By Engr. Carlos Cornejo
The term powerful here means authoritative and forceful. Holy Scripture contains many powerful statements and one of them is from the Gospel of St. Matthew that says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:26) No human being past, present or future could utter those words. No wise man, such as Confucius or Buddha could ever think of making those statements because it is not an earthly statement. It is not earthly wisdom but heavenly wisdom. Literally an out of this world statement. It is not earthly because it talks about the soul not the body. And because it is an out of this world Person that talks about it.
The gospel passage basically means that you might gain all the things that this world would cherish such as wealth, honor, pleasure and power in great abundance and yet that’s nothing compared to losing one’s soul. The losing of one’s soul does not only happen in the next life but starts already in this life. As theologians would say, those who will go to hell, already have lived like hell in this life. The same thing goes of those who will go to heaven because we die as we have lived. In other words, the losing of one’s soul as the Gospel of St. Matthew implies is living a life of losing true happiness in this life in spite of gaining the whole world. Bishop Robert Barron would say that losing one’s soul in this life is living hell not in pain because of flames, but because even after having it all, the soul is still unhappy.
What is our soul? Our soul is the very core of our being. Dr. Peter Kreeft would say it is our very “I”. Our identity remains even after we die. It is still John, Peter, and Sarah even after the soul has separated from the body after death. The soul carries with it everything that happened in this life in relation to God. If the soul, while living in this world is rightly ordered towards God it can handle anything. Honor or dishonor, sickness or health, abundance or scarcity, success or failure, alone or in the company of friends, it can take on whatever life throws at it. But if it is disordered in relation to God, it can’t handle anything, even if it experiences abundance or popularity. The soul could become a victim of its own success. A number of famous people could not handle losing fame for example, because they’ve made it their security in life. It does not profit a man if he gains the whole word if he loses his soul. But if he possesses his soul in God, he can lose the whole world, and it would not shatter him.
How then can the soul be in a right order towards God? When it abides in the principle of love. To abide in the principle of love is to fulfill the two greatest commandments: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37) Only when the soul gives away itself will it be able to possess it and not lose it.
To abide in love means doing everything in the context of love. Business has to be contextualized in love otherwise it becomes crass materialism, relationships without love can become manipulation, recreation and rest not placed in the framework of love can become self-indulgence and most importantly sex should be contextualized in love otherwise it becomes superficial, persons made into objects to be enjoyed and once you get bored with them, they are thrown away or be replaced, commercialized, itemized, for purely self-gratification. When sex is engaged through hook-up culture for pure gratification without the sense of commitment, love and relationship will turn against those persons and they would feel empty because they feel they are just made into an object with the utilitarian mentality: I use you and you use me, outside of that I don’t have real care for you. No wonder many people have anxiety problems, feeling empty, depressed, having a sense of hopelessness and don’t even know what’s causing these.
But true love is to will the good of the others. Love is a decision to seek what is best for the others regardless of feeling good about it or not. Love goes out of oneself rather than going inward by filling it with created things that many mistakenly thinks it could make it happy. It is when we seek to make others happy that we become happy. “Love is not selfish, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing (but rejoices in the good)” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)