promise of eternal life and IS already received, lived with, and experienced in the power of the fruits and gifts of this very Spirit.  Galatians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans, as we just read.
 
Yes, the Holy Spirit is the “evidence” that all we as mathetes “Hope” for is true and that all who remain faithful to Jesus will know and experience what Jesus promises them on the last day, eternal life.  As mathetes, the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life should be your living spiritual reality. 
 
A Christian who in not a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” is a Christian of the lips and not of the heart, as I was for too many years, and their faith is not based on Jesus but on themselves, and this is not a faith at all because it lacks the surrender of the self, the “entrega,” the metanoia, and therefore is without the Spirit and authentic “Hope.”
 
Yes, after metanoia, believing and following Jesus and in the majesty of Word and Sacrament, we received the Holy Spirit, not as “Hope” but as a spiritual reality, as a “temple,” as an “heir.” I do not “Hope” I have received the Holy Spirit, I KNOW THIS, I LIVE THIS, AS DO AN UNTOLD NUMBER OF OTHER CHRISTIANS.  This “knowledge” of the Spirit is biblical as St. Paul said to the Galatians, “I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Holy Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?”  Galatians 3:2.  Please answer the Apostles question.
 
In the power and authority of the Holy Spirit although we have never seen Jesus Christ we know him, and because we believe in One God, and now as a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son also dwell within us and now as “new creations” we know his mercy, his presence in the Body and Blood, his forgiveness in Reconciliation, his love, he speaks to us personally in his Word, and all this is because, in metanoia, faith, and discipleship, through the majesty of his Church, we received and live with the Holy Spirit.
 
The Holy Spirit is the grace of eternal life.  The Holy Spirit is the evidence of things not seen, the Holy Spirit is the realization of things hoped for.  Do you see the point?  If a believer has been graced with the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, how is it possible not to answer “By the Blood of Jesus and the grace of God, yes I am,” when we as Catholics are asked by other Christians over and over again, “Are you saved?”  The Holy Spirit is realized eschatology.  More on realized eschatology and the Holy Spirit later.
 
St. Paul also unites faith with hope and reveals how we must endure to the end in order to see the things we hope for when he teaches this to the Catholics in Rome , “For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that sees for itself is not hopeFor who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”  Romans 8: 24-25.  This is big.  Dwell on it. 
 
For those wishing to do deeper into the Word and the Greek, an excellent source would be the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which has this to say about Romans 8:24, “Salvation may be future but it also extends to the present (1Cor. 15:2; 2 Cor. 6:2). Thus in Romans 8:24 the context is eschatological but the aorist shows that soteria has already come with the receiving of the Gospel.”  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, P. 1135.
 
Soteria is the Greek word translated in English as “salvation,” and as we can see here, one’s knowledge of the nuances of the Greek is extremely important in interpreting the Word because knowledge of the Greek helps us to understand the intent of the writer, namely that by using the Greek aorist tense, the author intended to say that salvation has already come.
 
I agree with these scholars, and simply would add to the scholar’s comments, “The aorist shows that soteria (salvation) has already come with the receiving of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit, through authentic faith in Jesus Christ.”  My personal experience, as I have shared with you before, is that for years my faith was not authentic, it was like the Pharisees, “of the lips.”
 
I received the Gospel in my worship of Jesus Christ on Sundays, but because I never had a metanoia, a surrender of my self to Jesus, placed no one and nothing above Jesus in my heart, and personally came to know him I never lived as a mathetes, a true disciple of Jesus. Yes, in all those years as a Catholic, I received Jesus' Gospel but not his Spirit, which in all actuality means I never received the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but only the Gospel of Joe.
 
All that has changed, now my expectation and faith, along with that of the Johannine community as we will see in the Gospel and letters, as well as those of St. Paul ’s as we have already seen, is that Jesus’ promises of eternal life to his disciples are true. The Word, the Spirit, and my Church teach me this truth.  The promises of Jesus have a great influence on my understanding of salvation. I believe in the promises of Jesus.  For me, the promises of Jesus are absolute, never changing, and something I can know, live, believe, and trust forever.
 
So “Hope” does not question God’s glory, greatness, and promises, no, “Hope” relies on and depends on God’s grace and mercy.  “Hope” is God’s supernatural gift, to all believers encouraging them to trust in his Word, the promises of Jesus and his Church.  We KNOW we are saved sinners, and we rely not on ourselves but on the gracious mercy, love, and gifts of God manifested in Word and Sacrament through the power of the Holy Spirit whom dwells within us and guides our Church.
 
Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, helps us to understand how “Hope” in eternal life, being saved, is something we can actually have knowledge of as he prophesied that his son was to prepare Israel’s hearts to receive Jesus Christ by giving them knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, this prophecy was realized in the person of Jesus Christ, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”  Luke 1:76-77.
 
An everyday example of how the theological virtue of “Hope” includes knowledge of the things we hope for without as yet seeing them would go something like this: my father knows I am a Laker fan and I would love to go see Kobe and the Lakers live and in person.  He also knows that I do not have the means to make this happen in and of myself, so he graciously buys me a ticket to a game.
 
But this is not just any ticket, this is a front row seat, I will be sitting right next to Jack Nicholson, the actor and great Laker fan.   So my father purchased the ticket, he gives it to me as a gift, I have the ticket in hand, it is against the despised Celtics and I cannot wait to see Kobe dominate.  Now what is the living reality?  Now I know I have a ticket to a place I really, really desire to go, I have the ticket in hand and know for certain that I want to go to the game, now my “Hope” is that nothing “prevents” me from going. 
 
What could prevent me from going to the game?  Only a million things.  All kinds of illnesses, traffic jams, my job, a wedding, weather, a lockout, an accident on the way to the game, etc.  So just because I have the ticket, just because my father paid the price, just because I have a seat reserved, just because I “want” to go, does not automatically mean that I will get to attend the game?
 
No, I have to “run the race,” I have to “persevere” to the end, the game day, in order to have all my hopes realized and actually “see” the game, but all along the way I am filled with joy, telling my friends, family, Church, and strangers “I’m going to the Laker game,”  “It will be awesome,”  “I can’t wait to finally see Kobe…..Jesus.”  I “Hope” this helped!!!
 
Do you see the point?  Myself, and untold millions of others Christians have the same thoughts about eternal life.  It is a great joy to know that Jesus bought my ticket to heaven, yes, through his Blood, death, and resurrection, Jesus paid the price, and bought me a ticket to eternal life, and today, as the Bible reveals and the Church teaches, Jesus is preparing a place for me to live, and I will get to “game day,” and live in the majestic home personally prepared for me by Jesus, as I persevere in faith, in works of love/mercy/forgiveness, through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.  John 14:2. 
 
It is a great joy to be sealed with and live in the power of the promised Holy Spirit which again, is the “first installment of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s possession.”  Ephesians 1:13-14.  Knowledge of the promises of Jesus and eternal life is great, great favor, a blessing, and anointing that allows those who do believe to walk in a spirit of constant praise and thanks, giving glory to the Father for such a priceless gift.  
 
This knowledge and belief in the promises of Jesus Christ along with his Spirit dwelling within us as “temple,” encourages and graces a mathetes to persevere to the end, to run the race and get to “game day,” with joy, peace, and enthusiasm. With this understanding of “Hope” we can begin to correctly interpret, in my exegesis of the Word, what St. Paul means when he tells his faithful that they must “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12, and that only those who “persevere in faith” will be saved, Colossians 1:22-23, and that “if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  Philippians 3:11. 
 
All this of course is true.  All mathetes (disciples) must work out their salvation with fear and trembling and persevere to the end in order that when they have “finished the race,” they will live in perfect and eternal happiness.  There are going to be countless roadblocks/temptations/personal weaknesses and sins that attempt to keep us from eternal life.  Yes, never forget you have an eternal spiritual enemy who once lived in heaven but now is eternally condemned and will never see the face of God again, NEVER.  He, satan, wants you to live that life, his life of eternal condemnation and hate, not Jesus’ life of eternal joy and happiness.
 
Going back to the old self, our old way of selfishness and mortal sin, is not persevering in faith, it is losing the spiritual battle and abandoning our love for Jesus which is a direct rejection of his kingdom and life and salvation.  God’s command of persevering to the end in faith is not something new in the bible, this was revealed by the Father to the prophets, “And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and live?  None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin, because of this he shall die.”  Ezekiel 18:24. Ouch!!
 
So clearly, without a doubt, the authentic Catholic doctrine is that a believer must stay the course, “finish the race” as St. Paul teaches.  However, along the way, as I run the race, I can have knowledge, I can know that when I finish the race, the “crown of life,” eternal life awaits me.  Revelation 2:10.  Jesus promised me that, and sent me his “first installment” of eternal life, the Holy Spirit, as proof that his promises of eternal life are true.  I do not doubt or question his promises; the only thing I question my own sinfulness and weakness and ask for the grace to continue to forgive, love, and show mercy and kindness, and BELIEVE, just as Jesus asks me to do.
 
With this understanding scripture, we can see that St. Paul is not saying that he does not know he is saved, this is an impossible interpretation based on everything else he reveals and teaches the Church in the rest of his letters.  No, what he is saying and what is 100 percent true is that he has not yet reached the end, he has not yet seen the Laker game, as a faithful disciple and Apostle he needs to continue to “run the race,’  “persevere in faith,” “finish the race,” and then he will be united with Jesus and live forever in his kingdom.
 
So salvation, being saved, eternal life, is not something that he does not believe in, something that he does not know and strives daily to attain, it is something that he knows he cannot see….yet, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better, yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for you benefit.”  Philippians 1:23-24.  Like all of us, he hopes that he can continue in his pursuit of this goal, eternal life, living in heaven, living with Jesus.
 
Why then even say “work out your salvation in fear and trembling?”  Why tell the Church they must “Persevere in faith?”  What can prevent his salvation?  Again, just like having a ticket to the Laker game, only a million things, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”  1 Cor. 6:9-10.
 
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outburst of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bout, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINDGOM OF GOD.”  Galatians 5:19-21.
 
And St. Paul ’s magnificent and transparent testimony of his struggles as a sinner, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”  Romans 7:20.  By reading the rest of the bible, and not basing our entire understanding of salvation on a limited number of Pauline scriptures, we see that St. Paul never questions Jesus’ faithfulness, Jesus’ love and mercy, Jesus’ promises, no, St. Paul, as we all should, questions his personal spiritual capabilities and capacity to remain faithful and finish the race.  He knows he is saved, what he prays for and asks for the mercy and grace of God for, is to remain faithful, day in and day out, until the last day, until the end when he will have a front row seat with St. Peter.
 
Let us now take a look at some other verses in the bible, where St. Paul reveals that he does know that he and all who believe in and follow Jesus are saved and that he does believe that he will be able to remain faithful to Jesus, not through his own personal power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus bestows upon all who repent/metanoia, believe, and follow him.
 
We begin with one of the clearest and most obvious biblical accounts of St. Paul ’s knowledge of salvation and his belief that through God’s grace he indeed will stay faithful and enter God’s kingdom as an Apostle and mathetes.  “For I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.”  2 Timothy 4: 6-8.
 
