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“THE CHRISTIANS WHO DID MOST FOR THE PRESENT WORLD WERE JUST THOSE WHO THOUGHT MOST OF THE NEXT”

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

 

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TODAY’S RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 8)

R. How great is your name, O Lord our God,
through all the earth!

1. How great is your name, O Lord our God,
through all the earth!
What is a man that you should keep him in mind,
mortal man that you care for him? (R.)

2. Yet you have made him little less than a god;
with glory and honour you crowned him,
gave him power over the works of your hand,
put all things under his feet. (R.)

3. All of them, sheep and cattle,
yes, even the savage beasts,
birds of the air, and fish
that make their way through the waters. (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia!

 

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TODAY’S RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 32)

R. The Lord fills the earth with his love.

1. The word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with his love. (R.)

2. The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine. (R.)

3. Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you. (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia!

 

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EVERY KNEE SHALL BEND… (PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11)

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.

But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings,
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

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THROUGH THE MESSIAH, HEAVEN ADDRESSES EARTH

IN THE ANOINTED ONE, WORLDS MEET AND FUSE

THE ANOINTED ONE

Jesus knows himself to be the Messiah, the Anointed One par excellence. He is THE king. His realm consists of those human hearts that are devoted to God, of the world that such hearts have transformed.
He is THE Priest; he lifts to the Father hearts made malleable by love and purged by contrition and fills them with God’s grace, that their whole existence may be one great mystery of union. And he does not act by force, but by the prophetic power and truth that is spirit and life (see Jn 4:24).

THE LIVING ONE

The figure of the Messiah is immeasurably important. Not the word that he speaks, not the work that he performs, not the instructions that he gives are decisive, but what he himself IS. Through him, the living one, heaven addresses earth, and man’s will is directed to heaven. In him worlds meet and fuse. There is no immediate relationship based on forgiveness and homecoming between man and the God of Revelation; only via the intermediary runs the road from man to God and from Holiness to us, and he is entirely selfless, living not for himself, but for the honour of his Father and for the salvation of his brothers…

SACRIFICE

His very essence is one of sacrifice; how that sacrifice is to be carried out depends on the course of history, which in turn is determined by the inseparably interwoven wills of God and man. The sacrificial act can be realised through simple love – if men will believe; it must be realised through destruction if they do not. Anointment is the mysterious divine act by which the individual is lifted out of daily life and placed at the cross-roads between heaven and earth. This role is so perfectly fulfilled in Christ that all other anointing is only a foreshadowing of his.
– Mons. Romano Guardini

 

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“WE NEED THE HUMILITY OF FAITH WHICH SEEKS THE FACE OF GOD AND TRUSTS IN THE TRUTH OF HIS LOVE”

TWO GRAVITATIONAL FIELDS

“The Fathers of the of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down – towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God.

On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God’s love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us, and grants us true freedom…”

WE ARE TOO WEAK

“Of ourselves, we are too weak to lift up our hearts to the heights of God. We cannot do it. The very pride of thinking that we are able to do it on our own drags us down and estranges us from God. God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross.

He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself… Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God’s humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards…”

WE NEED TO ABANDON OUR PRIDE

“All these means of ‘ascent’ are effective only if we humbly acknowledge that we need to be lifted up; if we abandon the pride of wanting to become God. We need God: he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands – by faith, in other words – sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love.”
– Pope Benedict XVI

 

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PENITENTIAL PSALM V

TO BE PRAYED DURING LENT

Antiphon: “Remember not, O Lord, our or our parents’ offences: neither take vengeance of our sins.”

PSALM 102

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.
My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.
I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.
For I have eaten ashes like bread, and have mingled my drink with weeping,

Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.
For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.
So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth:
To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;
To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.
I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.
Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.”

 

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