Listen to Him

transfig-ext
Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

This is my beloved Son, listen to Him. (Matthew 17:5)

So spoke the Lord of heaven, the Ancient One who sits upon a throne of divine fire. He judges all things—all of history and every soul. And He said to Peter, James, and John, about Jesus: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” He says to us: Listen to Jesus.

[Click for spanish.]

Listen to His parables of the coming of the Kingdom of heaven and His call to repentance. Listen to the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to His discourse to Nicodemus about being born from above, His Bread-of-Life discourse, His teachings about Abraham’s freedom, the sabbath rest, the faith of the little one, and the resurrection of the dead. Listen to Him describe the Good Shepherd. Listen to His Last-Supper discourses and His descriptions of the final judgment. Listen to His prayers: the Our Father and His priestly prayer in John 17. Listen to His commissionings: His instructions to St. Peter, and to all His apostles. Listen to His promises: the Beatitudes, His promise to send the Holy Spirit, His promise of peace—peace which the world cannot give. Listen to the Word made flesh.

St. Peter put it like this:

We did not follow cleverly disguised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses to His majesty.

We do not deal in myths. We do not deal in merely human doctrines. We listen to the Lord Jesus.

What do we need? We need the four holy gospels and the other writings of the apostles. In other words, we need the New Testament. And since the New Testament constantly refers to the Old Testament, we need the whole Bible. We need the seven sacraments Christ gave us: His Body and Blood, the waters of His baptism, the priesthood of the New Covenant He established. We need each other, the great family of the Church, governed by St. Peter’s successor in office and the bishops in communion with him.

Gerard David TransfigurationEquipped with all this, we can hear Christ. We can hear the beloved Son of the eternal Father. We can hear Him speaking. The words to which God Almighty commands us to listen—we can hear them and take them to heart, here in the bosom of the Church.

Do not be anxious or afraid. Let the children come unto Me. Love your enemies. Pray that you might persevere through temptation. Baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Give your cloak and tunic to the one who asks, and settle with your opponent before the judge throws you both in prison. Beg for mercy before you place your gift on the altar. Fear the one who can send you to fiery Gehenna, where the worm never dies. Have faith in God; have faith in Me; in My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Let your light shine, so that men might give glory to My heavenly Father. Do good; avoid evil. Ask the Father to send the Spirit of truth.

Listening to Jesus, in the heart of the Church, turns life into something worth doing. The words of Christ turn life into the adventure it was meant to be. The adventure of holiness and eternal salvation.

Why are we here? To serve God and make our way to heaven. What must we do? Give. Love. Sacrifice. Give God the glory and praise. Make peace with your neighbor.

The Transfiguration is real. And it’s not just Jesus on Mount Tabor. Yes, at that moment, the divine light transfigured His appearance, and the apostles saw His glory. But the transfiguration also involves us. When we listen to Christ in the heart of the Church, we change.

We no longer skate on the surface of things. We stop thinking everything revolves around me, me, me. Our perception deepens, and Access Hollywood becomes intolerably boring. Our souls begin to grow like redwoods.

We stop carping and gossiping and tearing people down, because now we see the good in others. We talk less and listen more. When someone suffers, we care. And when we suffer, we offer it to God for the salvation of souls.

The words of Christ hang in the air, in the Church, like shimmering tapestries that beautify the inside of our minds. But, of course, Christ spoke most eloquently without any words at all, when He serenely submitted Himself to His bitter Passion and stretched-out His arms on the cross. All the spoken words of Christ lead to the silent word of the crucifix.

God gives us wisdom. He wills to teach us, so that we can share in the full clarity of His mind. And He teaches us His wisdom one way, as He declared on Mount Tabor: Almighty God speaks to us through His beloved Son, Christ crucified.

When we hear that silent word, and take it in, in the heart of the Church, then our transfiguration truly begins.

Exaggerated Reports of Death

Apparently the latest sociological findings hold that “religion” has entered into a death-spiral in the Western world. The studies show that religion will inevitably end. There’s a Ted talk about this.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t quite grasp what sociologists mean by “religion.” Our first reading at Holy Mass today prescribes the yearly routine of the religion of the Old Covenant. But that seems more precise and specific than what a sociologist means by “religion.” To be honest, I got so bored watching this Ted talk that I almost doused myself in frying-pan grease, just to ease the tedium.

