Happiness

On the internet last week there was an article from Science Direct about how one English town viewed happiness over the past seventy years. Science Direct explained that in 1938 an ad in a British paper invited Bolton Evening News readers to respond to the question, “What is happiness?” They were asked to organize 10 factors by their happiness importance. Their top three, in order were: security, knowledge, and religion.

Last year, a psychologist also asked Bolton residents, via the News, to fill out a questionnaire that mirrored the one used in 1938. Things had changed, at least according to the 489 people; religion now occupied the 10th slot. While security is still in the top 3 it is now 3rd; sadly and maybe not surprisingly the top two are leisure and good humor.  This change, as I mentioned earlier is sadly not surprising and fits with what I have noticed in our society – that society today is terribly conflicted and in a way neurotic.

I am reminded of the words of St. John the Baptist: ‘among you stands one whom you do not know[1] Mankind has successfully pushed the most important relationship of man, their relationship with God, to the peripheries of their mind and in doing so has opened the emptiness in their heart wider. Attached to this is the neglect of interpersonal concern (of which self-giving love being the zenith).   The idea that mankind now looks to leisure and good humor above religion is evidence of this.  It is a turn inwards – a desire for isolation.  Leisure and good humor are individualistic activities; true they can and are often done among others, they are still internal feelings.  As we know these ideas of happiness are fleeting and leave us hungering for more; and added to the isolationist attitude that mankind has embraced (as evidenced by the withdrawal of generations into the cyber world) ultimately instills in individuals, and society as a whole, the conflicted, neurotic, desperate angst that we live with today.

Christ tells us today that this charade of happiness can be remedied by turning to Him. ‘“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”… “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”[2] These are the words that the heart of every single man and woman yearns to follow.  Our part is to open their minds to possibility that these words are what they need.  Our calling in Christ’s mission to assuage the fears of interpersonal relationships that mankind holds.  But it won’t be easy; each succeeding decade has allowed mankind to withdraw within a world of their own making and so it will take much time to walk them back out of this fortress and into the light of true peace and happiness.  We must not expect massive changes from our part – but we can be assured of great things coming from our work, eventually.

If our part is to introduce those ‘walled in’ to the open expanse of love and community then we must make certain that we are not afflicted with this ailment as well.  We need to take stock of what is important to us, what moves us to action.  Do we withdraw within a prayer life that never moves to the community – to the peripheries; or does our interaction with God lead to and take energy from our interaction with those God loves? We are winding down our celebration of God’s gift of Himself to those He created, and we are about to celebrate the power He gave us in His Holy Spirit to go out bring the joy and happiness of following His plan so I ask what is our part?  What makes us Happy? Personally, I would answer the question in the survey with: ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.[3]

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[1] John 1:26
[2] John 15:9-17
[3] Joshua 24:15

Two pictures

This past week I was recuperating from a minor ailment and I watched a lot of TV.  Tuesday, I was watching a panel discuss current events and one panelist’s answers to question struck me.  The first discussion was about the rioting in Baltimore and this panelist said that one of the underlying factors contributing to the rioting was the breakdown of the family; without a father image at home these youth had a disadvantage.  The next discussion concerned the Supreme Court Case on same-sex marriage.  He commented that the case was really about discrimination against the desires of Americans. His opinion was that those against same-sex marriage were biggots.

I was reminded of a homily I gave a few weeks ago at Sunday Vespers where I spoke about the beautiful mosaic in San Clemente Basilica in Rome – the Tree of Life Mosaic. The beautiful mosaic has the cross, the tree of life in its center with Christ hanging on it.  From the feet of Christ radiates outward a vine and in between the vine were depictions of life.  From the top there is a hand that reaches downward and seemingly is pulling up the tree, the vine and those attached.  God pulling up to him those who live with and in Christ.

Two pictures depicting alternative lifestyles

1st – chaotic – piecemeal mosaic of man trying to things on his own. Confusing and conflicting realities because man tries to define what is just and right based the immediate situation and upon the agenda of a few charismatic and powerful forces.  This leads to no truth and no true solutions.