The “crown of righteousness” is a metaphor for being saved/eternal life, see also Revelation 2:10; 3:11 . Had he finished the race?  Obviously not, he is still alive, writing the letter, as he says “will award to me on that day.”  So St. Paul believes that he IS saved, he trusts in Jesus’ promise to prepare a place for him and “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and again and take you to myself, so that WHERE I AM YOU ALSO MAY BE.”  John 14:3.  Believe this promise.
 
Let us now take a look at what some biblical scholars call the “undisputed Pauline corpus,” meaning letters that they believe St. Paul personally wrote or dictated:  Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  For those who know and study such things, please do not use the argument that because 1&2 Timothy are not accounted as authentic Pauline letters by some biblical scholars, what is revealed has less truth or biblical authority.
 
As a Church we believe in a “hierarchy of truths,” Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, p. 462.  FYI the Church teaches that the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of truths is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  So if it is true that St. Paul did not personally write this letter, the higher truth is that whomever wrote it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore the Word revealed is God’s revelation not man’s and therefore just as inspired and necessary for authentic Truth and salvation as the rest of God’s Sacred Scriptures.
 
 
ROMANS
 
In his letter to the Church in Rome, St. Paul teaches something that we will see is an absolute truth in the Johannine community, namely that those who believe in the Gospel, God’s Word, Jesus Christ, will be saved, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel.  It is the power of God, for the salvation of everyone who believes.”  Romans 1:16.
 
Sadly, there are still too many Christians who accuse Catholics of believing that we are “saved by our works.”  This is completely false and contradicted by the Word of God and the constant teaching of the Church, as we have already seen. It is also a centuries old tactic of the enemy which he uses to divide us as Christians from  Neither the Catholic Church nor St. Paul believes, anyone can be saved by their works, (Ephesians 2:8: Catechism # 169, 620).
 
However, and this is essentially important to understanding a life of grace, a life in the Spirit, and salvation, St. Paul did believe that our actions, our works/deeds,  how we love or hate, forgive or show mercy, will be judged by Jesus Christ, Matthew 25: 31-46, that they do reflect a life in the Spirit, which means salvation Galatians 5:22, or a life with the enemy, which means eternal destruction Galatians 5:19.
 
This truth is revealed in the Word of God, “By your stubborn and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.” Romans 2:5-8. 
Please also read Ephesians 2:10, where St. Paul continues his revelation about the importance of a believer’s works by saying they we are “created in Christ Jesus, FOR the good works that GOD HAS PREPARED IN ADVANCE.”
 
In his parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus himself reveals that the enemy has his own children too, and those who follow him do his works, yes those who choose to live with hearts of hate, greed, slander, selfishness etc. are children of the enemy and their eternal destruction will be revealed on the day of “harvest,” “The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is satan.”  Matthew 13:36-43.
 
In chapter five of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul begins to explain how the grace of Jesus’ life, Blood, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit is a grace far greater than the sin of Adam, a grace that MORE than restored humanity to right relationship with God.  The result of this grace is eternal life for those who unite themselves to Jesus in faith, “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”  Romans 6:5. 
 
St. Paul speaks of Baptism as death, death to the old self, and rising to a new life through faith in Jesus, this is what he means here when he says we have “grown into union with him through a death like his.  The Holy Spirit is the union and new life we as Christians live in when we die to ourselves and live only for Jesus, his plan, his purpose, not ours.
 
At the end of chapter six, St. Paul reveals that before the Romans came to know Jesus, have faith in Jesus and receive his Spirit, they were literally slaves to sin.  I can personally testify to the truth of this revelation, before metanoia, faith, and a life in the Spirit, I was a slave to alcohol, using women for my sexual pleasure, greed, and just overall selfishness.  Reflect on your own life before you came to know the love and mercy of Jesus, before you surrendered your life to him and received his Spirit, what were your gods?  What had you enslaved? 
 
With all candor St. Paul asks the Church in Roman “What profit did you get from the things that you are now ashamed?”  Romans 6:21. Great question, and the answer is zero, nada, no profit.  He knew the answer and goes on to tell the Church what the profit is now for those who are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness, slaves of God, “But now you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and it’s END IS ETERNAL LIFE .”  Amen to the Blood.
 
In Romans 8, St. Paul begins to explain the role of the Holy Spirit in the life a believer, how the Spirit will give “life to our mortal bodies,” how the Holy Spirit leads us away from a life in the flesh, meaning living with and attracted to the things of the world: possessions, hate, revenge, lust, violence, jealousy, etc.  The consequences for those who refuse to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and continue to live in the flesh leads to eternal death, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put death the deeds of the body you will live.”  Romans 8:13.
 
When the Apostle says “you will die” he is not speaking of natural death for everyone will experience that, no, “you will die,” means they are not saved, they will not enter the kingdom of God, they WILL experience the second death as revealed in the Book of Revelation. See Rev. 2:11  At the same time “You will live,” does not mean that they will never die, no, everyone will experience death, what St. Paul means is that at death they will “live forever” in the kingdom of God.
 
In chapter nine, St. Paul again reveals the importance of believing in Jesus and confessing that belief, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For the one who believes with the heart and as so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” Romans 10: 9-10.
 
 
FIRST CORINTHIANS
 
 
In his first letter to the Church in Corinth St. Paul rejoices in the truth that they as “Church” have been “enriched in every way,” so as not to be “lacking in any spiritual gift,” as they await the revelation the second coming of Jesus Christ and his firm belief is that Jesus will keep them in grace to the end, “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of the Lord Jesus.”  1 Cor. 1:8.
 
This is good news.  The Word of God reveals that Jesus bestows upon his family, his Church, his children, the fruits and gifts of the Spirit.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in a believers life, 1 Cor. 6:19, as we have seen, authenticates God’s promises of eternal life, the Holy Spirit also is God’s power, encouragement, authority over evil.
 
The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our personal lives, God’s: mercy, forgiveness, and love.  The Holy Spirit teaches us everything that Jesus said and did, John 14:26.  The Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus Christ in every believer, encouraging and strengthening us, so as to persevere in faith, run the race, stay the course until the end.
 
The day of the Lord Jesus means either Jesus’ second coming sometimes referred to as the Parousia, or the day we die, which the Church calls the “Particular Judgment.”  To know more about this subject, look up #1021-1022 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
 
The Church in Corinth was going through a difficult time and was being divided by the enemy along lines of human power and authority.  Some were saying “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas.”  St. Paul tells them they are being foolish and asks them the perfect question, “Was Paul crucified for you?”  Uh…no.
 
He then demands that they stay focused on Jesus, (JFJA) focused on the cross, and reminds them that faith in the cross is the power of all who are being saved, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Cor. 1:18.  Again, we see that salvation is a process, a daily process, a process which we can know what the outcome will be if we remain in grace, in the Spirit and faithful to the end. 
 
As we open the Word as to what St. Paul next teaches about salvation I want you to remember that he was not writing to the pagans in Corinth but to the Christians in Corinth , those who had been baptized and confessed a faith in Jesus Christ that was Katholikos (Catholic) meaning “universal” in the Greek.  The first Catholic to actually use the word Katholikos, was a bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch , whom we will read more of later in this reflection.
 
This point is important because what happened was that one of the Church members in Corinth ,  lost his faith, he went back to his old way of life and was living a sin that St. Paul said was an “immorality of a kind not found even among the pagans.”  1 Cor. 5:1.  What was the Christian man doing?  He was living with, meaning fornicating with his father’s wife!!  Ouch.  Get him to Las Vegas , he’ll be right at home.
 
All he virtue was gone, no grace, he lost the protection of the Blood, in his lust and selfishness he publically rejected Jesus’ invitation to salvation and therefore he was no longer a temple of the Holy Spirit, yes, in this mortal sin he rejected his own salvation.  So now what?  What should the Christian community in Corinth do with such a person?  St. Paul tells them exactly what he wants them to do, “You are to deliver this man to satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” 1 Cor. 5:5.  Double ouch!!  Give him back to satan?  Where is the love?
 
From Origin to Bultmann there have been many interpretations of this verse.  My thoughts are that to be “delivered over to satan for the destruction of his flesh,” means that God has taken his favor, his blessing, his Spirit from this person and the community is now to do the same.  They are not to eat, work, or fellowship with him in any way (see 1 Cor. 5:11). 
 
Why?   First of all, if the person refuses to stop what they are doing and repent of their sins, then the contamination must be removed or it will spread.  This truth will be obvious to all who work in the Church and have seen divisions and closing of ministries because within the ministry itself, there we some contaminated with the sins of slander, arrogance, fornication, and adultery. See 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13.
 
The second reason is that when the contaminated person is removed from the community, he will be submerged in and subject himself to a life of filth and excess in the “Hope” that he would eventually hit “rock bottom” and at some point before the “Day of the Lord,” come back to his senses and repent of his sinful life.  As we already have seen in chapter six, St. Paul has a list that is not all inclusive but lists some of the sins which would keep a person from salvation and eternal life.  1 Cor. 6:9.
 
The earliest account of the Last Supper/Eucharist is found, not in the Gospels, but in St. Paul ’s first letter to the Corinthians which scholars believe was written around the year 54 AD, some sixteen years before the writing of the first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  In chapter eleven of his letter St. Paul reveals the power of the Body and Blood and Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist, by revealing the consequences to all believer who receive this Sacrament unworthily.
 
“Therefore whoever eat the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.”  1 Cor. 11:27.  “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”  1 Cor. 11:29.
This is important.  This is big.  As Catholics who believe that when we receive the Eucharist we are literally receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. 
 
Yes, as Catholics we are taught as children that the Eucharist must be received in awe, purity, and confession, and never unworthily, and that is why at every Mass before the bible is proclaimed and the Eucharist is received we publically confess our sins, “I confess to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned…”
 
Along with the Most Holy Trinity, another fundamental and essential truth of the Catholic Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Some believers in the Corinth Church were questioning the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead to new life.  St. Paul would have none this.  He said if the dead are not raised then Jesus was not raised and if Jesus was not raised from the dead then, “Your faith is in vain; you are still dead in your sins.”  1 Cor. 15:17.  Ouch!!
 
The Apostle point is this: if a believer does not rise from the dead how can they share in eternal life?  St. Paul goes on in chapter fifteen to explain how a body is raised from the dead (please read all of chapter fifteen) and thereby reveals his belief about what will happen to those who believe and remain faithful to the end, “The first man, Adam, became a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit….Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, WE SHALL ALSO BEAR THE IMAGE OF THE HEAVENLY ONE .”  1 Cor. 15: 45-49. Amen to the Blood.
 
 
SECOND CORINTHIANS
 
Today and throughout the centuries, popes, bishops, priests, and lay ministry leaders have known that praying for and suffering on behalf of those they minister too is one of the most important aspects of their leadership.  St. Paul as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the founder and leader of so many Christian communities, in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, reveals something powerful and specific about the importance of the leaders personal suffering on behalf of the community,  “For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation.” 2 Cor. 1:5-6.
 
And to the Colossians, on this same subject, St. Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.”  Colossians 1:24.  Only St. Paul could have written that something was lacking in Jesus’ sufferings and have it become Sacred Scripture!  But his point is clear and the point is that praying and suffering for others is efficacious and leads to the encouragement and salvation of souls.  Amen.
 
