εὐδόκησα

baptismchristgreco1When the Lord Jesus came out from the Jordan River, after His Baptism, the heavens opened and the Father spoke:  “This is my beloved Son, on Whom My favor rests/in Whom I am well-pleased.”

That moment in Christ’s life expresses the goal of our spiritual lives, doesn’t it?  To rest in the pleasure of God, right here, right now.  To live on the will of the Father as our food and drink, like the Lord Jesus lived on the Father’s will.  To love God and please Him—by lovingly obeying His plan to make us ourselves, in full.

Qoheleth penetratingly assessed the vanity of the world.  It’s all perfect futility–with the rivers running to the oceans through generation after generation, and Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, and, Mao Tse Tung, and Whitney Houston, and every other dead person, moldering in dusty graves.  And all of us facing the same oblivion…  Pure futility. Unless we have the mind of Christ, and rest in the divine good pleasure.

To share the triune love–which heaven vividly revealed to us on the bank of the Jordan—that gives life meaning.  That gives life true joy.  Without a share in the divine good pleasure: vanity and chasing after wind.

We Catholics very much favor dialogue with other religions.  Anyone who does homage to the one true God we recognize as a brother or sister.  We always seek mutual understanding and peace with everyone.

But we would never say:  “All religions are really fundamentally the same.”  Because, without the mind of Christ—it’s all vanity.

We Catholics love to seek unity with other Christians, which we call “ecumenism.”  We recognize anyone who confesses Christ as a brother or sister, with whom we seek peace and mutual understanding.

But we would never say, “All denominations are really the same.”  Because having the mind of Christ is fundamentally a matter of supernatural grace.  We cannot rest in the pleasure of the Almighty Father, in union with the Son, without a Gift from on high.

That Gift comes to us through the sacraments that Christ gave to His Church, when He founded Her.  On the rock of Peter—one, holy, catholic, and apostolic—united on earth by the Bishop of Rome, our pope.  With whom we pray at every Mass, seeking to share the mind of our Lord through the holy mystery we celebrate at our altars.

Hidden with the Hidden Christ

“Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Luke 9:9

Herod the tetrarch heard of Jesus of Nazareth. And Herod was neither the first, nor the last, to hear of this particular carpenter. At one point, John Lennon declared that his Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Now, fifty years later, Jesus is more famous than ever. And the Beatles enjoy a following among some gray-haired people.

Nonetheless: The Lion of Judah, the eternal creative Wisdom made flesh, did not always enjoy fame. He grew up and lived His early-adult life as a common man. The annals of history remain silent regarding the better part of God’s earthly life.

We call this “the mystery of Christ’s hidden life.” He grew up in a nondescript household, like countless other people have done. He came of age, and began a hard-working life, in an isolated corner of the world, like countless other people have done. He quietly buried the father who had raised him, like countless other people have done.

Go Redskins!  Beat the Giants!
Go Redskins! Beat the Giants!
Of all these events in the life of the incarnate God, the saying of the dark-browed author of Ecclesiastes is verified: “There is no remembrance of the men of old; nor of those to come will there be any remembrance among those who come after them.”

Qoheleth, after all, has it right. History, for the most part, gapes open in an enormous, ponderous silence. In the grand scheme of things, only a short period of time separates us right now from the moment when the memory of our names has vanished altogether from the earth, and our weather-beaten tombstones lay in the mud, overtaken by weeds, above our unvisited graves.

Who was Mark White, of Washington, D.C.? Who was Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, of Philadelphia, PA? Who was Kirk Cousins of Barrington, IL? And the only the answer the earth can make will be:

Just like the only answer the earth has to the question, What did Jesus do when He turned 15? or 21? or 29?

[Silence.]

Grim, you say? The sound of wind rustling the grass over the unmarked graves that cover the face of the earth? No, no. We rejoice. We rejoice to share in the mystery of Christ the Young Man’s utter hidden-ness. Because we know, as He taught us, that our heavenly Father sees what is hidden.

Contemplation of the Oomun Pear-sewn

In the seminary, we would get each other laughing sometimes by saying the phrase “human person” in a booming Polish accent. Oomun pear-sewn.

The second half of the 20th century saw the heroic career of a certain Polish prelate: first in the drafting of Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, then in the innumerable encyclicals, letters, homilies, speeches, and books of Pope John Paul II.

This Polish saint must have used the phrase “oomun pear-sewn” half a million times. Reading it all, in vast reams, night after night, semester after semester—we needed some light moments sometimes.

The human person. The only material being capable of contemplation.

There is a time to be born and a time to die…There is a time to weep and a time to laugh…A time to keep, a time to cast away, a time to rend, a time to sew, a time to be silent, a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3)

These are the words of a unique creature, a creature with a transcendent dignity. These words are the fruits of the uniquely human personal action: contemplation.

We made fun. But, upon reflection, I am left thinking that: Perhaps the pre-eminent gift of the Second Vatican Council is the re-affirmation of the perennial Christian teaching that human action only makes sense when it serves human contemplation. The ultimate reason for our existence: to take delight in God and in His works, and to praise Him.

The disposition of practical affairs is subordinate to the personal realm, and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Gaudium et Spes 26)

So taught Vatican II. So taught the Polish Pope. “The personal realm,” the unfathomable depth of the oomun pear-sewn, the reason why everything exists.