2nd – beautiful colorful mosaic of man living their life connected to Christ the vine. A life of peace and joy. There will be hardships; but attached to Christ and with the strength given us by His Holy Spirit we are healed of the damage done by those hardships.  We are nourished by His Spirit and given energy to radiate the beauty of life connected to Christ. We are at peace even though peace might not be around us.

This second mosaic is what Christ intended for each of us. His loving action on Calvary wasn’t a once for all change in this world. He never intended it to be – what would be the point of heaven? His gift of salvation to those who accept it would allow us to enter the most perfect union with Him at the end of times; so His gift of His body and blood as nourishment and communion is given to strengthen us for the journey.  A journey that gives the chance to gift ourselves to each other and by doing so help bring those around us to Him.  The first reading from Acts shows us the two mosaics – the disciples were fearful (and with good reason) of the murderous Saul’s intentions. The disciples were still living in the human picture. But Barnabas was now part of the beautiful vine mosaic.  He has given himself over to the Lord and His Spirit.  He helps the others do the same.

At this time in Eastertide Holy Mother Church emphasizes this journey, highlights that we are still working out our acceptance of our Lord’s pascal gift and shows us how to succeed. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.’ We hear proclaimed today. Jesus tells us that to live life in the fullest we need to live it with Him in Him.  And so we should.  All we have to do is look around to see that, at best, what society is trying to offer us is a mirage and probably more like a charade – nothing that is offered out there brings healing and peace and joy – unless Christ is at the center.

But how? How do we, in the face of the overwhelming pressures of modernity, live on the vine.  How do we receive the nourishment it offers?

This leads us to another of Christ’s gifts to us.  Let’s remind ourselves that the words of Christ in today’s gospel are from the Last Supper where He institutes the Eucharist.  But He also alludes to the final gift of His spirit during that meal– the Holy Spirit.  He will not leave us to our own devices – even with the eternal and supernatural nourishment of His body and blood.  He offers us His own Spirit who lives within us.  His own Holy Spirit that is an animator, and counselor, and guide, a paraclete.

In a few short weeks Holy Mother Church will celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Church.  We are now turning our celebrations towards that celebration of Christ’s living gift of nourishment from the vine.  Our part is to allow the Holy Spirit to work within our hearts, allow the Spirit to nurture, guide, counsel and protect us.

Let’s take to heart the words of the Opening Prayer today:

Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism
may, under your protective care, bear much fruit…

Let’s offer ourselves daily to Jesus through His Spirit through our prayers, our words and our actions. In this way we can be assured of the fruit we produce.

There is an urgency to this offering of ourselves. We can’t think of this as only helping ourselves but it is imperative for those who look to us for the future.  These past few weeks and the ones following will see many first communions – confirmations. Tonight, our school is holding its annual dinner dance.  The future looks to us to bring into the focus the right picture.  They depend on us to hand them a mosaic that gives them the same chance, if not a better one, on their journey then we have on ours.

This might sound scary.  We see in our world an aggressive resistance to all things Christian and so we might be hesitant to live our faith in the public, but we shouldn’t. The idea of proffering this alternative picture to the world might seem too big for us, but it shouldn’t.

Thirty-six years ago the world saw a radical event in the election of non-Italian pope. In his installation homily St. John Paul the great spoke words that resound down to each of us: ‘BE NOT AFRAID Open the wide the doors to Christ’. These words were spoken on a day that we celebrated ‘World Mission Sunday’

This is our calling, our mission – to show the world a beautiful mosaic as the alternative to chaotic and destructive picture offered by society. If we don’t then only a scary and desperate picture remains.

 

 

 

Take a step.

[1]

Easter is too great, it is too important to just give it 24 hours.  Here we are on the fifth day of the octave of Easter.  We are still trying to absorb its meaning, its weight, as it pertains to mankind in general and to each of us in particular.  There is so much that we need to unpack for our benefit. Today, we continue to hear about the impact of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection on His apostles – and us. For me, today I am reminded of one of the four pillars of the Church – she is apostolic and therefore so are we.

