Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Isn't that the way they say it goes?

As we continue the narrative in Daily Mass in the second book of the Prophet Samuel, we begin to see King David desiring to do something magnificent and mighty for the Lord.  In the process God begins to ask him, did I ask you to do this?   Have I ever complained?  During all this time have I ever said "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" (2 Samuel 7:7)   It's not that David's idea was a bad one, in fact God promises him that his son Solomon would do just that.  The thing is, David's idea was the thinking of man, not the thinking of God.  David wanted to do something good... God wanted to give him something awesome, something more, something eternal.  God then goes on to promise that not only will Solomon build him a house of worship, but makes one of the most important promises in all of the history of Israel, declaring: "Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever." (2 Samuel 7:16)

Isn't that the way it always goes?  God has something planned for us, and we think we know better?  The thing is that God wants us to learn a simple and profound truth, that he is truly our Father.  We are a part of the most important family, the most influential, a royal kingdom that lasts forever.  The word became flesh, so that we might partake of his very own divine nature. (CCC 460)  The thing is though that we see from all of Sacred Scripture that God wants us to remember that everyone is part of this family, especially the widow and the orphan.  We as Catholics believe in a preferential option for the poor.   That is, God himself is their protector, their Father. 

Father of orphans and protector of widows
    is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
    he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
    but the rebellious live in a parched land.

We as Catholics are called to remember that at all times.  To realize that this Kingdom is made up first and foremost by those who have nothing to give in return.  That unless we are like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.   We see that truth proclaimed in the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem on an ass.   Who greets the King of the Universe?   The children and the poor, those are the subjects of His royal kingdom.   It isn't the King and Queen, the wealthy aristocrat who comes to scatter palms and sing Hosanna, but rather the poorest members of society who rejoice at his arrival. (CCC 559) Jesus entry into Jerusalem itself mad manifest that Kingdom which David was promised, the eternal Kingdom, completely revealed to us in his death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven.

Our Gospel reading then goes on to give us a parable to help us understand this Kingdom that he has come to bring about.  Jesus does a great deal of teaching in parables.  He doesn't explain it to everyone, rather he spends time explaining it to his disciples.  The Church has long held that the reasoning for this is because of the nature of their teaching office and mission.   How could they teach what Jesus taught, without understanding it?  Then he promised to send the Holy Spirit to remind them of his words, and to help them further spread this kingdom to the ends of the earth.  (John 14:16-17,  John 14:26)   That's one of the things about our faith.  It's difficult to understand Christianity without being an 'insider.'  For those who stay outside of the mystery, those who never experience Christ, everything remains enigmatic.   When I first began to study the Catholic church, that word Mystery... infuriated me.   It was only as I drew closer, began to ask God to teach me, began to truly listen to His guidance and approach it with an honest heart and open mind... that I began to see that it is truly a mystery.. because God is more than any human mind can comprehend.  

This parable of his reminds us that we are all called to discipleship.  We have been given the gift of the Word.  It has been planted into our hearts.  Our souls call out to be filled with Him.  St Augustine said, "our heart is restless until it rests in you."  (CCC 30)   We must realize though, that call demands a response.  It demands a choice.  We can be like the person who simply lets it be snatched from our grasp.  We don't want to know.  We don't want to choose.  We just walk away.  We can be the person who is on fire for a time, but then some trial comes along.. some suffering... and we want nothing to do with God.   We can be a true disciple, we can nourish that seed through prayer, through meditation, through the Sacraments... until it begins to grow and overflow... changing not just ourselves but the world around us. 

We often forget how beautiful and glorious a gift the Eucharist is to us.  The Catechism says that "This Sacramental celebration is a meeting of God's children with their Father, through Christ and the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1153).    Mass is a family reunion.  It is a moment where God himself is made present.  It has been said that at Mass, heaven kisses earth.  Think about that for a moment.  Heaven does not become part of the earth, but you and I are lifted up to be a part of heaven.  We receive Jesus that just as he became man, that we might become more like God... he becomes bread, that we might consume him and be transformed... to be drawn into that divine life... that eternal life.   The Catechism goes on to say that these "liturgical actions signify what the Word of God expresses: both his free initiative and his people's response of faith." 

Faith demands a response.  Mass is the start of the response.  Our actions, our words, our communion... they are a sign that we are soil ready to be prepared.   Even if we have rocks and briars, we are opening ourselves to the greatest Farmer in the universe... through His Sacramental presence he will prepare us.  Do you think of that when Jesus said I go to prepare a place?  Well he does indeed do that.  I also believe, that through receiving Him here and now... we can begin to prepare a place in our hearts.. a dwelling place... a temple for God himself to live inside us.  Heaven is not just then.. it is through all of time and space... and it can be right now. 

This parable shows Jesus coming as the final prophet, the prophet par excellence.  He comes to give us a message that just like his predecessors.. some will reject, some will follow for a time and then fall away, some will never water or take care of, never encourage, and some will be fertile soil.  Isaiah declared:

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Jesus is the Word of God, the Word that was spoken to create all of the universe.  Not a thing was made that was not made for him, and through him.  (John 1:3) That Word is being spoken to you, right now.   There is only one thing that can stand in it's way.. you.  A light never casts a shadow, unless something is in it's way...  So what kind of soil are you?  Are you a mirror reflecting the light of Christ for the whole world to see?  Or a bushel basket trying to hide it through your words and actions?   He is there, waiting for you in the Sacraments.. he doesn't expect you to be perfect, he doesn't ask you to wait until your life is put back together.. no, he wants you to come now.  Come to see him in Confession, then go forth and sin no more.  Let him turn you into a fertile soil, that His Word might bloom in your heart.. and together we (The Body of Christ) can change the world.

We have work to do!   Let's begin by being more like God and reaching out to those he chose as the first in his Kingdom.  The poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien.   They need us, and guess what... we need them.  If we start there, God himself will build an eternal dwelling, a house not made with hands, eternal inside you.

His servant and yours,