Believe Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28: Brothers and sisters: we know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. [por español: click here]

Wonderful. Do we believe it? Do we, in fact, know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose? Let’s ask ourselves two questions.

“We know that all things work for the good for those who love God.” We “know” this.  How do we know it?

Let us freely acknowledge that Romans 8:28 is not self-evident.  There are a lot of people out there who disagree.  Many of our brothers and sisters in this world look around at the way things work, and they despair.  They see nothing but selfishness, or the law of the jungle, or the slow arc of inevitable death and dissolution.  Some people think that the higher powers calling the shots are unfriendly, or even malicious.  And there are the poor souls who imagine there is really nothing except atoms—no angels, no truth, no love, no honor, no glory. Atheism.

Synod of Bishops 1967 Paul VI
Pope Paul VI addresses the Synod fathers of 1967

Exactly fifty years ago, in 1967, Pope Paul VI convened the first Roman Synod of Bishops of the modern age. The idea was to address the problem of atheism. The contemplative monks of the world sent a message to the Synod, about the great gift of Christian faith. The monks emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit, the experience of the Spirit’s gifts, through prayer and the sacraments.

The Holy Spirit enables us to know that Romans 8:28 is true by the gift of knowledge: our interior perception that God is in charge of everything, that there is a reason behind everything. As Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI frequently pointed out, one doctrine distinguishes true religion: the doctrine that God is reasonable, rather than arbitrary.  To be sure, right now our minds cannot quite grasp all of God’s reasons for doing or permitting all the things that He does or permits. So we need to abandon ourselves in faith when our human reasoning reaches its limit.  But when everything is said and done, we will understand it all, because God’s entire plan proceeds according to reason. When we get to heaven, please God, we will see it all clearly; we will understand everything completely.

The Lord wills good; He permits evil.  His plan is so magnificent, and His power so awesome, that He brings greater good out of the evil which He permits.  St. Paul pointed out earlier in his letter to the Romans the supreme instance of God bringing good out of evil:  From Satan’s temptation in the garden, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the whole history of human sin, God brought about the infinitely greater good of the mission of His Son to the earth.  Jesus Christ—who suffered and died unjustly, then rose again—Jesus is the best possible thing that ever could have happened.  His goodness trumps all the evil that has ever been or ever will be; His goodness overcomes it all, and turns all evil into an opportunity for holiness, for good. Suffering the evil that God permits unites us with the Savior who suffered, for us.

So now we can answer our first question:  We know what Romans 8:28 says we know because: God became man, lived for us as a man, died for us as a man, rose again and ascended into heaven as a man, and He pours His Spirit out from heaven into our hearts to give us interior knowledge of Himself.

Holy Spirit dove sunQuestion #2: Things work for the good of those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose.  What is God’s purpose?

The answer is simple and obvious and impossible to fathom.  We know from the Gospel  that God’s purpose in everything is: that we would share the divine glory forever. Share in the divine glory forever.

Straightforward enough, yes. But: we do not yet see this glorious destiny of ours. As we will commemorate next Sunday, Saints Peter, James, and John saw for a moment the divine glory shining through Jesus, at the Transfiguration. But we have not seen such unique sights. In fact, the prospect of sharing the divine glory forever utterly transcends our capacities to feature. So for now our destiny must remain an interior mystery of faith.  Again, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with a special gift.

Through prayer and the sacraments, the Lord pours divine wisdom into our souls, so that we can savor the sweetness of heaven a little bit now, even before we get there.  The sweetness we savor is nothing other than the sweetness of true love.  God’s purpose is: to love, and to love us above all.  The Holy Spirit lifts us up towards God so that we can have a little share in the divine love even now.

This heavenly wisdom even allows us to savor God’s sweetness in the midst of severe trials and tribulations, in the face of the evils God allows us to have to endure, so that we might grow in holiness.  Our pilgrimage is not easy, and we have to fight hard.  But through it all, we experience the Spirit’s gifts. Then we know—we even “feel”–that Romans 8:28 is true. All things are working together for our good, even and especially the crosses we have to carry as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.