There is a line in the epic fantasy trilogy the Lord of the Rings that has always struck me.  Frodo Baggins is reminiscing with Gandalf the wizard about what Bilbo Baggins used to tell him. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.[2]

The apostles have just seen their leader slaughtered and all hope had disappeared – now they are hiding from the authorities.  Even with the recent news from some of their followers our Gospel reading has them in the upper room with the doors locked.  But to their amazement the recent news is true – Christ appears to them and assures them of His victory – He has died and He is risen; and what is more – it was always to be so.

But this good news comes with responsibility, obligation, a mandate, and that is to go out from that room, step into the road.  What is more they will have to continue what He had started: ‘that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’[3] Why? Because: ‘You are witnesses of these things.[4] This is no small request; this is what made Him enemies and so it only figures to bring danger to the apostles.  But they stepped into the road nonetheless. The Acts of the Apostles, where are first reading is from, gives us witness to their first steps.

Brothers and sisters we too have been given this great news of our salvation.  We too participate in the celebration of seeing Christ glorified (which we will see again in a few minutes on this altar in the Eucharist), and we too have the same commission leveled to us – step into the road.  There is no denying that by being members of Holy Mother Church we are called to take up the great commission that Christ gave His apostles ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.[5]

What will our answer to our Lord’s mandate be?

  • The apostles left the security of the upper room and took courage that their risen Lord would not leave them alone: ‘And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.[6] He assures them at the commissioning. Can we take from this the same assurance?
  • The apostles broke from their closed circle to go out and help a sick world – a world that hated their master’s message. It was for that reason that went out to help those who Jesus loved – to bring the peace and joy that they had been given. Are we ready to take the same step for the same reason? Pope Francis insists that we do so; during a General Audience in October of 2013 he said as much. ‘This is what Jesus told us to do! I insist on this missionary aspect, because Christ invites all to ‘go out’ and encounter others, he sends us, he asks us to move in order to spread the joy of the Gospel![7] Don’t be ‘sacristy Catholics’ Pope Francis said that day.

Friends we are celebrating the good news of salvation given to us by our Lord.  Within each of us should be a love that is trying to burst out; an overwhelming desire to bring this good news that has given us peace and joy, to others. Let us give it a way out – let’s go out of our door and take a step onto the road. Bilbo told Frodo: ‘if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’[8] We don’t have to worry about keeping our feet as long as we hold tight to our head – Jesus Christ.

Christus Resurrexit! Vere Resurrexit!

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[1] Homily for the Mass for Thursday in the Octave of Easter (Cycle II) Acts 3:11-16, Lk 24:35-48
[2] Lord of the Rings 1.3.74 JRR Tolkien
[3] Lk 24:48
[4] ibid
[5] Mt 28:19-20a
[6] Mt 28:20b
[7] Pope Francis General Audience 10/16/2013
[8] Lord of the Rings 1.3.74 JRR Tolkien

Lenten Community

Last week we reflected on the first of three aspects of Lent that I find are not prominent in our current Catholic Culture; tonight, we delve into the second.

Lent is a season that should be the hinge for the liturgical year. Christmas and Easter are the premier seasons of the Liturgical because they celebrate our reason for hope, peace, and joy.  They are the book-ends of God’s revelation and our salvation. But Lent – Lent is when we look within and measure our ability to fully embrace Christmas and Easter.  Lent is when we take inventory of our shortcomings in loving God and take efforts in strengthening ourselves to improve our relationship.  The readings we hear during Sunday Vespers during Lent highlights the kind of effort we should be making – it is spiritually athletic and much energy is needed.

To help us with this, the Gospel readings for the first Sunday in Lent brings us face to face with Christ in the desert.  This reading shows two very important aspects of a Lent: one rather obvious, the other mostly overlooked. In this reading we see that Christ starts His ministry by participating in Lenten exercises.  Christ walks before us in Lent; His fasting and prayer are lessons for us. He is the example, the guide that we need.  But what goes almost unnoticed (in regards to Lent) is that at the end of this event Christ returns to His community – the reason He went into the desert was ultimately for His community – Lent is a community exercise as well as private.

