By God’s Gift

On Ash Wednesday, the blessing of the ashes concludes with these words: “that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.”

I don’t know whether non-Christians receive a life after death; I suppose I believe they do, though they may have to go through a period of post-mortem preparation for the life of Heaven.

But what is relevant to Christians is that eternal life is a gift of God. It’s not something we merit; it’s not something we can expect automatically. It’s a gift.

And that gift is part of the reason we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning. For he is, as St. Paul said, “the first fruits of them that slept”–the first person to rise into the glory of eternity, foreshadowing the potential we all are now given to inherit eternal life. So, as the hymn says, “Jesus lives, now no longer death enthralls us–Alleluia!” —J. Douglas Ousley

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