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The Commandment Crisis, Part II

Today at Holy Mass we read the Ten Commandments, from Exodus 20. Let’s focus on the third commandment, since God Himself focused on it, by instructing the wandering Israelites to keep the sabbath, even before they arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the commandments.

moses_ten_commandmentsThe Western world has never officially adopted atheism as a principle of government, like communist Russia and China did. (France was officially atheist, but only for six months, during the 1790’s.) Here in the U.S., of course, we officially trust in God, as our money plainly indicates.

But: Hasn’t the sabbath vanished from our life as a nation? And doesn’t that mean that we are, if not atheist in theory, actually atheist in practice? I don’t intend this as a guilt-trip for anyone. Let’s simply consider what the sabbath means for our understanding of reality.

First and foremost, keeping the sabbath means that we put into practice our awareness that God is God. That He reigns supreme in unfathomable, holy goodness and beauty. That everything exists because of His merciful kindness.

Second, the sabbath means that we have immortal, spiritual souls. We human beings occupy planet earth in an utterly unique position, as the supreme pontiffs of creation. Among all the creatures here, we alone perceive the harmony and loveliness of God’s handiwork, and on the sabbath we praise Him and glorify Him for it.

These days supposedly sophisticated people don’t use the words “mankind” or “man.” Instead, sophisticated people say “humans.” But “humans” suggests that we are just one animal species among many. Whales, humans, monkeys, bats, etc. But mankind has a unique destiny, which we attain by keeping the sabbath.

deep seaSomeone rightfully asked me after my homily yesterday: Father, how can you say the crisis of our times involves the third commandment, when so many babies get aborted, in flagrant violation of the fifth?

An eminently reasonable question. But I think it actually serves to make my point. What would move us to such acts of violence? The crushing of innocent life in the womb, so full of promise for the future? The only explanation for millions of abortions and the culture of death is widespread desperate hopelessness.

So, why have we fallen into such desperate hopelessness? Because we have no silence, no rest, no interior space that God can fill with Himself—He Who is our only enduring joy. We never stop to contemplate Him. We have lost sight of the fact that contemplating God is the meaning of life. Life without the sabbath is a living hell. So it’s really no wonder that we have become so unchaste and violent.

But God is still God, of course. And mankind still stands at the pinnacle of creation as high priest. And Christ’s sacrifice still opens the heart of infinite divine mercy.

We can always find sabbath rest for our souls at the Church’s altars. And it seems to me that nothing will evangelize better than our having that sabbath refreshment within ourselves–and inviting others to share in its true joy.

The 21st-Century Commandment Crisis

This week at daily Mass, we read from Exodus about the Israelites leaving Egypt and coming to Mount Sinai. To show them that they could always trust Him, the Lord fed the wanderers with manna from heaven. He ordered them to gather an adequate portion every day—except on the sixth day, when they gathered double.

el_greco-sinaiNow, why was that? Why double on the sixth day?

Can’t figure it out, because your mind is too distracted by the cares and anxieties of daily life? We’ll come back to it.

As we read at Holy Mass today, Moses led Israel to Mount Sinai. Why? For the view? Reminds me of one summer day when some friends and I climbed Moore’s Knob in Hanging Rock State Park in NC. A large church group of boys, with men chaperoning, climbed when we did. At the summit, some of the boys tossed a few stones off the edge. One of the chaperones bellowed: “We did not climb this mountain to throw rocks!”

The Israelites did not go to Mount Sinai to throw rocks.

Now, many good Christians these days think that the commandment most ignored, most flouted, most desecrated is: the sixth. And certainly the sixth commandment suffers from grave neglect.

But if I can claim to have an over-arching theory guiding my ministry these 14 years and counting, it is this: Our real contemporary crisis has to do with the third commandment.

See? You’re not 100% sure what the third commandment even is.

Now: Yes, a lot of Catholics fail to get themselves to church for Sunday Mass. That’s a big problem. But I don’t think that’s the heart of the matter, the heart of the Twenty-First-Century Third-Commandment Crisis.

The Catechism has an electric sentence in the article on the third commandment:

The sabbath is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

A day of protest. Better than a march on Washington, in fact. Like the Polish workers shouting, with Bishop Wojtyla, on the plot of land where the Communists refused to build the parish church: ‘We want God!’