Let’s take a look at another Lenten Gospel reading, the Ash Wednesday Gospel – first Gospel of Lent:
“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[1]

We hear Christ teaching us the importance of a private and personal relationship with the Lord.  How important it is to not just go through the motions of public demonstration but to embrace totally God’s desire to be with us, lead us, love us, and affect us profoundly.  But what is also important is that Christ is explaining this to His followers. He is helping His community; He participates with them so that they can grow and continue to walk with Him. This important part of the Lenten experience was commented on by Pope Paul VI, in his 1973 Lenten message, indeed he starts the message with it: ‘Lent is a time of self-denial and penance; but it is also a time of fellowship and solidarity.[2]

Brothers and sisters, we are called to interior conversion so that we can grow closer to God.  What better time to start this than in Lent, when we pay special attention to the threefold Lenten exercise plan of prayer, alms giving, and fasting.  But what we can’t ignore is that this interior exercise is not done in isolation – we are community.  By community I mean we are a family journeying this exercise together, we can and should help each other, give strength to each other as a physical trainer does for his client.  We have the need and obligation to participate as a family in these exercises so that all of us will grow in both giving and receiving help.

The obvious part about this community experience is that we need to give of ourselves to those in physical and material need.  We are called to humble ourselves, lower ourselves to help raise those who are the most vulnerable and needy.  But, as important are those who are on the journey and can’t find the path; those, who though aren’t in physical and material danger, are floundering in their spiritual growth.  In short we need to bring, and re-bring them the good news – WE NEED TO EVANGELIZE! Christ tells us to go into our inner room to pray but He also tells us: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”’[3]

By a participation in public Lenten events we make a statement to those who are wavering and about to give up.  By open discussion about our Lenten journey we bond with those who are also trying. In other words; we minister to each other in our Lenten exercise of intense prayer, alms-giving, and fasting. So my friends, as we experience our Lenten desert exercises let’s be for each other like the angels who ministered to Jesus; so that, when our time has come to reenter the community we can bring Christ to our neighbors and our neighbors to Christ.

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[1] Mt 6:1-6 (RSV)
[2] Pope Paul VI; Lenten Message 1973
[3] Mt 28:19-20 (RSV)

Lessons From A Sword

Today’s first reading from the Book of Jonah[1] shows Jonah entering Nineveh and heralding a warning from God – repent or be doomed.  Jonah had finally stopped fighting against God’s plan for him; he went into a pagan city with only the truth and trust in God.  It started me wondering more about how that happens.  It also happens that today, January 25th, when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul – another example of absolute trust in God and tireless proclamation of Truth.

Cardinal Ratzinger, back in the 1980s wrote a small reflection[2] for the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  In it he used the sword (which St. Paul traditionally holds in artwork) as his reflective vehicle. At one point he wrote: ‘suffering and truth belong together.[3] This comment came about as Cardinal Ratzinger explained the sword as representing truth, God’s truth; and the sword as suffering, martyrdom (and humility).

Sword as Truth
In the letter to Hebrews the author writes an oft quoted and very powerful line ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.[4]  God’s word, His truth is that powerful.  His truth, if we allow it to enter our hearts and minds, will reveal to us things we never knew and some we never want to know.  This sword reveals us to ourselves; it opens us, but not as a weapon in the hands of a conqueror, but rather as a scalpel in the hands of a healer.  God’s truth is our salvation and healing.  God’s truth, His Word, is Christ.

