Indiana Jones was onto something in his quest for the fountain of youth. For centuries man has been searching, and for over twenty centuries some have held the answer containing this key to everlasting happiness. Fact or fiction many ask; yet this goblet of life-giving water, this cup of eternal salvation is not so far from anyone’s reach. It’s not some mythical action-packed adventure story either. It’s reality: Happiness forever. So where is this secret and how can one receive it? In truth, we earn eternal life by the way we live now.
What does a lifestyle have to do with forever? EVERYTHING. Christians put forth this teaching as a directing compendium of their entire moral life. The secular culture in opposition teaches that Christian waste away the best years by being chaste, spending time praying, and living deprived lives that lack any normality or sociality out of fear of hell. This is plain wrong. Christians in fact enjoy being the freest, happiest and find themselves among the most fulfilled souls! Why? Because we come to know who we are. We are created, called by God and redeemed through His only Son. As Catholics we are in awe as we hope for the eternal beatitude beginning with the choices we make here and now.
Three factors contribute to why man earns heaven by the way he lives now: First, the dignity of man is based in the image and likeness of his Maker; second, his intellect will, and conscience leave him free to seek out the truth and reject evil; as a result, the moral choices man makes in this life determine his eternal destiny in the life to come. Not only Catholics but all souls indeed are equipped with the gear necessary and are called to reach Heaven. The origin of the dignity of man originates in the understanding that human person is created in the image and likeness of his Creator. God set him above every other mere creature. He mirrors God. Thus, his dignity should not be defiled. Yet his father’s first sin and his own destroy him, desecrating the dignity he deserves as a redeemed son of God. This is why Christians weight the scale of morality so radically.
Secondly, man can know truth and choose good. God has given men the gift of wisdom that allows him to rule over creation. Man, is a being endowed with a spiritual and immortal soul, an intelligence that can reason, and a free will that can opt to choose good and avoid evil (despite the evil inclinations he may experience in his heart). By these very gifts that make him a superior being, man becomes responsible for his actions. Why? Precisely because he is free. His Creator made him for eternal beatitude with God himself forever, but in no way imposes himself upon man’s freedom incase man opts to choose against God.
Lastly, by man’s first fall, his intellect was darkened, his will weakened and his whole self was wounded by sin. “He finds by experience that his body is in revolt” (Gaudium et Spes # 14). The power of the attraction temptations exerts on the flesh in the form of passions often pulls man away from the good. Yet he is in conscience obliged to seek the good above the evil inclinations of his heart. One might ask if he is drawn towards evil inclinations, why should he be condemned for giving into them? Man’s conscience is him most secret core and his sanctuary as Gaudium et Spes points out in #16 while discussing the dignity of the moral conscience. This conscience speaks to him as a guide of a law written in his soul since God fashioned him into being. There exists a “law which him has not laid upon himself but which he must obey (Gaudium et Spes # 14). Through loyalty to his conscience, man merits eternal life.
Because he can discern between the good and the evil and is made for the good, only in choosing the good will he be happy in this life and the next. He is a spiritual being with an immortal soul, and thus, his every action is meritorious; or it will hold him accountable. In all he does, he chooses either to obey the laws of God or rather those of himself. This is not limited only to externally perceivable actions but penetrates into the recesses of the soul. His Creator sees and knows his intentions and attachments, the offerings of love and those of self seeking. So what about happiness forever? It is a reality. The reward is known. The price of a Savior’s blood already paid. The choice is yours. The cup of life is at your fingertips. Are you willing to live by the moral law the Creator inscribed in your heart? Eternal life is for all, whether you will choose to spend it in the joyful presence of the Lord or on the dreadful complete separation from him that is up to you. You’ve been given the wisdom to choose.
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