Wow!!  How powerful is it for our Priests, Bishops, and Pope, to know that as they unite their sufferings to the sufferings of their Savior Jesus Christ for those they teach and shepherd, their afflictions/sufferings are not only used by God for the encouragement of the flock but also for their salvation.  This is big.  This is what our majestic Catholic Church calls suffering “vicariously,” suffering on behalf of others, something that our Priests, Bishops, and Popes have been doing for you and I personally and for others for 2,000 years. 
 
But the majesty of this revelation of “suffering vicariously” is brought to its full meaning in the teaching of the Magisterium.  A teaching that Jesus gave the Church, whom guided by the Holy Spirit, sanctifies her sheep by revealing the Truth of God’s Word to her faithful.  And here is the majesty of the Churches teaching for you and I, namely that through faith in Jesus Christ, in our Baptism into his life, Spirit, and Church, we are all priests, prophets, and kings.  Amen to the Blood.
 
This is her exact language:  “The faithful, who by Baptism, are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made shares in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.”  Catechism # 897.
 
What this means is that you abueltia, whose oldest son is addicted to alcohol and unable to care for his children, and so you have taken the responsibility of clothing, feeding, sheltering, and loving them, even though you live alone with a small pension and limited help and resources, in your love, sacrifices, and suffering, you can unite your trials and pains to those of Jesus Christ as a living and constant prayer for the salvation of your children and grandchildren. Amen.
 
What this means is you as a teenager, in times of loneliness, can unite your loneliness to the sufferings of Jesus Christ for the salvation of your mom, dad, brother, sister, or friends who you see are away from a life of grace, a life in the Spirit, away from Jesus, and serving the false gods of alcohol, money, sex, violence, and hatred.  Yes, offering your suffering your loneliness to Jesus on behalf of others is one of the most powerful and efficacious prayers any Christian can offer to Jesus. 
 
Know this, believe this, practice this, and share this because there will always be suffering in our lives, and when we unite our sufferings to those of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul did and taught we are turning what the enemy tries to use for evil into a tremendous blessing for others, just as Joseph believed of his betrayal and suffering at the hands of his brothers, “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20.  This is real.  Our rejoicing and praise of Jesus Christ, even and especially in suffering and trials, makes satan crazy, and manifests our life as mathetes in the Spirit.
 
So right now as you read this, begin to name the ways you are suffering:  in a hospital, in prison, trapped in fear, seemingly constantly angry, abandoned by friends, slandered by co-workers, depression, sexual addictions, family addictions, family divisions, family violence, personal or familial financial troubles, there are too many trials and sufferings to name, I do not know what yours are, only you and God do.
 
Now, in the holy name of Jesus Christ and in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, say these words, the words of St. Paul and now Sacred Scripture, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake (name those you are interceding for) and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on the behalf of his body, the Church.”  Amen to the Blood.  You should be smiling, the Spirit is present, God is here, you have just prayed one of the most powerful prayers in the world, a prayer for the healing and salvation of others.
 
In chapter three, St. Paul begins to reveal to the Corinthians that he and those with him are ministers of a “New Covenant,” not based on letter but on Spirit, “For the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.”  2 Cor. 3:6.  This understanding of a New Covenant based on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon all those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, gives St. Paul the confidence to know and preach what he believes is their living spiritual reality, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18.  Beautiful.
 
This is a reflection of what he previously taught the Church about the resurrection from the dead in his first letter, “Behold I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed. In an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed….therefore my brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  1 Cor. 15: 51,52,58.
 
What these verses point to is a person, a mathetes and Apostle who knows what is going to happen when he and those who follow Jesus Christ die, “All of us,” means that he knows, he believes that when they die, the will rise to new life, they will be changed, transformed, into the image of Jesus Christ.  Amen to his Blood.  This interpretation is supported by what he teaches the Church in chapter five:
 
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”  2 Cor. 5:1. See also John 14:2.  St. Paul proves his point to the Church by again invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life and their lives as a witness to the Truth, “Now the one who has prepared for us this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment.” 2 Corinthians 5:5.  St. Paul uses “tent’ as a metaphor for the human body, this metaphor would have come quite naturally to him since he was a tentmaker by trade.  Acts 18: 1-3.
 
Armed with this knowledge the Apostle now tells the Church they should be courageous even though they are not yet home, “So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”  2 Corinthians 5: 6-8.
 
St. Paul taught and believed that he and anyone else who believed and followed Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, at death, would not have to build or buy or find another place to live, no, Jesus has promised to all those who believe and follow him that when they die there will be another place, a new place for them to live, and that he personally will have built that place for them to stay, to live, in his kingdom, “A dwelling not made of human hands, eternal in heaven.”   Again 2 Corinthians 5:1.  John 14:2-3.
 
Yes, the place where they will be staying is a home they never have to leave again, a home that is nothing like the home they lived in on earth because this new home is “not of human origin,” “not made of human hands.”  In their new home there is no rent, no mortgage, no foreclosures, no bills to pay, no power outages, no worries about earthquakes or fire or floods, because when they die they will rise to NEW life and they will be living in the same neighborhood as the saints and angels, namely in the eternal, the never ending happiness of heaven.  Amen to the Blood.
 
This why I think about heaven everyday and in fact many times a day, because I have never heard of such an awesome place to live anywhere on earth and I have a great, great desire to gaze upon and live in the dwelling that Jesus is building for me right now as I live in and with his Spirit.  I do not doubt his Word, his mercy, his love, or promises, I only ask and pray for his grace, his favor, in the Spirit, to strengthen, guide, and protect me as I daily continue my pilgrimage to the home where my faith in his Blood and resurrection has already made me a citizen, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 3:20.
 
 
GALATIANS, EPHESIANS, PHILIPPIANS
 
The Apostle knew, just as Jesus knew (Matthew 24:11) that when he was no longer present in the community to guide and defend it, many false prophets would come behind him and try to destroy the truth of the Gospel and this is exactly what had happened in the Church in Galatia, “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel, not that there is another one.”  Galatians 1:6.
 
St. Paul ’s message is clear, there is no other Gospel, there is no other means of salvation other than through metanoia, faith, and following Jesus Christ.  If they forsake Jesus they will go back to a life in the “flesh,” meaning a life without his Spirit, a life which St. Paul believes is obvious to all who care to listen and see, “For the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” 
 
The consequences, the eternal outcome of a life in the flesh a life without the Holy Spirit are horrendous, to be avoided at ALL costs, “I warned you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God .”  Ouch.  Galatians 5: 19-21.
 
On the other hand, and this should be your living spiritual reality, a life with the Holy Spirit, a life in the Father’s Vineyard, is also obvious, but completely the opposite of a life in the flesh, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22. 
 
St. Paul then continues to reveal to the Galatians the eternal differences between the two chosen ways of life, eternal punishment or eternal life, “The one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but the one who sows for the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”  Galatians 6:8.  Amen to the Blood, the St. Paul and not the Word of God teaches that a life in the Spirit on earth leads to a life with Jesus eternally in heaven.  Go for it.
 
EPHESIANS
 
In chapter one we find one of the most encouraging revelations of salvation in the bible: “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”  Ephesisans 1: 13-14.  See also 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5.
 
The beauty is that there is no ambiguity here.  St. Paul’s teaching, the revelation of the Word, is that because they believed in Jesus Christ, and of course repented, followed his gospel, and were Baptized, they received the Holy Spirit as a proof of the truth of his promises of their inheritance as family members into God’s kingdom, eternal life.
 
The Greek word translated as “installment” is an interesting one and sheds more light on the revelation of the Word in the Greek.  The word is arrabon and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament describes it in this way: “arrabon is a commercial loanword from the Semitic signifying “pledge” or “deposit.”  Paul uses it in 2 Cor. 1:22 and Ephesisans 1:14 for the Spirit who is for us the guarantee of full future possession of salvation.”  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, P. 80.
 
So the Apostle is saying that just like in the everyday business of trading and bartering where buyers and sellers agree on what amount should be given as a “deposit,” “pledge,” “first installment,” for the goods which they want to possess now but fully pay for later, the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge/deposit/first installment to the believer as a knowable and visible sign that in their receiving of the Holy Spirit they ARE his possession and therefore heirs to his kingdom.  Yes, God’s Spirit, present in Christians who repent, believe and follow Jesus, is God’s pledge that all his promises are true, and they will one day be living in the eternal home Jesus has prepared for them.   See also Philippians 3:12.
 
This is majestic and even more so when we combine this knowledge of the Semetic meaning of arrabon with the powerful/dynamic/biblically explosive word which St. Paul ’s uses to describe the spiritual reality in which he and now they as believers in Jesus Christ live, namely the word SEALED. 
 
In biblical terms when one is “sealed” the one doing the sealing, in this case God, is sealing the believer, and what this indicates is God saying, “This person belongs to me,they are now God’s possession. So what we want to know about being sealed are three important factors that weigh heavily on our personal lives as Christians, namely that being sealed by God as his possession signifies: “Ownership, authentication, and security.”  Murray J. Harris, “The Second Epistle to the Corinthians,” New International Greek Commentary, P.207.
 
All three are important but ownership is first and foremost because what St. Paul is saying is that when God seals us as believers with the Holy Spirit, WE ARE HIS, and no one will take us from him, we can only stop being his if we choose to do so but no one can take us from him because God is God, omnipotent, and he has sealed us.
 
So the fact that no one can take us from God’s hands also now means that we are: “protected” by the Blood, we lose our selfishness and attraction to the flesh and world, “I live, no longer I but Christ lives in me,” Galatians 2:20, and now we live a life endowed with the fruits and gifts of the Spirit and no longer the death bearing mark and gifts of the enemy,  “The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the Spirit is life,” “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him,” “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  Romans 8: 6, 9, 11.
 
The second identifying factor of being “sealed” by God in the power of the Holy Spirit is “authentication.”  What this means in a commercial business sense is that by putting his seal on the product he is selling, the owner of the goods is telling everyone especially the buyer, that what he representing the goods to be, they are
 
So the seal is the owner’s pledge/guarantee of authenticity and now God, by sealing us with the Holy Spirit is doing and saying the same thing.  Yes, being sealed by and the receiving of the Holy Spirit is God, through his Church, telling our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the entire world that we are his mathetes, his family, we are disciples of the heart and no longer the lips, that we are what we profess to be, we are not double minded, two faced, what we do in private is no longer different that what we do in public, and as such we will inherit eternal life.
 
For us as Sowers and for all Christians, this is extremely important because now we know that we are God’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20: Eph. 6:20) his witnesses (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8;) to the world and if we are known as “Christians” and come across to our families/at work/in the ministry/ to the world as: arrogant, selfish, bigoted, greedy, vengeful, and liars, then this reflects deeply not only on us as individuals but also on our Catholic faith.
 
Can you see here the importance of this truth?  Your lived experience as a Christian should be that you have seen or personally know how painful it is when the words/deeds of a professed Christian are one hundred percent the opposite of what the Word and their faith professes and teaches.   Yes, there have been times when an ambassador/witness of our faith lives a double life, without honesty or integrity and the scandal of their words or actions touches not only their personal lives but also that of their family, community, ministry, and Church. 
 
