Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 14, 2003
Eternity gives us the grace of perspective
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
None of us goes through this life without our share of bitter disappointment.
Simply put, when we stop believing in life after death we tend to put too much pressure on this life to give us the full symphony.
When we stop seeing our lives as being completed by something beyond the present world, it becomes natural to become more frustrated with the limits of our lives and to begin to demand, however subtly or unconsciously, that our spouses, children, friends, careers, jobs, and vacations give us something they can't give, namely, complete fulfillment, full meaning, final satisfaction, joy beyond frustration, ecstasy, heaven.
When we stop, practically, believing in a heaven beyond this life, we too easily demand that we have a taste of heaven right now. If this life is our only kick at the cat, it's becomes pretty hard to handle the fact that this one kick at it is almost always a long, long ways from what we would want it to be.
None of us goes through this life without our share of bitter disappointment, crushed potential, broken dreams, and daily frustration. Our lives are never the way we dreamed them to be. There's always a huge gap between our dignity, our desire, our potential, and the actual state within which we find ourselves.
All of us have suffered abuse of body and heart. All of us have been unjustly robbed of our potential. All of us live inside situations of tension, bitterness, gossip and hatred. All of us suffer a certain silence between ourselves and those we most love, and all of us suffer the absence of full embrace and sexuality in our lives.
None of us have the whole symphony and none of us have joy without shadow. All of us too, live with a history of bad choices, mistakes, sins and opportunities missed.
Thus, unless we can somehow place our present lives against a horizon of an after-life that completes it, the punishing limits, daily inadequacy and brute mortality of this world will eventually drive us to depression, bitterness or violence. Outside of a vision of life after death, we can't come to full peace with this life.
In one of the parables, Jesus points out how those servants who do not expect their master's return go about getting drunk and beating their fellow-servants. This image of violence is precisely a metaphor for the type of violence we do to life and to each other when we do not see our lives against the horizon of the master's return.
Conversely, when we do await the master's return we don't have to demand that this life give us more than it can and we can more easily live without impatience, bitterness and violence, even inside of lives that are far from complete.
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