Anyway, plenty of people in and around Ars thought that religion had entered a death-spiral in their town. When their new priest, Monsieur John Vianney, arrived, few people ever darkened the door of the town’s church. They considered themselves too modern for such things. Only old ladies went to Mass.

But, by the time the Curé died, 158 years ago today, the train company had to run a special line from Lyons, to accommodate the crowds who came to the little parish church in Ars to go to confession to the living saint.

st-john-vianney-confessionIn other words, reports of religion’s death in Ars had been greatly exaggerated.

Now, granted: nothing could be more boring than a sociologist’s idea of “religion.” Nothing could be less attractive. That is, I guess, except for sociology itself.

But, on the other hand: For St. John Vianney, and for Saints Peter, James, and John, and all the Apostles; for the martyrs and all the heroic pastors of the Christian centuries—for all of them, nothing—no one—could be more interesting than: Jesus Christ. And His Blessed Mother. And His heavenly Father. And His Holy Spirit at work in His Church.

You can have “religion.” “Religion,” as understood by sociologists, is a thin nothingburger that I wouldn’t feed to any animal.

But give us: Christ—studied religiously, obeyed religiously, loved religiously.

“Religion,” understood as a phenomenon that doesn’t depend on the truth of particular facts; “religion” that could be Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, etc., etc.—chuck it. We don’t need it. We Catholics don’t like it any more than atheists do, or hippies, or Millennial “Nones.”

But give us the holiness of Jesus. Give us the fulfillment of all the prophets’ ancient promises. Give us the Body and Blood of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Give us the joy and hope of the saints and the common bond that holds the great family of the Church together. Give us our holy Catholic religion, and we will gladly die for it, even if we and the pope were the last Catholics left on earth.

The Suddenness of the Seine-Net

Seine net fishing.jpg

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. (Matthew 13:47)

Anyone know what that kind of net is called? The technical term for a dragnet for fish? Seine. Purse-seine, Danish seine, drum seine—whichever precise kind.

What seems worth meditating on is this: The utter suddenness of capture in seine-net fishing, from the point-of-view of the fish. It’s not like bait or fly fishing, where the fish perceives something and then follows its curiosity/hunger, only to discover that this item actually means bad news for me, then a struggle ensues.

No. When a fish gets caught in a seine net, it’s like: Do-ta-do, swimming along, la la la, here in the ocean, along the colorful shoal, in the dappled sunlight, the happy life of a fish, with my friends in a nice big school, tra la la. Then: yank! The hydraulic power block that pulls the purse line pumps. And you, fish, are on the deck before you know what hit you.

With just such disorienting instantaneousness might our moment of judgment come. Do-ta-do, here I am, sunny day, easy life, texting my buddies, la la. Then: Yank. Crank. On the deck.

Good ones go into the cool, refreshing ice. Bad ones, as the Lord said, into the fiery furnace.

The Light Moses Saw

Moses’ face became radiant after he conversed with the Lord on Mount Sinai. The very radiance of the prophet’s face terrified the people.

No surprise. When the Lord created, He began with “Let there be light.” According to some ancient rabbis, this original light exceeded the brightness of the sun by seven times. Some say the Primeval Light actually exceeded the brightness of the sun by 60,075 times.

eclipse glasses(If you’re wondering where the number 60,075 came from, you’re like me; I wondered the same thing. The only answer I could find is that it has to do with the number of possible combinations of the letters in a Hebrew word. But I really don’t know the answer.)

Anyway, we can gather that Moses, when he received the Commandments from God, got to see a light much greater in brightness than the sun, possibly the full Primeval Light. As a result, in order to avoid terrifying the people, Moses had to don a veil for his face.

This serves, I think, as an opportune time to remind you, gentle reader, that you will need solar-eclipse glasses two weeks from Monday. Very, very dangerous to observe an eclipse without them!

According to the ancient rabbis, God has preserved the full Primeval Light for the righteous in the life to come. And, as we know, the apostolic rabbi St. Paul commented on Moses’ veil in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians. St. Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit transforms us into the likeness of the unveiled glory of God, Jesus Christ.

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.

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.