This is why we teach at ESNE and the Sower the absolute importance of living a life that reflects and preserves in: Prayer, Word, Sacrament, and Service.  This is the daily life of a true mathetes, a life in the Father’s vineyard with the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live a life of authenticity as Christians in the Catholic faith.  Each one is essential to a life in the Spirit, persevering to the end, and rising to new and eternal life as citizens of heaven.
 
The third part of what it means to be “sealed” by God with the pledge/guarantee/first installment towards redemption as his possession and eternal life is that of “security.”  “Security,” reflects the idea we have already spoken of, namely, that of “possession.”  When God seals us he is telling the flesh/world/darkness and especially satan, “he/she” is mine, hands off.
 
As we read in the reflection on “suffering” and “When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials,” from the Book of Sirach, my experience is that when God tells the enemy “hands off” he does not listen to God but increases his attacks and changes tactics to get that person back into his realm.
 
Jesus is God, Jesus knows these things, so when we say that God is saying “hands off” to the enemy we are not saying that in the literal English meaning but in a spiritual way.  As we read in the reflection on the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, the way that Jesus says “hands off” to the enemy is by endowing you and I with the fruits of love, patience, humility, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) and gifts of preaching, teaching, tongues, interpretation of tongues and discernment of the spirits, (1 Cor. 12).
 
These are our weapons in the daily battle against selfishness, the world, the flesh, darkness, and the enemy.  God the Father knows the enemy will only be totally vanquished in the second coming of his Son, in the Parousia, until then the enemy will still be present in the world and in our lives.
 
Again, for those who have not read the earlier reflections, to answer your question as to why if the Word teaches that Jesus defeated satan on the cross through his Blood, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit, why is satan, our spiritual enemy still present in our lives and still able to attack the world in general and especially us personally as mathetes?   The answer is because I am still here and I am a sinner, and wherever sin and sinners are present so is the enemy.
 
We will be talking in depth and explaining the meaning of “realized eschatology,” soon, but as we are breaking open God’s Word in Ephesians I want to give you an example of what it is and its meaning through St. Paul ’s epistles.  Realized eschatology, means that because we do live with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is God, and God’s kingdom is heaven, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we do not have wait until the eschaton (the Greek word for the last things), the end, the Parousia, or death, to experience some of the spiritual realities we will fully experience in God’s kingdom, in eternal life.
 
So a biblical example of realized eschatology would be this from St. Paul to the Church in Ephesus: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2: 5-7.
 
So not because of our works or our power or talent or anything we can humanly do, but only because of faith, because of God’s mercy, God’s “great love for us,” God’s grace, are we today right now in the Spirit, “seated with him in heaven.”  This is an example of realized eschatology, which as we shall see, is an absolute belief of the Johannine community. 
 
A perfect example being that John’s community saw the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Eucharist as a participation in the eschaton, in eternal life, here on earth, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”  John 6: 54.  Amen to the Blood, the Church, the Eucharist.  Much more on John soon.
 
St. Paul continues to encourage the Ephesians with this Word, “For through him (Jesus) we both have access in the one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.”  Ephesians 2: 18-19. 
 
As he did to the Church in Corinth and Galatia , St. Paul warns the Ephesisans to stay the course, “do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.  The thief must no longer steal…no foul language should come out of your mouths… all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”  Ephesisans 4: 26-31.
 
Why the constant warning?  Why does St. Paul repeat the same warnings over and over again to every Christian community?  Because remember what we said initially, salvation is an invitation, it can be lost through our own personal choices to turn away from Jesus, reject his salvation through mortal sin, as the Word reveals, “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  Ouch!!  Ephesians 5:5. 
 
 
 
 
 
PHILIPPIANS
 
 
There is one verse in St. Paul ’s letter to the Philippians that has always struck a chord, a high note in my heart and spirit, even to the point where I use it as my email address, and that is Philippians 1:21, “For to me life is Christ and death is gain.”  Magnificent. In this one concise verse I find a treasure of ecclesiology, soteriology, Mariology, theology, hope, preaching, dogma, eternal life, witness, and much more. 
 
What this Word reveals to me is that everything St. Paul teaches about Jesus, the Gospel, resurrection, the Holy Spirit, God’s promises, the Church, and eternal life are true, he believes them. Yes, he believes what he preaches, to the point where he is willing to go to prison, be whipped, beaten, stoned to death, shipwrecked, slandered, and even put to death for his belief that in the Spirit that dwells within him, that his life is with Christ, and because his life is with Christ, he is sealed by the Spirit as God’s personal possession and now his personal death can only mean one thing: GAIN.  How many can say this today with conviction?, “Death is gain.”
 
“Gain,” can only mean one thing.  At death, things get better not worse, way better!!  Not knowing where one is going after death could never be thought of as “gain.” Eternal fire would not be gain.  The Apostle knew what one was coming, as he reveals in the next verses, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.  Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.”  Philippians 1:23-24.  This is beautiful. 
 
Although he still lives in “Hope,” as we all do, “It is not that I have already taken hold of it, or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:12, (remember arrabon and being sealed by the Spirit as God’s personal possession).
 
St. Paul knows where he is going, he knows that life with Christ on earth is a blessing and means a life of peace of mind and heart, however he knows that eternal life will be infinitely better, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”  1 Corinthians 2: 9-10.  Amen. 
 
And yet he is willing, as an authentic mathetes, to remain on earth for the sake of the salvation of others.  That is an authentic witness to what it means to be mathetes, like John Paul II and Mother Teresa, in the name of Jesus, abandoning the “self” for the sake and salvation of others.
 
 
 
 
COLOSSIANS
 
 
St. Paul begins this epistle by addressing the Church as “The holy ones in Christ,” and when St. Paul uses the term “holy ones,” he is not talking about the saints in Jerusalem or in heaven as he does at other times, no, in this verse St. Paul is talking about them, as he says, those now living “In Colossae.”  Colossians 1:1.
 
Yes, St. Paul addresses the Church as “holy,” and Christ calls them and us personally to holiness.  Holiness is their call as mathetes, as he also points out in his address to the Church in Rome and Corinth , “To all the beloved of God in Rome , called to be holy.”  Romans 1:7.  “To you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus.  1 Cor. 1:2.
 
Yes, a believers call is to holiness and in that call and transformation of mind and heart, they receive the Holy Spirit which transfers them/us from the realm of darkness to Light. In faith, Spirit, and Sacrament, we are sanctified, we become the “holy ones,” whom, in St. Paul ’s soteriology will judge, along with Jesus of course, the world and the angels, “Do you know that the holy ones will judge the world?  If the world is to be judged by you are you unqualified for the lowest court?”  Do you not know that you will judge the angels?”  1 Cor. 6:2-3.
 
In the next verse to the Colossians, St. Paul gives thanks to God for their, the Churches, faith in Jesus Christ and the consequences of this faith which again is based on “Hope,” “For we have heard of your faith in Jesus Christ and the love you have for the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.”  Col. 1:4.   Interesting, their hope is reserved in heaven.
 
Now the reason for this “Hope” is not from them, from St. Paul, or from their good works, it is because of Jesus’ mercy and love, yes, Jesus, on the cross shed his Blood and died for our sins, he rose from the dead and sent us the Holy Spirit, “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of our sins.”  Col. 1:13.  The transfer is something that has already happened, it will be perfected in the kingdom of heaven but the presence of the Holy Spirit means the transfer is being lived now by those who live with and possess the Spirit.
 
This is another example of what is soon to follow, our discussion on realized eschatology.  So the Apostle is saying to the Church that their “love in the Spirit,” their good work and bearing fruit, their growing in the “knowledge of God,” their “endurance, patience, and joy,” Col. 1: 8, 10, 11; is a result of their faith in Jesus Christ in whom they already share a victory over darkness and in that victory, as his family, they and now you and I, have been transferred by the Father to the kingdom of his Son.”  Powerful, beautiful, realized.
 
In the very next pericope, St. Paul reveals to the Church, the end result of their faith, namely that they will be presented “holy” before God, but as we have consistently seen, throughout every letter, there is one caveat, to be presented “holy” before God they
MUST persevere to the end, “And you who were once alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, to present you holy, without blemish, irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith.”  Colossians 1:21-23.  Amen to the Blood.
 
In chapter two, the Apostle reveals to the Church these remarkable and encouraging words about what will happen to them, those who have been baptized, “you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God.” Col. 2:12.  The Baptized are those who have “died with Christ,’ and now through their Catholic faith, in prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service, they are told the eternal ramifications of their faith and Baptism, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then YOU TO WILL APPEAR WITH HIM IN GLORY.”  Col. 3:4. 
 
St. Paul continues to encourage the Colossians to live a life in the Spirit, away from the flesh, as a means of persevering in faith, “But now you must put them all away: anger fury, malice, slander…stop lying to one another since you have taken off the old self…Put on then as God’s chosen ones holy and beloved: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” Col. 3: 8-12,
 
What a believer “Puts on,” is Jesus Christ, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the flesh.”  Romans 13:14. Take Jesus off and we are spiritually naked and powerless.  “Puts Jesus on,” and we are powerful and victorious, which means that in the end, at the Parousia or their personal death, they/we will appear with Jesus in glory.
 
 
FIRST THESSALONIANS
 
Let us continue with one of if not thee earliest known Christian writings, St. Paul ’s first epistle to the Church in Thessalonica, written in roughly 50 A.D.  Because of the epistles early dating we can now look back to Romans, first and second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and ask the question, “Did St. Paul believe, know, trust, in Jesus’ promises of salvation from the beginning of his walk in the Father’s vineyard, or was it something that was revealed to him at a later date in his walk of faith?”
 
As we shall see, the answer is a resounding YES, St. Paul from the beginning, taught by a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12) knew, lived, believed, and preached that all those who “persevere to the end,” those who “remain faithful,” can know, by the Holy Spirit that dwells within them through faith in Jesus Christ, that their citizenship is in heaven, that in Baptism their sins were washed away, that they became a new creation in Christ, that they now walk in Light and not darkness, righteousness and not deceit, they are justified by the Blood of Jesus and will be called by God into his kingdom.
In chapter one of his first letter St. Paul reminds the Church how he carried himself amongst them, “exhortation…not seeking human praise…in gentleness…as a father treats his children,” and then he says something we have seen throughout his epistles, “Exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”  1 Thess. 2:12.
 
This again is our call as Christians, to live a life here on earth that is worthy of the call and promises of God call to live with him in his “kingdom and glory,” which means salvation, eternal life.  The Apostle got the call on the way to Damascus , “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  I replied, ‘Who are you sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” Acts 22:7-8.  Ever since that personal encounter with Jesus, his life was never the same, just like billions of Christians throughout the centuries.
 
In his epistle, St. Paul continues to encourage the Church to holiness, “This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality…for God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.”  1 Thess. 4:3-7.  He also begins to answer the Church’s questions about the resurrection of the dead, specifically those who have already “fallen asleep.”
 
