Old And New

Behold, I make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

This is what the One who sat on the throne in heaven said, according to the vision of St. John. We read this in our second reading at Sunday Mass. [Spanish]

Christ our King speaks to us from His throne of victory. He says to us, ‘My children, you have grown old. Sin and worldliness have exhausted you. You can barely lift up your eyes to see the sunlight. But, behold!’ He says, ‘I make all things new!’

fatherThe world is old. Only God really knows just how old it is. There was a moment when God said, “Let there be light,” and it was “the beginning.” That was a long, long time ago.

Many generations have come and gone since then. Many nations and peoples have had long histories, and then vanished. The Tutelo and the Catawba stalked deer with bow and arrow right where our little church sits. They did it for centuries. They never watched television.  They never even heard of the Mueller Report or baby Archie.

Can we imagine all the bones of all the generations of our dead ancestors buried in the soil of the earth? Think of how deeply buried the oldest bones must be!

So, we see: The world is old. The good Lord speaks to us about a serious problem that we have. Our world is so old, it’s disturbing for us to think about it. Kind of like how disturbing it is for me to think about how old many of my undershirts are.

The world is much, much older. We start to worry: Is this world of ours just going to give out on us, one of these days?  How much use and abuse can it take?

And, listen—we know some beautiful young people. But let’s face facts: It’s not just the world that is old. Many of us are kinda old, too.

I used to be able to play a mean game of basketball. I could even dunk. But then I had to retire. I am too old to play basketball. It got to be too dangerous. I could still score sometimes, but for every twenty or so points I would score, I would sprain something. My ankle, my hand. My ego. Basketball is fun when you’re young. When you’re old, it is just plain dangerous.

We get old and worn out. We start to wonder if we really have the energy to deal with things. When I was a kid, I never understood how my dad could say, on a sunny evening, “I would love to toss the football with you, son, but I am just too tired.”

But then you get old, and you understand. You think to yourself things like: ‘Washington Redskins have a new young-phenom starting quarterback. We’ve been down this road before. I can’t take another fizzle like RGIII. I don’t think I have the strength.’

Old and tired. It happens. But the Lord Jesus says to us: ‘Children, behold.  I make all things new.’

behold-i-make-all-things-new

Remember the movie, The Passion of the Christ? In the movie, when the Lord Jesus carries the cross to Calvary, the Blessed Mother says to St. John, “Get me close to Him.”

St. John leads her past the crowd. The Lord falls under the weight of the cross. His mother runs to comfort her son. She weeps with pain as she caresses His bloody face. She sees that His strength is completely spent.

But then He opens His eyes and gazes at her with blazing power. He shoulders the heavy cross again. He whispers to her, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Our Sunday gospel reading comes from the account of the Last Supper. Judas had left the Upper Room and stolen out into the night to betray Christ. Knowing all that was about to take place, the Lord Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified.”

Christ made all things new by submitting Himself to every violent blow that the sinful world could land on Him. He did not flinch. He did not turn away.

The broken, old world raged against the anointed One and beat Him to the point of utter exhaustion. But He did not collapse. He did not fall away from His Father. Instead, He made an offering.

The broken, bruised, and exhausted Son of God lifted up all His pain—lifted up His very death–to heaven, and said, “Father, I offer You my body, my blood, my soul. I offer You the divinity We have shared since before the world was made. I offer it all, everything I have, every last drop—I offer it in sacrifice to atone for all the sins of mankind. Accept it, and forgive. Give the world a fresh start. Give the human race a chance to start over, to be young again.”

Then He breathed His last.

Until the third day. Then He began to breathe again. He rose from the dead. He made all things new.

Civilization of Love

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.

Vatican II stalls
Bishops at Vatican II

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.”

Family CircusIs 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.”

amoris-laetitia-coverNo 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.

Necessarily Twelve

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and said, “It is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us…become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:15, 21-22)

They chose St. Matthias as the twelfth. There had to be Twelve. Why?

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles
Is it because 120 people had gathered? I mean, it is pretty interesting that the twelfth Apostle was chosen with a congregation of 120 people. One hundred twenty divided by twelve gives us the beautiful number ten. This, of course, calls to mind the fundamental moral law, the Ten… Suggestions? No. The Ten Commandments.

Did there have to be twelve Apostles because the Church is the new Israel? Israel was founded on the twelve sons of ___________ (Jacob), from whom the twelve tribes were descended. The ancient High Priest wore twelve stones on his breastplate because of this (Exodus 39:14).

That seems like a pretty solid reason why the new Israel had to originate from the sacred ministry of twelve Apostles. The Lord Jesus had promised, after all, that the Apostles would sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes. If the Apostles sat on eleven or thirteen or fourteen thrones to judge the twelve tribes, that would be, well, awkward.

Any other thoughts about why there had to be twelve? Maybe because twelve courses of stones make up the gleaming walls of the heavenly Jerusalem? Maybe because the Blessed Virgin, exalted on high, wears a crown of twelve stars? Maybe because the tree of life in the heavenly city bears twelve kinds of fruit, yielding them each month?

twelfth-nightWe do not traffic in astrology, of course. But God did array the heavens in such a way that we could make out twelve signs in the stars over the course of a year. And the ancient wisdom of the grocer discerned that eleven does not make a complete quantity of eggs. You need a dozen. Twelve seems to fulfill the whole. Twelve gives us a complete number.

Twelve men, then—enough for a jury. But these men praying in the upper room were not angry, but ready to be clothed with power from on high.

May they guard us from their heavenly thrones. And may they help us through one of the twelve gates of the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Heaven

Anyone spend time meditating on Revelation 21 lately? And why not?

Easter season. Things we believe in. So far we have considered the following:

We believe in one thing, namely ______. God.

Two fundamental mysteries of faith: __________ and _______________. Trinity, Incarnation.

The articles we believe, spelled-out in the __________. Creed (not the band).

We see, hear, smell, taste, touch the external, material elements of the sacraments; we believe they give us invisible ________. Grace.

Ok. The next topic regarding our faith, appropriate for the Easter season: The triune God brought about the Incarnation, accomplished everything summarized in the Creed, and gives us grace in the sacraments, all for one ultimate reason: So that we can get to ______________.

Continue reading “Heaven”