The Lord Himself spoke very forcefully to Moses on this subject:

You must tell the Israelites: take care to keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the token between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the Lord, who make you holy…

Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh is the sabbath of complete rest, sacred to the Lord…

So shall the Israelites observe the sabbath, keeping it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. Between me and the Israelites it is to be an everlasting token: for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day he rested at his ease. [Exodus 31:13-17]

Yes, modern man has profound, and cruelly destructive, sexual problems, which arise from sixth-commandment breaking. But I think 21st-century man’s far-deeper problem is: The servitude of work and not knowing how to rest at his ease.

More on this tomorrow.

Exodus 14-15 Spiritual Painting

[Please don’t be alarmed by the new blog title and format. Same content as before. A little change does us all good sometimes. Love, the Editor.]

Ten Commandments Charlton Heston Red Sea

The Lord covered Himself in glory by drowning the Egyptian army that pursued the Israelites. That’s the tale of Exodus 14-15.

We know this has a spiritual meaning. Certain events occurred in the life of the nation of Israel, in which God painted history itself—like a mystical kind of canvas, in which we can see ourselves. We read about the Passover of the Red Sea every year on Holy Saturday night at the… Easter Vigil.

On this mystical canvas of history, the Israelites represent…? Us. The human race, summoned by God to the Promised Land.

The Promised Land represents…? Heaven. Full communion with our Creator and with each other. The fulfillment of all our deepest desires and the realization of our full potential to love.

The Egyptian army represents…? Demons. All the forces that work to prevent the full flowering of our human destiny. Our own weaknesses and selfish tendencies.

The Red Sea represents…? The waters of baptism. The operation of God’s grace in our souls. The spiritual battleground through which we must pass. The great mystery of death and re-birth that brings us home to God.

Moses represents…? Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The entire spiritual meaning of Exodus 14-15 revolves around Christ’s accomplishment on the cross. If Jesus had decided to stay home in Galilee that day, then the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt would not have a spiritual meaning. It would remain an important event in one nation’s history. But not a mystery in which every nation could see itself.

Christ did, however, go to Jerusalem to commemorate the ancient Passover, and to fulfill it. He did offer the true sacrifice of Himself, so that water can now cleanse souls from sin. He did open His arms on Mt. Calvary, so that the gates of paradise now stand open again.

The history of Israel became universally meaningful for all human souls because of the particular historical event that every Mass brings to the here and now. This is the glory with which the Lord has covered Himself: the history—that He has painted for us like Rembrandt—has a meaning. And the meaning is: that our lives have hope and a goal. And the goal is: to see the great divine Rembrandt Himself.

Redemption and Original Sin

devil sewing tares

In everyone, the weeds of sin will be mixed with the good wheat of the gospel until the end of time.  The Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation, but still on the way to holiness.

This is a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (paragraph 827)

The parable of the wheat and the tares ends with some drama:  The bundled weeds burn; the sifted wheat fills the barn with the restful smell of harvest-time. And the parable injects drama into our gathering here.  Right here, right now, some of us are good guys, and some of us are bad guys. [se haga click for spanish]

But we don’t wear jerseys to identify which team each of us is on.  Because we are all on both teams.  Good guys, raise your hands.  Bad guys, raise your hands.

God made Adam and Eve good, and He set them up well.  Even though they were made out of nothingness and susceptible to death and decay, God filled them with divine life and made them immortal.  They never would have died; they never would have experienced any evil—if they had not sinned.

the-fallBut…

And they sinned before they conceived their children.  Therefore, when they did have children, the children were born in the precarious state into which their parents had fallen.  Human nature gets handed down in this precarious state. We all received human nature in this precarious state.  In a nutshell, the precarious state is:  We are born mortal and selfish.

Since we sin all the time, it is easy for us to lose sight of just how enormous the guilt of sin is.  If you play in the NBA, and you mutter a bad word at a referee, you can be fined the cash equivalent of a brand-new Mercedes-Benz.  For offending a basketball referee.

What, then, is the penalty for offending God?  The infinitely good and powerful?  The Almighty? Well, the penalty is:  Infinity dollars.  You offend the infinite, you owe an infinite debt. And we don’t have infinity dollars.

So God became man and offered a peace offering of infinite love on our behalf. On the cross, Christ the man offered His divine love to the Father.  Behold:  the fine is paid, by the love of the Son for the Father.

Having redeemed mankind as a man, God continues to move history forward by the birth of succeeding generations of men—born in the way we have always been born. But now we can be adopted into the household of God by the blood of Christ.  Holy Baptism brings about this adoption.