Remember, this is one of the earliest Christian witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the subsequent resurrection of those who believe in and follow him, so what follows is foundational for the Church, it will be her faith, hope, and teaching to all future generations.  In the power of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul had to get it right, (The guidance of the Spirit and the Churches canonization of this letter assures us of this) he had to be teaching the Truth revealed by the Spirit to the Apostles and mathetes of the early Church.  What follows no longer his teaching to the Thessalonians but the very Word of God to you and I and the entire world:
 
4:13   “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” 
 
“Fallen asleep” is a euphemism for death and “unaware” is the translation of the Greek word agnoeo which can also be translated “ignorant,” “foolish,” or even as harsh as “stupid,” as in Galatians 3:1.  Timothy had been sent by St. Paul to Thessalonica, 1 Thess. 3:1, and came back with questions from the Church about the resurrection of the dead, questions it seems he himself could not answer, and so now the Apostle is writing the Church to “Strengthen and encourage their faith,” 1 Thess. 3:2, and this is the revelation, the Word, on the dogma of the resurrection of the dead:
 
4:14   “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have indeed fallen asleep.”
 
Perfect.  Beautiful.  Powerful.  Unchanging. Encouraging. Filled with Hope.  Filled with knowledge.  Some biblical scholars believe that St. Paul in saying “we believe” is quoting a part of an early Christian creed, whether this is true or not, what the Apostle is saying to the Church is: “What are you worried about?”  “Do you not believe what you were taught?”  Do you not believe that Jesus, your Savior, your Lord, is risen from the dead?” 
 
Yes.  Well then if Jesus is risen from the dead then those who have died in faith, in grace, in and with his Spirit, God will bring them to himself. Chill.  Believe. Trust. Hope. Know in the Spirit you have received this is the Truth, as he continues to teach:
 
4:15   “Indeed we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
 
Notice how the Apostle teaches that this is not his word, but the “Word of the Lord.”  He puts an emphasis on God’s Word as a power, a Truth, a promise, they can believe and trust in so as to encourage them not to despair, not to doubt, not to listen to other gospels being professed by false Christian prophets, “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have deviated from the truth by saying that the resurrection from the dead has already taken place and are upsetting the faith of some.”  2 Tim. 2: 18 ; for more on the teaching of a false gospel and false doctrine please read Galatians 1:6-7; 1Tim. 1:3; 2 Cor. 11:4.
 
4:16  “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
 
As the Sowers know, from our bible studies and preaching on the Book of Revelation, the Apostle here is using a special type of literature called “apocalyptic,” which was also used by many of the prophets, especially Ezekiel and Daniel as a means of dramatically making a point and “waking” the hearts and minds of those listening to God’s truth and revelation when all other forms of preaching have failed.
 
The Apostle is revealing what he believes the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Parousia, will look like, and this reinforces the revelation of verse 15, where he taught that the believers, who are alive at the parousia, will not have an advantage over those who have “fallen asleep,” because those who have “fallen asleep” will be the first to rise from the dead.
 
This was the Thessalonians primary concern and question, namely, “What happened to my mom, who taught me the faith and has already “fallen asleep?”  St. Paul ’s reassuring answer is that “You should not worry about the salvation of your mom, in the Parousia, she will be the first to rise with Jesus, Jesus himself will do this, Jesus himself will come down from heaven, and all who have died with him will be raised, first.”  Amen to the Blood.  Now the Apostle addresses those, you and I who remain on earth, and waiting patiently, with undying Hope, in trust and love, for the Parousia.
 
4:17-18 “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  Thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore console yourselves with these words.”  Amen to the Blood.
 
Are you consoled by these words?  Are you encouraged by this Word?  I am, greatly so, because there is no ambiguity here, there in no possible misinterpretation as to what the Apostle believes will be happing and the second coming of Jesus Christ, namely that in the end, at our personal death or at the Parousia, “We shall always be with the Lord.”  This foundational and dogmatic Christian truth, as we have seen in all of the Apostles letters, it is what he believed, taught, and preached throughout his life.
 
The hope, the belief, the knowledge, that being a faithful mathetes of Jesus Christ meant that one day, on the last day, his or the world’s, he would receive the crown of glory and live eternally with and in the kingdom of his Lord and Savior, encouraged the Apostle to be able to rejoice in his sufferings because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that, “This momentary light affliction is  producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen by to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4: 17-18.  Again, the things that are “unseen,” are the things we “Hope,” for, which are also things we can know and believe in, as we continue are journey to eternal life.
 
St. Paul concludes his epistle to the Church by again encouraging them to remain faithful, persevere to the end, be alert and ready to see Jesus at anytime, because the truth is no one, literally no one on earth, can or ever will know when Jesus is coming back for the second and last time.  Anyone who professes such knowledge, and there are many today who claim to have it, will be proven by God’s Word to be liars and false prophets, as the Word testifies to in referring to the Parousia, “Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  Matthew 25:36. 
 
Because no one can know the day or hour of the Parousia, all must remain vigilant and in the Light, as God’s chosen, God’s family, God’s children, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…but you brothers are not in darkness…for you are children of the light and children of the day…we are not of the darkness...stay alert and sober…for God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him.”  1 Thess. 5: 1-10.  Amen to the Blood of salvation and eternal life.
 
 
SECOND THESSALONIANS
 
In recent years, some biblical scholars have come to believe that St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians is a pseudepigraph, meaning St. Paul actually did not write this letter, but his name was attached to it by the author, in order to give it Apostolic authority which means giving it greater weight in the Christian community.  Please refer to what I earlier wrote about the First Letter to Timothy, the same message applies here.
 
 
We can debate the authorship of this letter ad nauseum, what cannot be debated however is that the Catholic Church has dogmatically proclaimed this letter to be the Word of God, and as such I choose to believe that St. Paul was directly involved in this letter, either as the author/dictator or as the leader of the community who directly taught the doctrines to the Church as set forth in this epistle.
 
In the first chapter, the Apostle sets forth the eternal consequences of those who choose not to acknowledge God and obey the Gospel of Jesus, namely that Jesus himself with his angels will, “Inflict punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.”  2 Thess. 1:8-9
 
Yes, the opposite is also true, if there is eternal life, there is also eternal death.  As has been stated in earlier reflections, we are created in the “image and likeness of God,” Genesis 1:26, one of the many meanings of what it means for us as human beings to be created in the “image and likeness of God” is that we are ETERNAL, meaning we will live somewhere forever.  We do not have a choice in this matter, there is no “spiritual Switzerland ,” where a person can say, “No I do not want to be eternal, I am neutral, I do not believe in God or such things therefore I am not affected as such.”
 
Well of course a person can say and believe such things, and many do, but it does not mean they are right.  The spiritual reality and their death will reveal a different Truth, a Truth that has everlasting consequences whether we choose to believe or not.  The consequence of not acknowledging God, not believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior and being obedient to his Gospel means that person is now subject to what the Book of Revelation calls the “second death.”  Revelation 2:11; 20: 6, 14; 21:8.
 
The “second death,” simply refers to the spiritual reality every human beings lives with by being born in the “image and likeness of God,” and that reality is that as eternal beings we are also human beings, as we have seen in an earlier reflection with a finite number of heartbeats, and the human part, our bodies, will one day perish, that is the first death. 
 
The second death involves the “eternal” part of our nature.  The “second death,” is the death of the soul which will be experienced by all who do not enter the kingdom of God , they will die eternally in “a burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”  Revelation 21:8.
 
For you and I as mathetes the “second death”  is not an option, it must be avoided at all costs of sacrifice, suffering, and fasting, prayer, service, yes, we must stay vigilant, alert, in the Spirit, in grace, living a life of: Prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service.  For all those who do remain faithful, as we will see in greater detail later, the Book of Revelation promises this: “The victor shall not be harmed by the second death.”  Revelation 2:11.
 
The Apostle closes his letter by reminding the Church to be prepared because “the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” and as “Children of the Light,” they are to stay “alert and sober,” “For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him.”  1 Thess. 5: 2, 5, 6, and 9.  Amen and Amen.
 
 
 
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN/REALIZED ESCHATOLOGY/ETERNAL LIFE
 
 
Here we are, finally able to open our hearts and minds to what biblical scholars have termed “realized eschatology.”  It goes like this.  Have you ever wanted to have something without having to wait for it?  Anything?  A meal, a job, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a graduation, wisdom, an annulment, a victory, success, children, a promotion, vacations? 
 
In life we often find ourselves in need of the great spiritual gift of patience because we often want the results, the gratification, the end, the gifts of Christmas and our birthdays, to be present now, we want things without have to wait for them, the infamous “all I want is everything, and I want it now.”
 
In our American culture this need to have things “now,” being immediately gratified and satiated, has lead to a proliferation of fast food establishments. You want a burger, when do you need it?  Right now, in my car, give it to me as I drive through.  Some fast foods chains have even gone to the extreme of putting themselves on a timer, from the time a person orders, to the time they get their food, cannot exceed __ number of minutes, or the food is free!!  That’s the world we live in.  Give it to me now.  News, videos, music, food, and sex, we want immediate satisfaction. 
 
For all of us who want things “now,” I have some really good news for you from John the Evangelist and the Word of God, about heaven, eternal life, that place that Jesus is preparing right now for all those who have a metanoia and believe in his Gospel, and live with his Spirit.  Our correct understanding of heaven is that we will only experience it fully at death, when we breathe our last breath and commended our spirits into the hands of our Father.
 
However the bible tells us more about heaven, namely that in the power of the Holy Spirit, believers can experience here on earth what the saints and angels, living in the Divine Presence, experience perfectly.  Yes, what Martha hoped for her brother Lazarus, “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day,” was present and standing before her in the Divine person, Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  John 11: 24-35.  All her hopes were already realized, present to and living with her, this is what is called realized eschatology.
 
Fr. John P. Meier, one of the best and brightest biblical scholars of our time, who just happens to also be Catholic, sees as the most important witness to realized eschatology in the Gospels, Jesus’ revelation to those in the crowd who were questioning where his power and authority came from, to drive out demons.  They said it came from satan (Beelzebul) and Jesus said this :”But if it is by the finger of God that I drive our demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Like 11:20 .  As Fr. Meier says:
 
“A number of sayings and actions of Jesus argue strongly for the view that Jesus at times spoke of the kingdom as already present in some way or to some degree in his ministry.”  Fr. Meier, leery of theological slogans also adds this: “Phrases like ‘the kingdom is dawning’ or ‘the kingdom is impinging’ hardly do justice to the clear and blatant claims of Jesus like “The kingdom of God has come upon you” or ‘the kingdom of God is in your midst.”   John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, p. 450-451.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.  Shema O Sowers.
 
Too many Christians fear death. This is not a good witness to others.  Why would a believer fear death?  First of all because too many are away from the Church and the Sacraments, they KNOW something is spiritually wrong.  Secondly, they know their lives, they know that they are not living in a “state of grace,” a life in the Spirit, and in this spiritually condition, they have every right to fear death, and that is why Jesus, until their last breath will always call them back to himself, to Reconciliation.
 
However, every believer who walks in the Spirit, as the Word and Church calls them to, should not fear death but trust and believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life to all those who follow him faithfully.  Why fear something that is inevitable, that kind of thinking would mess up your entire day, everyday!
 
Begin to know and understand that death is the necessary transition from a life in the body, to a life eternal, which is a life of unending happiness, as the Apostle explained to Church in Corinth , “You fool!  What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies…just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.” 1 Corinthians 15:36 and 49.   Jesus has sown his Word, Spirit, and Catholic faith, in your heart, if you die with Jesus’ Word, Spirit, and faith in your heart, he will raise you on the last day.  You can stake your life on this Truth.
 
