HEALING FOR ETERNITY
In her Diary, St Faustina tells us of many visions she had, all of which point to heavenly realities. For the saint these are as real as the comings and goings of her daily life. It is as if the saint is living in two worlds. There is the story of her everyday ordinary life in the kitchen or at the convent door while at the same time there is this extraordinary awareness of spiritual realities, seeing Jesus in a dance hall, speaking with Jesus.
It is not of course that she is living in two worlds, but she sees this world in the light of eternity. Her understanding of this world is far richer bathed in the light of God’s mercy than living in this world without God and without mercy. God is part of her experience of life.
This is true for all of us believers. While the saints live this reality with a great intensity, all believers live in this world aware of the presence of God. Christians living in this world of God’s sustaining creation while accepting the passing nature of earth allows us the freedom to live in hope and love.
HEAVEN HELPS US TO SEE THE WORLD FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS
Believing in God allows us the joy to live, for we know ultimately that all is in God’s hands. This religious perspective colours profoundly how we live in this world. When our world is bathed in heavenly light we see the world as it truly is.
As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, heaven does not distract us from this world but helps us to see it for what it really is and encourages us to make this world a better place for everyone. Our faith reminds us that heaven is the real world and our true home.
I think of a quote I once read in the works of C.S. Lewis: ‘if you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next’. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the middle ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven.
HEAVEN IN OUR DAILY LIVING
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’, aim at earth and you will get neither.
If this heavenly perspective should be part of our daily Christian living, then it should be even truer when we come to celebrate the sacred liturgy of the Holy Mass. The sacred liturgy is the great moment when heaven and earth are united, when our prayers here on earth are taken up into the heavenly realities of the glorious Christ living and praying in the presence of his Heavenly Father.
In the last number of years we have become very aware of our gathering together to celebrate the liturgy and aware of our active participation in the liturgy, but we may also have lost sight of the fact that the true liturgy is going on in heaven and our celebrations here on earth only receive their worth because they are in union with the liturgy in heaven.
WE RECEIVE A PLEDGE OF THE GLORY THAT IS TO BE OURS
This fact is brought out clearly in the new translation of the ‘Lamb of God’ in the Holy Mass. Now the priest holds up the Sacred Host and says to the people: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb’. Here the priest is reminding us of the fact that the Holy Mass is both a sharing now in the heavenly banquet and a foretaste of that banquet that we will receive when we get to heaven. St Thomas Aquinas once wrote that at the Mass ‘we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours’. What we receive on earth is heavenly.
We share even now through faith and in the celebration of the sacraments the eternal life which will be fully ours in heaven. The priest holding before us the True Lamb of God is reminding us that Christ unites us to heaven, to a life of communion with God. Our Christian calling is precisely to life in God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and it is this life that we are called to share with one another.
WITH HUMILITY WE APPROACH THE ALTAR OF GOD
Aware of this heavenly calling the new translation uses the words of the centurion in St Matthew’s Gospel chapter 8:8 ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ The episode in the Gospel tells us that when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralysed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.’
With such profound humility we approach the altar to receive the Lamb of God. We know from the Gospel passage that this attitude is pleasing to the Lord. “Now when Jesus heard this, He marvelled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel’. And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment.” This encounter between the centurion and Our Blessed Lord teaches us how to come to receive Holy Communion.
WHO WE ARE IS NOT DETERMINED BY THIS WORLD
The Lord who is coming under our roof, coming to the home of our hearts is really calling us to his home in heaven, to his heart. It is only through the grace of his powerful word that we can even think of such a wonderful mercy. As we welcome the Lord into our homes he is welcoming us into his, for us to live in unity and love. By our communion with the Lord we are truly healed. Indeed communion with God is the only source of true and lasting healing in our lives and in the life of the world.
The new translation has us also say ‘But only say the word and my soul shall be healed’. The soul is the eternal reality of the human being, again reminding ourselves that who we are is not fundamentally determined by this world or indeed by this human body as we know it here on earth. We are meant for eternity and a life of communion with God for ever. We only know ourselves fully when we see ourselves in God.
Once the priest has received his Holy Communion he prays secretly: ‘What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.’
The saints lived fully this hope of heaven and we are invited to do the same.
– This article by Fr John Harris was published in ‘Divine Mercy Newsletter’ 2011, Vol. 61. For subscriptions and donations, please contact: Divine Mercy Publications, Maryville, Skerries, Co Dublin, Ireland