Sword as Suffering and Humility
But the sword also symbolizes suffering (indeed martyrdom), and humility.  St. Paul’s apostolic journeys, are full of suffering. At one point in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians he gives us a summary of sorts: ‘Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.[5]

He listed these sufferings not to brag (St. Paul never brags about himself); but in this case, to make the Corinthians aware of what it means to be a true witness to God; as opposed to the imposters who were in Corinth.  The sufferings he endured weren’t endured because of any message of his own; he endured these sufferings for the Truth, for the Word, for Jesus Christ.  St. Paul allowed himself to be a servant, a ‘slave’ in his words, to the truth – Christ his master.  He knows that God’s Word will set us free – it is the only way and so as a humble servant he endures for God. St. Paul says it so much better: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[6]

Our part – embracing the sword
So brothers and sisters, St. Paul stands in many images and statues with a sword – not as symbol of power that the world would recognize but, among other things, as a symbol of how to live our lives.  As witnesses to the good news of God’s salvific plan we know that God has revealed to us the truth that will set us free, words that will bring us salvation, the Word in Christ Jesus.  But words that people don’t want to hear – because they reveal too much for their comfort. As bearers of this good news, and because of this news, we know that we will meet with sufferings.  But, as servants of this Word, we need to endure these sufferings for God and the sake of the people who are inflicting these sufferings.

In today’s Gospel reading we hear Christ proclaim the good news and invite others to do the same. ‘Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.[7] He tells some fishermen and He is telling us now.

St. Paul’s actions in Christ’s name shows us the way of our ministry: humble bravery in living and proclaiming the Truth tirelessly. St. Paul pray for us as we continue your ministry as witnesses to the Truth.  May we embrace the sword as Christ embraces us – with love.

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[1] Jon 3:1-5; 10
[2] The Warrior and the Sufferer Reflection on the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul  – ‘Images of Hope, Feast Day Reflections’ by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 1997
[3] ibid
[4] Heb 4:12 (RSV)
[5] 2 Cor 11:24-27 (RSV)
[6] Gal 2:20 (RSV)
[7] Mk 1:17 (RSV)

As does our King – so do we.

Today, the final Sunday in the Liturgical year we celebrate the greatness of Jesus Christ as King of the Universe and acknowledge the eschatological ramifications of His kingship. He is the absolute king of all creation; He created and He will judge. Today’s Gospel[1] relates to us this ‘dreadful greatness’ of Christ: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.[2]  This understanding about power is something that mankind can easily grasp, can comprehend about a king, an absolute ruler.  It fits with what humanity has experienced throughout history. No matter where a ruler lies on the continuum of leadership, from benevolent to tyrannical, there is always a coercive aspect.  That Jesus Christ has such power, that He is such power, if viewed with the eyes of this human experience, should make us quake in our boots. But His is a power that confounds the human experience.

Today’s Gospel continues with Christ explaining His true power.  His power is not one of coerciveness; it is one of intimacy, empathy, love. From His words today we see that His ability to pass judgment on each person is based on His experience with each person.  He knows each person, His Holy Spirit dwells within each person.  He experiences the action, and the effect of each person.  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.[3]; and the opposite He tells each of us today.  He suffers personally with each suffering person.  He feels the pain of want and the pain of seeing people in want. He feels the loving action of selfless help and also distasteful selfish rejection.

He has come to our level, and even lower, to lead us and to lift us up. Christ, the King of Universe, rules from our level; He has gifted us with His intimacy and love. And though His attitude about power confuses the mindset of mankind it is not out of our reach to comprehend; indeed, buried deep within each of us is the urge to understand His kingship and desire it.

Even more to the point (especially at this outset of the New Evangelization), it is an attitude that each of us should harness. We should be attentive to this attitude of our king and use it to drive our own journey. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, in a homily this past September, talked about the attitude of Christ; where He places himself among us, and how we should desire the same; saying: ‘He was born in a stable…he died on the Cross…he tells us that the right place is the one close to him, the place according to his measure.’ And he continued: ‘We are on the right path if we try to be people who ‘come down’ to serve, who bear God’s free gift to the world.[4]

Brothers and sisters, the Feast of the Solemnity of the Christ the King is more than a day to celebrate our King.  It is more than a day to give thanks for His gift of intimacy and love.  It is a day of reflection on how we should live our lives as well.  This day puts a new meaning, an eternal meaning, to an old saying: ‘As does our king – so do we.’  As subjects of Christ the King we take His attitude as our own, and we follow His lead in serving those around us – in helping those in want – in bringing His light to those in darkness.  Today’s readings shouldn’t cause us to fear final judgment as much as it should lead us to Christ’s right-hand.  As with all scripture we hear God helping us find the path to eternal happiness; and this path leads through those around us. There is no other path to heaven except through others – especially those in need.