So the “good news” is that realized eschatology says that eternal life begins now, here on earth.  Yes, through faith in Jesus Christ, Christians live a life that is Spirit dominated, as the Apostle taught, “But you are not of the flesh, on the contrary, you are in the Spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  Romans 8:9. “I say then live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Galatians 5:16.  “Do you not know you are the temple of God , and the Holy Spirit dwells in you?”  1 Corinthians 3:16. 
 
For me, for my walk in faith in the Father’s Vineyard, just as for St. Paul, the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believers life is the mark/seal/guarantee/first installment and EVIDENCE of the truth of Jesus’ promises, and that they are living the life that Jesus has purposed for them, that they are living saints, justified by his Blood, reconciled to the Father, saved, and Jesus IS preparing a home for them in heaven as they continue their pilgrimage on earth.
 
That is the “good news” from St. Paul and here is more “good news,” from the Gospel of John about heaven and the lived spiritual reality of a Spirit filled Christian:  you and I can live the things of heaven, right now, here on earth, here in this world dominated by the empirical and the visible.  Yes, John the Evangelist, the bible, and therefore Jesus teaches that because we are body, soul, and spirit, we can enjoy today, in the Spirit, the things we will enjoy and live eternally in heaven, we do not have to die to experience the things that God and his angels and saints experience right now. 
 
Yes, the moment a person has a conversion of heart and mind, a complete and authentic surrender of the self to Jesus Christ, a metanoia, and receives the power of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, that person in Spirit, Word, and Sacrament, and Church, begins to live in their present life on earth what the angels and saints live in heaven.  This supernatural and Spirit filled existence is commonly referred to as realized eschatology
 
Although the term realized eschatology is rather modern, coined in 1953 by Protestant New Testament scholar C.H. Dodd, the meaning behind it is ancient and biblical.   Dodd and now a wide number of Protestant and Catholic theologians have found its truth and meaning in the New Testament, with special attention to the Gospel of John. 
 
Sowers, this should be your experience. Yes, after your metanoia, the authentic surrender of yourself to Jesus Christ, the new found knowledge of the majesty of your Catholic faith in Word and Sacrament, are you not now a different person?  You and I will only be perfected in heaven, but have we not broken the bonds of the enemy in so many ways and replaced them with God’s heavenly presence, the fruits and gifts of the Spirit? 
 
Courage not fear, gratitude instead of entitlement, self control’s power over addiction, patience defeating anger, chastity dominating lust, hope overcoming despair, kindness over jealousy, humility conquering slander, all based on love because God is love and what God is his mathetes share.
 
The Greek word for the last things is eschaton, and John the evangelist lived, believed, and taught his community of Christians that they can begin to live the things of heaven, here on earth, yes, eternal life is not something that is far away, available only at death, no Jesus teaches us that we can have eternal life now. 
 
For us as Christians in the Catholic faith, the clearest and most powerful understanding of this truth is John 6:54, in the Eucharist, where both realized and final eschatology are revealed, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”  As a Catholic, dwell on the truth of this revelation and the majesty of the Eucharist every time you worship Jesus and receive him: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, as God’s Temple .
 
Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.  Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, every time you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, you proclaim his death and resurrection, you participate in the eternal life of the Father’s Lamb, you are participating in the Spiritual life in the kingdom of God, which only angels and saints and believers in the Body and Blood have access to.  Yes, Jesus’ eternal life is realized within you now, here on earth, in your participation in his Body and Blood. 
 
Notice also that Jesus reveals that all those who participate in his eternal life, by partaking of his Body and Blood, will be raised on the last day; this is called “final eschatology,” the beautiful fulfillment of a life in the Spirit, promised to all believers on the last day.  Rejoice in this.  Yes, think about what it means when the Word says, when your Savior says, when your Lord says, when the Lamb says, when Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh HAS eternal life.”  This is big.  This is important.  What does this mean to you?
 
If the Eucharist has become routine for you, if your Amen has become routine, stagnant, cold, flippant, unSPIRITED, change that today by reflecting on the Word.  Yes, believe the Word, believe that when the Priest or Eucharistic minister says to you, ‘the Body of Christ,’ and you say ‘ AMEN ,’ your amen is telling yourself, your community, and the entire world that you believe Jesus is present, heaven is upon your tongue and in your heart, you ARE consuming him, you ARE partaking of, receiving into your human body, soul, and spirit, eternal righteousness, eternal forgiveness, eternal mercy, and eternal love, you ARE the temple of the Holy Spirit, you ARE participating in the life of Jesus Christ in a way in which only the saints and believers in the ancient Christian faith, the Catholic faith, can and have for 2,000 years. 
 
As we quoted earlier, in the bible, St. Paul reveals that through faith in Jesus Christ we receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells in us as Temple, as mathetes, and therefore the eschaton, the last things, are also “realized,” as he proclaims to the Galatians, “Because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”  Galatians 6:8.  To the Church in Rome St. Paul teaches, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  Romans 8:11 
 
Let us now walk in the Father’s vineyard, enlighten by the Holy Spirit, with John the evangelist as we see how the Word reveals the depth of the evangelist and his communities belief in the promises that Jesus made to all those who believe.  Let's begin this walk in the Father's Vineyard with the thoughts of a man, whom I have already said, is in my mind a Catholic theologian par excellance, a theologian who asks and answers all the hard: biblical, ecclesial, and pneumatalogical questions, Fr. Ramond E. Brown.  Fr. Brown wrote extensively on the Johnannine community, Gospel, and letters, what follows is a brilliant paragraph on the Holy Spirit and eternal life in the Johannine Church.
 
"Without denying a final coming, John has radically transformed the Gospel picture by insisting that Jesus already came down to earth from heaven in glory, so that his public ministry constituted judgment: "This is the judgment, the light has come into the world, but people preferred darkness to light" (John 3:19).  Hitherto no one has seen God....Indeed, because as Son, he has life from the Father, he can give us God's own life. " (John 6:57).
 
Fr. Brown continues:  "The basic thought is so simple that it is breathtaking. A child gets life from a parent, and the only life that our natural parents can give is the life of the flesh (John 3:6).  But if God begets us, we ARE God's children with His eternal life.  That begetting comes through water and Spirit to those who believe in Jesus." (John 1:12-13; 3:3-6).  Brilliant.  Amen to the Blood.  I agree with Fr. Brown, and what follows are the evidence that the Johannine community lived, breathed, and loved, as children of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit:
 
 
 John 3: 14-15  “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  “May” qualifies the walk, the perseverance in the Spirit, meaning daily: kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, LOVE.
 
John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  Again, “might” qualifies our walk.
 
John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son, will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
 
It is important to note that Jesus is in a conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus and before revealing the truth about eternal life to Nicodemus Jesus first reveals this about those who seek to enter his kingdom, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  John 3:3.
 
Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus and questions him about being “born again.”  Jesus corrects Nicodemus and reveals that he is not talking about being “born again,” in the sense of a physical birth, but being “born from above,” which means a life in the Church (water) and Spirit, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”  John 3:5.
 
Jesus’ point is that a person can say they surrender their lives to Jesus, they can say they have a personal relationship with him, they can say over and over again that they are “born again,” but if they live a life without the Holy Spirit, their surrender and  relationship is of the lips and not the heart.
 
Every Christian whose confession of repentance and faith is of the lips is inauthentic and that person will have to be born again and again and again until they are born from above, of water and Spirit, and manifest a personal relationship and surrender of the self to Jesus through a life of love as the Apostle reveals to the Galatians 5:22.  We continue:
 
John 4:14  “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
John 4:36  “The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the Sower and the reaper can rejoice together.”
 
John 5:24  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from life to death.”
 
The brilliant Catholic theologian, John P. Meier, in his seminal commentary “A Marginal Jew II, has this to say about salvation, eternal life, and realized eschatology, “The whole process of salvation centers on his person.  In the Son of God, the Word, as life (zoe, God’s own life) from all eternity, through the incarnation that eternal divine life has entered into human history and has become available right now to all who believe in the Son (1:4, 12-14).
 
This eternal life is therefore not just some future good “He who believes has eternal life” ( 5:24 ) now, in the moment of believing. Here we touch on the center of John’s theology: high Christology produces realized eschatologyBecause the Word has become flesh, the last day has become the present moment.”  John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew II, p. 810 and 811.  Amen to the Blood, I agree with this Catholic scholar.
 
John 5:39 “You search the scriptures because you think you have eternal life through them, even they testify on my behalf.”  Jesus is revealing to the Jews and to all the world that salvation does not come from obedience to the Torah, the Law, but from him, from Jesus and Jesus alone.  Again, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.
 
John 6:27 “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
 
John 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
 
John 6:47 “Amen, amen I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
 
John 6:54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
 
John 6:68 “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
 
John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”  Always be a sheep!!
 
John 12:25 “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”  Jesus is revealing that those who choose to love the things, the attractions of this world and keep money, power, greed, hate, revenge, lust, etc. in their hearts and above him, have lost their way, literally lost their lives in a tangible and visible way and are not saved.  But those who repent (metanoia) and believe (Mark 1:14 -15) those who follow him in the Holy Spirit received in faith, share in his eternal victory over satan and sin and “preserve” their life for eternity.
 
John 12:49-50 “Because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his command is eternal life.”  This is big.  Dwell on it.
 
John 17:1-3 “Give glory to your Son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.  Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
 
In the glossary of his book Jesus of Nazareth II, Pope Benedict XVI defines eternal life in a way that agrees with John the Evangelist and the belief that eternal life is a spiritual reality that can be realized through faith in Jesus Christ here on earth.  “Eternal life: the term used by Jesus to refer to the kind of life a man may graciously come to possess in relationship with God, who is life.  Eternal life begins in this life through a person’s knowledge of God and entering into communion with him through Jesus Christ.”  Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth II, p.316.  I agree with the Pope.
 
The revelation of eternal life by the evangelist continues in his first letter:
 
1 John 1:1-2 “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life, for the life was made visible, we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and made visible to us.”
 
1 John 2:25 “And this is the promise that he made to us: eternal life.”  Amen to the Blood.  I encourage you to believe in this promise of Jesus through the Spirit that dwells within you. 
 
1 John 3:15 “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.” This scripture reveals the long standing teaching of the Catholic Church, namely that mortal sins such as murder means a person lives without the Holy Spirit, without sanctifying grace, and therefore is not saved but needs confession of their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
 
1 John 5:11-12 “And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever possesses the Son has life, whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.”
 
Again, a life without the Holy Spirit is a life without Jesus Christ, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”  Romans 8:9.
 
1 John 5:20 “And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life.”
 
For me, through the Word, the promises, the Church’s teaching and Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the teaching of countless Catholic theologians, and my lived experience in the power of the Holy Spirit, one thing is clear: because of my Catholic faith in Jesus’ Blood, Resurrection, and sending of the Spirit, and through God’s grace and mercy, I experience eternal life now as Jesus’ testimony that I am saved. 
 
