Where I am going you cannot come. (John 13:33 and 36)
Lord Jesus said this at least four times. Where is the Lord going, anyway? Up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast? Yes. But He did not go alone on that pilgrimage; many Jews accompanied Him.
Up to the Upper Room for the Last Supper? Or up to the Mount of Olives to pray? He had fewer companions in those places. But, again, He did not go alone. He had company—His Apostles.
But then even His friends abandoned Him and left Him alone.
Lord Jesus went before the Sanhedrin, and before Pontius Pilate, alone, with no human advocate. And of course He spread out His arms on His cross alone.
Only the Christ, only the divine Lamb, could offer the sacrifice that restores justice to creation. And only the new Adam could go to the realm of the dead and liberate the ancient souls who awaited Him. And only the omnipotent Creator could rise from death in a human body with such power and life that no force of nature could ever drag Him back into the grave again.
No one can accompany Christ into the inner heart of the Paschal Mystery.
But, as He said to the Apostles, we can do His will now by loving Him and each other. And, as He said to St. Peter, we can follow Him to heaven later.
Some of us read all the teachings of the popes, through the years. And some of us listen to a lot of Prince.
We all know of course that Pope St. John XXIII convoked a meeting of the world’s Catholic bishops fifty years ago…Vatican II. We know that Vatican II marked the beginning of “the New Evangelization.” The world of today needs the Gospel message, just like the ancient pagans that Paul and Barnabas visited needed it.
Those of us who read all the papal teachings know that one theme runs through everything since the end of World War II. One theme: How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world so cold? The popes’ theme is: Building a civilization of love.
A civilization: an organized, stable community of peoples, based on one fundamental fact: Every human being possesses the dignity of many, many sparrows. As the Lord put it: The Father’s eyes are on the sparrow. Not one falls to the ground without His notice. But you are worth more than many sparrows, child.
A civilization of love. “I give you a new commandment,” says the Lord. “Love one another. As I have loved you, laying down My life for you, spreading My arms out on the cross for you, shedding My life’s blood for you, offering My death in agony to the Father for you…saying I Would Die 4U, and then really doing it–in just that way,” says the Lord,” you must love one another.”
A civilization of this kind of love. This kind of trust. This kind of selfless attention to others. The popes have said for two generations–since the end of World War II, they’ve said: You say you want a leader. But you can’t make up your mind. I think you better close it. And let me guide you: The human race has one hope for a good future. Building a civilization of love.
Naïve? Politicians and pundits tend to misrepresent and misconstrue papal teachings to make them sound like what they want to hear, and then they dismiss the real meat of what the Church stands for as pie-in-the-sky naiveté. “Of course the pope stands for world peace, universal health care, and a moratorium on the death penalty. But that’s because he’s naïve.” “Of course the pope stands for the right to life of the unborn and an end to pornography and all sexual exploitation. But that’s just naïve.”
Is it? Really? Is our Catholic vision of a civilization of love naïve? Let’s look at it like this. When the Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another, with a love like His, was that naïve?
I, for one, would say the opposite. I would say that all the teachings of Christ boil things down to pure practicality. We either love, trust, and give ourselves to each other as children of the same heavenly Father, or… we play video games all the time? Or binge-watch Zombie Apocalypse? You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude.
The teaching of Christ and the popes is the opposite of pie-in-the-sky, the opposite of naïve, because really we have no choice. The commandment of love casts our whole human destiny in stark relief: One the one hand, love and trust that leads to the cross, and to the hope of a better future. On the other hand, a lifeless abyss of selfish, lonely boredom. Love come quick. Love come in a hurry.
During the past two generations, while the popes have exhorted us to civilize ourselves with Christ-like love, they have repeatedly pointed out that it all starts with family life.
The original civilization of love: the family. Mom and dad loving each other like Christ loves, loving the children like Christ loves, the children loving each other, and mom and dad, like Christ loves. Practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, right at home. Patience, forgiveness, instruction, encouragement, a cool refreshing glass of water at an appropriate time, putting things away when asked, cleaning the room, never treating anyone like a slave.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has re-emphasized, with new urgency, the importance of family life in building a civilization of love. In his recent Exhortation to us, he cites the passage we have for our second reading at Holy Mass, St. John’s vision of heaven: “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God.”
No offense to anyone with their various pastimes, but St. John did not write: “I saw the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared like Lane Stadium.” St. John did not write, “coming down, like a shiny new Camaro,” or “a killing purse and boots for a night out with the girls.”
No. Heaven meets earth like: a bride meeting her husband. Like a bride and groom at the altar, consecrating themselves in a permanent little civilization of love. Sign o’ the times, mess with your mind, hurry before it’s too late. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, call him Nate.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, marriage involves the greatest form of friendship, after our friendship with God. Pope Francis says marriage “is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other… intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.”
Let’s grow old together, building a civilization of love, starting right at home. There will be peace for those who love God a lot.
No slave is greater than his master, nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:16)
St. Anselm died 907 years ago today. In 1102, he presided over a church council in London, which condemned slavery. “Let no one hereafter presume to engage in that nefarious trade in which hitherto in England men were sold like brute animals.”
St. Anselm tried to bring an end to one man enslaving another. But that didn’t nullify what St. Paul had declared, namely that Christ’s death and resurrection made us slaves of God. Christ showed us true human freedom: uncompromising obedience to God.
Lord Jesus washed the feet. Then He submitted to a cruel death. In between, He told them: I tell you now before it happens, so that when I die on the cross you will not just think: An innocent man has been unjustly punished! You will not simply think: A righteous man has suffered with inspiring courage!
Yes, you will think these things. But also you will know, when I die on the cross: This is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is the Father reconciling the world to Himself, through the perfect obedience of His only-begotten Son.
Our Lord, our Master never drove an Audi. He never had a hot wife. He never “had it going on,” as the world judges such things.
We, His slaves, His messengers–what should we expect out of life? Suffering now. Eternal glory when everything is said and done.
Lord Jesus said this multiple times, to different audiences.
At Holy Mass today, we hear Him say it to the Pharisees. He went on to tell them that they would die in their sins, because they did not believe in Him, did not believe in God incarnate, the only-begotten eternal Word made man.
The Lord also said the exact same sentence to another group of people, and then to one of them in particular. Anyone remember? “Where I am going, you cannot come.”
To the Apostles at the Last Supper. And then particularly to St. Peter. “Where I am going you cannot come.”
But Jesus did not tell St. Peter and the Apostles that they would die in their sins. Instead, He gave them a commandment, and then made them a promise.
Who remembers the commandment?
“Love one another.”
Who remembers the promise? ‘Where I am going, you cannot come now, but…’
“You shall follow afterward.”
En otras palabras: When we look upon Christ lifted up, skewered to the cross in agony, dereliction, and death–when we look upon Him with His arms outstretched between heaven and earth–when we gaze upon the crucifix and see not defeat and meaninglessness, but rather the burning light of God’s eternal love–when we see Jesus with faith, we do not die in our sins. No. We live for glory eternal.