God, being God, could receive us into heaven immediately upon our being baptized.  But, usually, He graciously wills otherwise.  He wills to make us partners in our own salvation; He leaves us on earth into adulthood, under the power of our own free will.  He gives us time to do battle with the lingering effects of original sin. By doing so—by fighting the battle—we come into our own and grow into the people He made us to be.

So: as baptized Christians, we are children of God.  As children of Adam, we are craven sinners.   We know we have been consecrated to become saints of Christ, but nonetheless we are moved by strong desires to do things like plop down in front of the t.v. for hours scarfing down an entire bag of Doritos.

The struggle against the residual effects of original sin sounds difficult, and indeed it is.  But getting a grip on the situation is half the battle. When we know what the battle is, we can fight it.

The Lord in His parable reserved to Himself the right to judge the souls of men on the last day.  It is not my business to condemn my own soul or anyone else’s. As long as we still have two feet above ground, harvest time has not yet arrived for us.

What I must do is weed out of my own interior garden while I still can.  And that is precisely what we are here to do.  We are here in church to praise God for the good in us. And to work to remove the bad. We all know that our own individual souls are gardens where good plants and evil weeds both grow.

And another important lesson of the parable is this: when we reach down into our souls to pull out a weed, we don’t have to worry that we might pull out too much earth and ruin the seed-bed.  Inside us, the good lies deeper than the bad.  The weeds might seem like they go all the way down to the bedrock. But, in fact, they do not. The bedrock of a human soul is God.

First and foremost, I am a beloved child of God; He made me good, and He died on Calvary to save me from condemnation.  He poured out His Precious Blood to pay the price for all my sins.  I need not be afraid, then, to confront them. I can acknowledge that this particular beloved child of God is also a weak and depraved son of Adam—a sinner who relies on divine mercy.

Where sin abounds—and it abounds in me—grace abounds all the more.

Passover to Walley World

Walley World

In Exodus, we read the Lord’s instructions to Moses and Aaron about celebrating the Passover. The ceremony involves a sacrifice and a meal. The quintessence of the ritual is: Being in flight, leaving, moving. No time for the bread to rise, because this is a meal for the road. The angel of death will pass over our hovels, marked by the blood of the lamb. Then we will leave. We will pass over the Red Sea as if it were dry land, en route to the country God has given us.

This ritual sense of pilgrimage has passed into the sacrificial meal of the new and eternal covenant, the Holy Mass. The offering of the Body and Precious Blood of the incarnate divine Lamb saves us from slavery to sin and death. We consume Him under the appearance of unleavened bread as food for our journey. We keep our sandals on our feet and our staffs in hand. We keep our loins girt. What does that mean? It means now is no time for lollygagging, for malingering on the sofa. This is not our home. We have a destination to reach.

But wait a minute. Don’t we live here? Don’t we have duties, friends and loved ones, worthy tasks to accomplish here and now? And isn’t our parish-church building our ‘church home?’ Shouldn’t we especially love our parish church, as a home for our souls and spirits?

Good question. To understand this properly, let’s consider how Benedictine monks promise never to leave the monastery without the abbot’s permission. Talk about the opposite of “on the move.” The ancient Israelites celebrating the first Passover seem to occupy the opposite end of a spectrum from the monk confined for life to his cloister.

Except: the two share the same profound spiritual awareness. God has a home for us, and it is not here. No one has loins more securely girt for the great journey than a cloistered monk who lives for fifty or sixty years on one little plot of ground without going anywhere other than the doctor’s office.

passover seder plateOur parish church building counts as a bona fide “home” because it represents heaven. It represents the home we truly have, which is not here on earth.

Some people fantasize endlessly about vacationing in Disneyland, or Wally World, or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’ll admit that I myself have a US map on my wall, marked with all the Civil-War sites I have visited. And my next traveling plan is to visit sites from the Mexican-American War. We’re not cloistered monks, after all; we’re allowed to take vacations sometimes.

But no one can take a vacation from the fact that this world will never make us truly happy, and someday we will all die. Someday soon. So we find happiness by calmly and patiently living out our lives on the little plot of land we occupy, frequenting the parish church, celebrating the holy Passover sacrifice—the Mass—hoping that today the Lord will return in all His glory.