For me, this is not bragging or exaggeration, this is simply what Jesus has asked us as mathetes to do, have faith, believe without seeing.   It is believing in the promises of Jesus Christ and in “Hope,” KNOWING that his promises are true because the one who promised me eternal life also promised me the Holy Spirit who I live with and has completely transformed my mind and heart.  All thanks and praise to God. 
 
We continue in the Word with the Johannine communities “Apocalypse.”
 
 
 
 
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
 
By it’s very nature, the nature of the language it was written in, “apocalyptic” language, the Book of Revelation lends itself to be used by many teachers and preachers as an instrument of fear and condemnation as opposed to what it really is, God’s revelation encouraging the Church to persevere in faith, remain in hope, prayer, and good works, as well as admonishing them where they have failed.  Everyone focuses on the beast or the lawless one or the antichrist.  This is the mistake and problem.
 
As we will see, the Book of Revelation is a Book of promises, a Book of mercy, a Book that reveals that Jesus is attentive to their/our situation and needs, always.  So whatever “images” or “ideas” of the Book of Revelation are in your mind about the “beast,” the “lawless one,” or the “antichrist,” allow these next verses to be the more dominate factor in your life and understanding of God’s revelation to his Church.  FYI: the “lawless one” is never spoken of in the B. of R but only in 2 Thessalonians, just as the “antichrist,” is not in the B. of R. but only in the first and second letter of John.  This is important.
 
The first Church that Jesus asks John his servant to reveal his Truth too is the Church in Ephesus .  Jesus begins by encouraging the Church, “I know your work, your labor, your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked…you have suffered for my name, you have not grown weary.”  Revelation 2: 2-3. 
 
Receive this encouragement yourself from Jesus, he knows your labor, your suffering, your endurance, and he is please, very pleased with you and blessing you in ways your mind and heart cannot even imagine.
 
There was however one glaring problem in the Church which Jesus had to address, namely, that was that the Church lost her fervor, her love, for evangelization that she had in the beginning, when they first were Baptized and came to know Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.  Realize how far you have fallen.  Repent and do the works you did at first.”  Revelation 2: 4-5.
 
To those who do repent (metanoia) and remain faithful, Jesus makes an eternal promise, “To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God .”  Revelation 2:7  Amen to the Blood, eating from the “Tree of life in the garden of God ,” means only one thing, that they are saved, experiencing eternal life, the never ending happiness that is the end result of their faith and perseverance.  This is the first of many promises Jesus will make to the Church, to all those who remain faithful in spite of trials and sufferings.
 
What follows are Jesus’ promises of salvation/eternal life to the remaining six Churches in the Book of Revelation:
 
To the Church in Smyrna : “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Revelation 2:10.
 
To the Church in Pergamum : “To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.”  Revelation 2:17.
 
To the Church in Thyatira: “To the victor, who keeps my ways until the end, I will give authority over the nations.  He will rule them with an iron rod. Like clay vessels will they be smashed, just as I received authority from my Father.  And to him I will give the morning star.”  Revelation 2:26-28.
 
To the Church in Sardis :  “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father.”  Revelation 3:5.  Amen to the Blood.
 
To the Church in Philadelphia :  “The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again.  On him I will inscribe the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, as well as my new name.”  Revelation 3:12.
 
To the Church in Laodicea : “I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself FIRST WON THE VICTORY and sit with my Father on his throne.”  Revelation 3:21.
 
These are eternal and powerful promises.  I believe them all.  Yes I believe with the powerful theological virtue of “Hope,” that as I remain faithful and keeps God’s way until the end, Jesus will give me the right to eat from the tree of life in God’s eternal garden, I will receive the crown of life and eat some of the hidden manna, my name will never be erased from the book of life and Jesus will acknowledge my name in the presence of his Father, I will be an eternal pillar in God’s temple, and sit with Jesus on his throne.
 
These promises are so great and mysterious that they are almost too hard for our human minds to comprehend, but we can believe, know, and comprehend them if we stay focused on God’s love and mercy and not our human capacities and weaknesses. 
 
Yes, Jesus’ promises must be understood from the perspective of grace, God’s life/mercy/and love, which we are given as GIFT through our perseverance and faith in Jesus Christ, his Blood, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit.
 
Because of the victory which Jesus has won, through metanoia, Spirit, and Sacrament, sin is no longer a barrier, a closed door to salvation and eternal life.  Again, you and I can know this truth, live with the peace and joy of this knowledge on a daily basis, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, whom, as God, dwells within as “temple.”
 
 
 
 
THE SYNOPTIC REVELATION OF SALVATION: MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE
 
In the Synoptics, we find that Jesus uses the metaphor “narrow gate,” to describe the sacrifices and surrender of the self every mathetes must make to enter into eternal life, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many.”  Mt. 7:13.  Fire. Worms . Grinding of teeth.  Ouch.
 
Yes, Jesus is saying that the enemy also has an invitation for us, he invites us to through his gate, the wide gate, the easy gate to enter, the gate of hate/greed/pride/lust/selfishness, and Jesus says too many of those whom he has invited to his kingdom, to eternal life, have said no to his invitation and yes to satans, which leads to destruction.
 
Luke the evangelist gives us even more detail about salvation by recalling how someone posed this question to Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  Luke 13:23-24.
 
Jesus, who was in a constant battle with those had all the power and authority in Israel , the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, one day had this accusation made against him by the Pharisees, “This man drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”  Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22 .
 
Jesus reply is, ‘Oh yeah, well if I drive out demons through the power of satan, through whose power do your own Jewish exorcists drive them out?’  Jesus had just proven that his power is the power of God by curing a blind and mute demoniac and then reveals this to the doubters, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20.
 
I see this revelation “the kingdom of God IS upon you,” as Jesus saying to Israel and now to you and I that the Kingdom of God is present, I am here, similar to what he revealed in Mark’s Gospel, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” Mark 1:15.  This, the kingdom, is something that Jesus and only Jesus can offer them now through faith in him, by believing in his Gospel and following him.  Yes, the peace, wisdom, Truth, mercy, and love of heaven, is something they can know and experience personally in first century Palestine and later in the power of the Holy Spirit, as we do now.
 
In the Gospel of Mark a man runs up to Jesus and asks an excellent question, a question that pertains directly to our reflection today, “Good teacher, what must I do to attain eternal life?”  Mark 10:17-31; Matthew 19: 16-30; Luke 18:18-30.
 
Jesus instructs the young man that to enter eternal life he must follow God’s commands not to kill, steal, slander, or commit adultery.  The young man replies that he is doing all this and more.  Jesus then tells him, in love, that there is one thing he lacks, he has put his possessions above God in his heart. 
 
Yes, he covets his possessions, and to enter into eternal life he must repent, sell them, and come and follow Jesus.  Sadly, this man could not follow this command.  He went away sad and he does Jesus turns to his mathetes and says, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter into the kingdom of God .”  Mark 10:23 .
 
The mathetes are absolutely floored by Jesus’ revelation that it is hard for the rich to enter heaven, they ask him,” Then WHO can be saved?”  Mark 10:26 .   They had been taught by the scribes and Pharisees that wealth and possessions are a sign from God that the person owning them is righteous and holy.
 
Jesus’ mathetes thought, because this is what they were taught by the powers and authorities in Israel , that if a person was poor, blind, sick, they were being punished for their sins.  However, if someone owns a house in Newport Beach , front row seats at the Laker game, and drives a Porsche, this was a sign that they were following God’s Law and commands and God was blessing them, and these are the ones getting into God’s kingdom. 
 
Jesus is now correcting this error and his teaching is not going over well with his boys, change is hard. Jesus teachings were often diametrically opposed to the leaders and powers of Israel : the Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes, and this is one of the reasons they hated him and had a hard time believing his Gospel.
 
So the mathetes are confused about this new teaching and of course good old St. Peter speaks up and voices what everyone wanted to know, namely ‘Ok what’s in it for us, those who did what you asked the rich young man to do?’  “Peter began to say to him, we have given up everything and followed you.”
 
Jesus’ response and revelation to Peter and now you and I is that whatever you gave up will not compare in any way to the blessing, the abundance your will receive NOW on earth and soon in heaven, as we read, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and land with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”  Mark 10:29-30.  Amen to the Blood.  I believe Jesus.
 
In my interpretation of this pericope, I see knowledge of salvation in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who as our first installment to eternal life, is a hundred million times more than everything we give up in our faith and following of Jesus.   My interpretation is that when Jesus says that those who leave everything behind to follow him will receive a hundred more houses, brother, sisters, children, and lands, he is speaking in metaphor and pointing our hearts and minds to the spiritual world and gifts of the Spirit which are infinitely greater than the physical and material possessions.
 
In chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus begins to reveal that in the last days, before he returns a second time, there will be great suffering, false Messiahs, false prophets, wars, etc, and he tells his disciples to anticipate all this “But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”  Mt. 24:13.  This is knowledge of salvation.
 
In chapter 25, Jesus continue to reveal what the end will look like, the day when the “Son of Man comes in glory with all the angels,” Mt. 25:31.  And what that day looks like is this:  there will be two lines, a sheep line and a goat line.  Those who have been faithful to Jesus’ Gospel and to his command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” will be in the sheep line and they will hear these majestic words from Jesus himself, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world by my Father.”  Mt. 25:34. 
 
Inherit means to live in that which God has prepared for those who loved and followed Jesus.  Amen to his Blood.  Jesus is revealing what St. Paul believed, taught, and lived, namely that those who believe in and follow Jesus and his Gospel to the end, can know that they ARE God’s children now, there are family members and heirs, and as heirs their “inheritance,” is as Jesus reveals, “The kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world by my Father.”  The goats?  Not so much.
 
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, on the Cross, says these words to the “good thief” which are constantly resounding in my mind and heart because they are just so beautiful, so dramatic, so final, so joyful, so graced, so everything that a believer would want and “Hope” to hear on the last day of their life, “Amen I say to you, TODAY you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43.
 
Wow.  What a promise.  No need for human words or exegesis.  The Word, Jesus Christ, reveals everything I have been trying to say about how we can know, believe, trust, and live in the power of the Holy Spirit that we are saved by faith in the Blood, Resurrection, and Spirit of Jesus Christ.  Can any believer doubt that this promise was completed, that the “good thief” is now a saint and live eternally with his Savior? 
 
 
TWO OF THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS: IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH AND POLYCARP AND THE DIDACHE
 
The personal writings of these two early Church Fathers and the historical accounts of their lives and martyrdom, are an excellent source of information as to what was believed by the Church in the important time after the Apostles had died.  There had to be continuity between what was believed and preached by the Apostles and what was believed and preached by those who followed. 
 
If the revelation that Jesus Christ personally taught to the Apostles changed in any way at their death, then the Church would have soon died because her Gospel would have been different from the one Jesus taught and preached and therefore false.  It would have been of Gospel of man and not of God. 
 
The Church Fathers are witnesses to the Truth that there was no change between what Jesus wanted revealed about God/salvation/sacrament/and Church and what was handed down from generation to generation in the Church he himself founded.  Matthew 16:18.
 
Yes, the Truths that were handed down in writing or as was the ancient custom of the Jewish faith they once followed, orally, are the same Truths Jesus personally taught the mathetes who left everything they had to follow him, “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God ha been given to you.”  Luke 8:10.  This knowledge, these Truths, are forever sealed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church Jesus founded.  “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by our letters.”  2 Thessalonians 2:15.
 