And finally, His attitude gives us great freedom – this following the lead of our king.  His gift of service frees us from the chains of expectations and desires so prevalent in this world today.  When we follow the example of our king we no longer struggle for fleeting possessions and opinions but embrace the eternal peace and joy that service of love gives us.  Our desire is be one with our king who emptied himself so he could truly know us.  His throne is the Cross; His banner a bloody tunic; His orb is the world; and His greatest desire is each of us.

As does our King – so do we!

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[1] MT 25:31-46
[2] MT 25:31-32a
[3] MT 25:35-36
[4] Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 9/1/2014 Homily during Mass for the closing of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis

Certainty

In one the first RCIA classes I attended 21 years ago Father asked a question to the class.  How many in this room are at least a little afraid of dying?  Many, including the catechists, didn’t raise their hands; some of us, including me and surprisingly Father Mike, did.  He then went on to say that it was normal to be nervous, a little afraid of the future because it is an unknown; and dying even more so, because it is an unknown involving eternity.

At the very beginning of his trilogy on Jesus Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI writes ‘In every age, man’s questioning has focused not only on his ultimate origin … [but also] what preoccupies him is the hiddenness of the future that awaits him.  Man wants to tear aside the curtain; he wants to know what is going to happen, so that he can avoid perdition and set out toward salvation.[1]

So it is that mankind’s curiosity of eternity hovers on the edge of fear.  Most people are fearful of eternity because they are not really convinced they know what it entails.  Even the most devout Christians who believe Christ’s revelation about what it entails are fearful that we won’t pass the grade when it comes.  So it is no surprise that today’s Gospel[2] and St. Paul’s words today at Mass from his 1st letter to the Thessalonians[3] make us at least a little nervous. “Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.[4] we heard from St. Paul today and as I heard these words I felt myself wonder will I be caught unaware to enter eternity. When the time comes will I be worthy of the Kingdom of God – heaven?

The Jews of the Bible viewed eternity somewhat differently than we do.  I bet if I asked each of you what eternity means you would say it is where we end up after we die (or some variation of that) – something down the proverbial road from now; somewhere in future. Not so with the Jews of Jesus day; eternity to them was the present onward. History was yesterday and back; but eternity begins now – with the present.

Brothers and sisters, as our Jewish brothers understand we have reached eternity; and as Christ proclaims we have already entered into the Kingdom God.  “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”[5] He tells us in Mark.  The truth of eternity/eternal life shouldn’t be uncertain – we know what it is – we have seen it. Jesus praying to His Father gives us this knowledge: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ”.[6]

The questions of what eternity is and when it starts are answered – there should be no uncertainty. Our concerns should be centered on how we live our life at this beginning of eternity.  Our energies should be focused on following the true path – Jesus Christ; because without Him we are lost.  The good news is that Christ has given us the surest guide and companion for our journey – Holy Mother Church.  Today’s first reading from Proverbs[7] gives us this great news.  At first reading it seems to be about spousal love and self-giving, and it is.  But it is also about Christ’s relation with His spouse – Holy Mother Church. Christ who has given us His bride to help us, to be our refuge, our guide; loves her absolutely ‘entrusting his heart to her’[8]. With this understanding we can be assured that if we live within Holy Mother Church we are walking with Christ.  The darkness of the world and its prince cannot pierce the light of Christ that shines through His bride.  Holy Mother Church who radiates the light of Christ bathes her children in that same light – if we allow her to.  With her we walk along eternity towards her spouse and our final home. With her we need to bring as many of our neighbors who live in darkness into the light of eternal certitude – into the loving embrace of God.

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[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Volume 1 pg 1
[2] Mt 25:14-30
[3] 1 Thes 5:1-6
[4] 1 Thes 5:1-2
[5] Mk 1:15
[6] Jn 17:3
[7] Prvbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
[8] Prvbs 31:13