Five Implications of Faith

Moses burning bush

The Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush, revealing Himself. God had revealed Himself before–to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, the Lord’s revelation of Himself to Moses “proved to be the fundamental one.”

He is one God, living and true, almighty, everlasting, and infinitely wise. He is faithful, compassionate, rich in mercy. God made the heavens and the earth; He reigns over all things; His sublime beauty and goodness give meaning and purpose to everything.

The Catechism goes on to point out that believing in God has five basic implications. I reserve the right to give a quiz on this at some future time.

  1. We believe in one God Almighty; therefore, we must seek to know Him and serve Him.
  2. We must give Him thanks for everything.
  3. We must acknowledge that all human beings share in equal dignity as His children, and that the entire human race is fundamentally one family.
  4. We must make use of created things only as means by which to get closer to God. We must detach ourselves from any created thing that estranges us from Him.
  5. We trust God in every circumstance.

Easy to say. Semi-easy to memorize. A lifetime of daily work to put into practice.

λόγον τῆς βασιλείας: Weeds No, Coffin Yes

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_Angelico
Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico

In ancient Palestine, you had to have a path through your fields to keep people from treading all over your seedlings, because everyone had the right to walk anywhere. And rocky patches dotted all the arable Palestinian hillsides. And thistles would germinate and sprout as weeds in your fields, no matter what you did. [Click por español.]

So seeds really did face the perils that the Lord described in the Parable of the Sower. He went on to explain that the seed in the parable represents “the word of the kingdom,” λόγον τῆς βασιλείας. Like the third luminous mystery of the Holy Rosary: the proclamation of the kingdom and the call to repentance.

Thistle seeds carried on the Palestinian breezes, and farm fields had weeds. As Jesus went on to explain: worldly anxiety and the lure of riches can grow like weeds in a soul, choking the word of the kingdom, so that it bears no fruit.

Now, how would that be? we might ask. Since λόγον τῆς βασιλείας means the full fruition of human life in God. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it: “To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth. The Father’s will is to raise up men to share in his own divine life.” (Lumen Gentium 2-3) To raise up men to share in His own divine life.

In exactly three weeks, we will keep the Feast of Christ’s Transfiguration. The boundless light of His divine nature shone through His human flesh. For a few moments on Mount Tabor, Peter, James, and John saw the divinity of Jesus.

Christ’s union with God, the inner permeation of His being by God’s infinite glory: such a union is precisely what awaits us. In the kingdom of heaven, our entire human personality will receive God’s warm and loving light–everything about us permeated by Him. Such is the meaning of λόγον τῆς βασιλείας, the word of the kingdom.

st-francis-contemplating-a-skullSo, we wonder: how could the weeds of worldly anxiety, or the lure of riches–how could anything ever choke out the fruition of something so wonderful? What success or satisfaction in this life could ever hold a candle to the glory that Christ promises us with God? Nothing can compete with God!

Wouldn’t it make more sense, we think–wouldn’t it make more sense intentionally to renounce the comforts of the earth, if they could ever interfere with us reaching heaven, like weeds interfere with the growth of good plants? Hard to believe that anyone would prefer a fancy life for sixty or seventy years over an eternity of divine happiness. Better just to become a monk who sleeps in his coffin and passes the few short decades of this pilgrim life in prayerful simplicity!

But people do make such a nonsensical choice, the choice of short-term, low-budget satisfaction over an eternity of divine communion. The danger of weeds choking the holy word–that danger exists.

Usually it doesn’t happen all at once. It happens gradually. Over time a soul can lose the taste for spiritual things, for the life of faith. One little compromise with a clear religious duty here, a little flim-flamming with the truth there, an unwholesome self-indulgence (for this once!) there…

Next thing you know, I haven’t prayed in a long time. I haven’t meditated on the inevitability of my own death and burial. I haven’t made a decision to sacrifice something, to forego a pleasure or comfort for the sake of spiritual gain. All I do is seek the approval of others, or sit around and watch tv, or over-eat, or swill liquor like a lush.

In The Lord of the Rings, Gollum spent so much time in his cave with his Precious, eating raw fish, that he forgot the taste of bread. A human soul can spend so much time staring at a little phone that it forgets the taste of silent prayer.