When all the Apostles were gone, many questions would have been posed, not only by those the Church was evangelizing but also by the Church herself, questions like: “Will the Holy Spirit still be with the Church if the Apostles are all in heaven?”   “Without the Apostles, who will lead the Church?”  How will we know what really happened if all the “eyewitnesses” are gone?”  “Who is going to lead the Church now that all the leaders Jesus personally chose are gone?”
 
All these questions are valid but entirely answered by the Word and the Spirit, which Jesus left to us as believers and his Church to safeguard all revelation and Truth until he comes again in glory, as Jesus said, “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”  John 14: 26.  Amen to the Blood. 
 
The Church Fathers witness to the Truth that from the day of Pentecost until Jesus comes again in glory, the Holy Spirit will be guiding the Catholic Church in matters of faith and morals, which in the early Church included the development of her understanding of Sacraments, The Papacy, Bishops, Priesthood, and of course what are the inspired books of the Bible, dogmas of Christology/Pneumatology and the Trinity.
 
For example, in the time of the Roman emperor Trajan (98-117) Eusebius, himself a Bishop and Church historian (AD 263-339) wrote that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch, and that St. Ignatius of Antioch was called by Trajan to Rome, in chains, to denounce his faith in Jesus Christ and pay homage to and worship the emperor himself as god.  St. Ignatius of course refused this demand and was martyred by being devoured by wild beasts.
 
On his way to martyrdom, St. Ignatius wrote seven letters to the Catholic Churches along the way.  These letters contain and reveal important truths about the Church herself, and what was being practiced, taught, and believed, in the late first and early second centuries of the Church.
 
For example, St. Ignatius is the first person to use the word “Catholic” when describing the Church, this is how we know he was writing to “Catholic” Churches because he said so and in his description of the Church as “Catholic,” he also stressed an important truth about what it means to be “Catholic” namely that that there is no “Catholic Church,” unless there is a bishop there to guide the flock,
 
“Wherever the Bishop appears, let there be the fullness of the Church, as wherever Christ appears, there is the Catholic Church.  It is not lawful to baptize or to hold an agape feast without the Bishop.  On the other hand everything he approves is pleasing to God so that everything that is practiced may be certain and valid.”  Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:2.
 
I would encourage you to read each of the seven letters that St. Ignatius wrote to the Churches, for this reflection on salvation and eternal life, I want to note that this Bishop, this Saint, saw his sacrifice and forthcoming martyrdom as being united to the cross of Jesus Christ, and of the glory to be reveal in his death he was certain, “My spirit is in sacrificial service for the cross, which is a scandal to unbelievers, but to us it is salvation and eternal life.”  Ephesisans 18:1
 
Dr. Kenneth J. Howell, a Catholic scholar and author of the book ‘Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna,’ had this to say about his belief of what St. Ignatius taught about salvation and eternal life in his letters, “Like John the Apostle, Ignatius sees eternal life as the present possession of the one who is united to Christ.”  Kenneth J. Howell, Ignatius and Polycarp, p. 14.  Amen to the Blood, I concur with St. Ignatius and the Dr.
 
St. Polycarp was a contemporary of St. Ignatius and at a very early age he was known by and taught by St. John the Apostle.  Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna at the same time that Ignatius was imprisoned and on his way to Rome , in chains, and the last of Ignatius’ letters is addressed directly to Polycarp himself.
 
In an account of Polycarp’s death, written shortly after his martyrdom, we read this beautiful witness, “As the proconsul was insistent, he said, ‘Swear and I will release you.  Revile Christ!’  But Polycarp said, “I have served him for eighty-six years and he has done me no wrong.  How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  Kenneth J. Howell, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, p. 166.
 
In chapter fourteen, of the written account of St. Polycarp’s death, as they were preparing to burn him alive at the stake, these words of trust, hope, faith, courage, and love are directed by Polycarp to the Father, “I bless you because you have thought me worthy this day and this hour to be numbered among your martyrs in the cup of your Christ, for the resurrection of eternal life of both soul and body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.”  Kenneth J. Howell, The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, p.168-169.
 
 
THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
 
 
Every mathetes needs to own a Catechism of the Catholic Church.  If you have not bought one yet, the next time you are at Stater Brothers, Wal-Mart, Vons, or wherever there are some magazines that say, “Justin Bieber’s DNA proves he is not the father of her child,” or “Kim Kardashian is secretly engaged to her sister Khloe’s husband Lamar Odom,” and you are really tempted to buy it, promise me now, that instead of buying that trash which will put nothing but lies, slander, and foolishness in your mind, you will save the money and go to Amazon and spend your money wisely on a book that will give you spiritual knowledge and anointing, the Catechism.
 
The Catechism is a testimony to the authenticity of the Catholic Church as the Church that Jesus founded on his chosen Apostle Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  Mt. 16:18.  Why is the Catechism a direct witness that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ?  Because this is where we as a Church write down what we believe.
 
Please do not take this fact lightly, dwell on the significance of what it means to write down what one believes. Think about what it means in your personal life.  What it means for a Church is that if she writes down something that is taught “dogmatically,” meaning a truth that God has revealed which can never change, EVER,  and then it changes 100 years later, the change calls into question the truth of your entire teaching, all our :truths,”  because what you taught in the year 460 AD is not longer the same thing you are teaching in the year 560 AD or 2011.  This cannot be. 
 
It is also essential to understand this about the dogmas of the Catholic Church, they can change through the centuries with respect to the language of new generations but the TRUTH intended by the Church cannot change, as Fr. Brown explains, “Dogmas were meant to solve only certain questions, and were expressed in the changeable conceptions of a given epoch….the Doctrinal congregation…has taught solemnly and bindingly that the formulas of the past will not always be suitable for communicating the truth involved in them and that, with Church approval, they may need to give way to new formulations.”  Fr. Raymond E. Brown, “The Critical Meaning of the Bible,” p.61.
 
The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are the only Christian Churches that can date their history back to the Apostles and have the written documentation to prove it.  Some other Christian Churches, founded in the 16th century have attempted to say that they were founded in the time of Jesus Christ, but the truth is they do not have one single letter from a single parishioner, pastor, bishop, pope, saint, council, to prove this.
 
This is why it is so important for you as a Catholic to know the power, authority, and history behind the Nicene Creed you profess every Sunday when you go to worship Jesus Christ at you local parish.  We wrote it as a Church!!  This creed is the foundation of everything we believe as Christians and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have been professing it every Sunday for over 1,600 years.  That is a long time. 
 
This creed first was promulgated by the Church in what is called the first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 AD and the completed form which all Catholics, Orthodox, and many other Christian faiths, took place in Constantinople in the year 381 AD.  This is important and plays and important role in our understanding of eternal life because in this creed which we have publically professed to all the world for centuries, we say “Look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come,” or as the Church puts it in her title on the life of the world to come, “We believe in everlasting life.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 266.
 
So in the Catechism, as Catholics we find all the important teachings of the Church, not every single one, because there are too many, but all the Church teaching that you would want and should know about your faith are there.  Again, if you as a Catholic have not yet bought a Catechism I encourage you today to do so.
 
What we will be looking for in the Catechism of course is what is said and taught about eternal life.  Along with what we have already shown here are some of the Churches teaching on salvation/eternal life from her Catechism:
 
The first important teaching is that we must have God’s life, God’s grace, within us when we die in order to enter the kingdom of God .  This is why Jesus always kept teaching his mathetes and everyone who was willing to listen to be prepared, stay awake, not like the five foolish virgins, who were unprepared to meet the bridegroom when he showed up, Mt. 25:13, because “Of that day or hour, NO ONE KNOWS.”  Mt. 24:36.
 
So for us as Christians of metanoia, we know that “being prepared,” “staying awake,” is Jesus calling us to a life of holiness, commanding us not to go back to our former way of life, a life of sin, and live a life from “above” a life of “Baptism and Spirit,” a life that is dominated by the Holy Spirit who now dwells within us, this is being prepared. 
 
As we have said often and will say many more times, we “stay awake and alert and prepared,” through the Church, in a life of prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service.  In and through the Church, we live a life of grace and sanctification.  Listen to what the Church teaches for those who die prepared, awake, alert, and in grace.
 
“Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ.  They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face.  Catechism # 1023.  Amen to the Blood of eternal life and the Catholic Church.
 
What does the Church mean when she says we must be “perfectly purified?”  This is a reflection of our Catholic faith’s teaching that some believers die in grace, but also have the stain of a small/venial sin on their souls and because there can never be any semblance or trace of sin in heaven, before they enter they must be purifed of their venial sins, we call this process of purification, Purgatory. 
 
Also know that if a believer or anyone else dies with a grave/mortal sin, the Church teaches there is no chance for purification and the consequences of dying in mortal sin are horrible, eternal fire.  THIS IS NOT AN OPTION FOR US AS MATHETES, so stay awake, stay in love, stay in grace, remain on the Vine as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
 
As you begin to read the Catechism, you will find that there are teachings, quotes, letters, encyclicals from varied sources: saints, popes, councils, etc.  When the Church quotes something from a pope in the tenth century, she does so as a reflection of what she believes and teaches, the Catechism will not contain any false doctrine or teaching, so for example in her teaching on eternal life, the Church quotes a pope from the 14th century, pope Benedict XII.  Why?  Because his writing reveal what the Church believes and teaches:
 
“By virtue of our Apostolic authority we define the following: the souls of all the saints and other faithful who died after receiving God’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died)…have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom, and celestial paradise with Christ.”  Catechism # 1023.
 
So the Church teaches that she KNOWS that anyone who dies in grace, even if we need a little time in Purgatory, are now in heaven.  Amen to the Blood.  Know this.  Trust this.  Rejoice in this.
 
Here are some other important Church teaching on salvation and eternal life:
 
# 161: “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.”
 
# 162: “Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy.  1 Tim. 1: 18-19.
 
This next teaching of the Church is so majestic and animates my soul and spirit every time I read it because her teaching reflects my experience as a Christian of metanoia and my longstanding and firm belief in the promises of Jesus Christ:
 
# 162: “Faith make us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision (realized eschatology, this is my addition), the goal of our journey here below.  Then we shall see God, “face to face,” as he is.  SO FAITH IS ALREADY THE BEGINNING OF ETERNAL LIFE .”  Amen to the Blood.
 
 
Brothers and sisters, this reflection on eternal life has been a work of love.  I love my Catholic faith, I love everything about being Catholic.  I share my thoughts and reflections with you in the “Hope” of bringing to your hearts, minds, and spirit, great encouragement and joy through the knowledge of what the Bible reveals and what the Church teaches about salvation, eternal life, and a life dominated by the Holy Spirit.
 
As always, everyone is free to choose not to believe that through faith in the Blood, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and now as mathetes in the power of the Holy Spirit you are neither saved nor have knowledge of your salvation.  This is your choice.
 
As for me, along with millions of other Christians, when asked the question, “Are you saved?” I will again and always reply, “By the Blood of Jesus and the grace of God, YES I AM.”
 
Amen to the Blood of the Father’ Lamb, Jesus Christ,
 
JFJA,
 
Grace and peace,
 
Joseph