But: As long as we still draw breath, it’s not too late. The word of the kingdom can and will bear fruit. The wonder of Christ’s free invitation to us, to share in our Creator’s eternal and utterly beautiful Being: the wonder of λόγον τῆς βασιλείας never fades. It never tarnishes with time. It always comes as fresh and new as if today were the first day of creation.

Yes, we have let wordly anxieties and the lure of shiny trifles choke the growth of our friendship with the Lord. Lord, we are sorry! Forgive us, and give us a fresh start!

We can pray. We can cultivate our taste for the life of faith and meditation. We can grow in union with the undying light that shone in Jesus. We can live holy lives and bear fruit for the heavenly kingdom.

If we can get ourselves to Mass,  there’s hope for us yet. May the Lord help our souls grow.

Card. Ratzinger on New-Evangelization Method

Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:16,19-20)

The New Evangelization. Our mission. St. Kateri beheld her mission and gave herself over to it, here in this land, almost four centuries ago. Now it’s our turn.

But how? How do we participate in the New Evangelization? Here’s how Cardinal Ratzinger put it, back in the Jubilee Year 2000, before he was chosen Pope Benedict XVI.

New evangelization must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be pretentious… Instead we must accept the mystery that the Church is at the same time a large tree and a very small grain…..

Card. Frings and Joseph RatzingerOf course we must use the modern methods of making ourselves heard in a reasonable way—or better yet: of making the voice of the Lord accessible and comprehensible… We are not looking for listening for ourselves—we do not want to increase the power and the spreading of our institutions, but we wish to serve for the good of humanity, giving room to He who is Life.

This expropriation of one’s person, offering it to Christ for the salvation of men, is the fundamental condition of the true commitment for the Gospel. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive, says the Lord (John 5:43). The mark of the Antichrist is the fact that he speaks in his own name.

The sign of the Son is his communion with the Father. The Son introduces us into the Trinitarian communion, into the circle of eternal love, whose persons are  pure acts of giving oneself and of welcome. The Trinitarian plan—visible in the Son, who does not speak in his name—shows the form of life of the true evangelizer—rather, evangelizing is not merely a way of speaking, but a form of living: living in the listening and giving voice to the Father. He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, says the Lord about the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

The Virtue of Cosmopolitanism

Baciccio Joseph recognized by his brothers
Baciccio’s “Joseph Recognized by His Brothers”

Lord Jesus sent His apostles on their mission. It began with the nation of Israel, then it extended to all the nations of the earth.

The nation of Israel itself had a cosmopolitan heritage. We read at Holy Mass today from Genesis: an episode in which Joseph, the son of Israel, used both his family’s language and the language of the Egyptians. Joseph knew both his own “culture” and the culture of Egypt.

In ensuing generations, after they returned to the Holy Land from slavery in Egypt, the ancient Jews believed that their city of Jerusalem offered to all the nations of the earth a Temple in which to worship the one, true God.

Lord Jesus of course knew all the languages of the world in His divine mind. Over the course of His human pilgrimage, He used a number of them—certainly Aramaic and Hebrew, and perhaps Greek and Latin as well.

In other words, as a human pilgrim and a Jew, God incarnate exercised the virtue of cosmopolitanism. The word cosmopolitan has all but fallen out of use, as the name of a virtue. But isn’t it a sign of human excellence when someone can communicate using more than one language? These days we tend to emphasize the idea of autonomous cultures, distinct “identities.” But the People of God have always lived as citizens of the world. We love all people as sisters and brothers, because we know we share a common Father, our heavenly Father.

StJ sign snowThe mission of the Church indeed requires that we cultivate the virtue of cosmopolitanism, since the Lord has sent us to proclaim His kingdom of all nations. And, without resting on our laurels, we can congratulate ourselves that our local Catholic parishes rank among the most genuinely cosmopolitan institutions of southwest Virginia. In our parishes, people who speak different languages make friends sharing the Christian life together. And these parts don’t boast too many other bi-lingual or tri-lingual institutions.

Christ is the Light of the Nations. Therefore, He is the Light of the American nation. I think we need to meditate on this somewhat deeply, the fact that our beautiful and beloved American “culture” rests on the virtue of Christian cosmopolitanism.

So I’m fixing to give a talk on this subject on the feastday of the Transfiguration (three weeks from Sunday), at 4pm, with solemn Vespers and Benediction, at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville. Mark your calendars!