Our Citizenship is in Heaven
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
“Think on these things folks as we slog through Lent. Our citizenship is in heaven, ” said Bishop Barron in last week’s splendid homily on the Transfiguration of Christ, “Awaiting Resurrection.”
It’s curious, isn’t it that the Church places the Transfiguration of Christ immediately after the temptations of Christ?
But this year, I’m extraordinarily grateful because it really does feel as if I am “slogging through Lent.” And need reminders of the goal of our lives: Awaiting Resurrection. Not just because of the relentless devastation being wrought on Ukraine and President’s Zelensky’s heart-breaking pleas for a no-fly zone and more weapons, but way closer to home, huge aliquots of chaos in my own life. All good, but still turmoil with its partners, uncertainty. More on that in a week or two.
We wonder why, with so many billions of us storming Heaven with prayer for Ukraine, there seems to be no mitigation of the relentless horror. Robert Royal in The Catholic Thing writes, “A reader asked the other day, how is it that with the millions of prayers offered daily for Ukraine (actually billions around the world) that God allows the ongoing death and destruction? It’s a good question. A hard one.
It’s been asked for thousands of years in times of war, as well as during plagues, floods, fires, earthquakes, drought, famine that – pace the environmentalists – are part of the natural history of the human race. Anyone who reads the psalms in the Bible or daily prays the Liturgy of the Hours, knows that it’s been a central lament even in Scripture. Lord, we trust in you, but are you really there for us when we need you most?”
Ever since this terrifying war began and I began to pay attention to Ukraine, its history and its president, the Book of Job echoes in my head: ” Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” As does my character, young Saul of Tarsus, playing Satan from the Book of Job..
Crouching down, I pretended to whisper something into Simeon’s ear, then jumped straight up as if on springs. “I am the Lord’s Adversary. Ever since my success in the Garden, I delight in making just men blaspheme; in tricking upright men into believing that following God’s Law is foolhardy and that He has no concern for them or their wholly unimportant nation of Israel. Chosen people, indeed! Why do you think the ten tribes were scattered? Why do you think Judah’s men refused to listen to him and left for Egypt, only to be SOLD INTO SLAVERY?!”My Name is Saul
Last Sunday the time changed,
and I arrived at the mass I’d planned to attend just as it ended because everyone’s clock but mine had lost an hour. I got to St. Patrick’s just in time to hear Pastor Fr. Beto joking about all the folks who, like me, totally missed the start of daylight savings.
When he began his homily, the priest’s first words were, “Our citizenship is in Heaven! No need for visas or passports or immigration lines!” While pointing to the crucified Christ hanging behind him on the altar, Fr. Beto declared that the three-pronged paths to Heaven are “Suffering, sacrifice and obedience to the Ten Commandments.” These mercy-saturated days are packed with His invitation to come closer. To embrace our sacrifice, suffering and consider examine the ways in which we are not following His commandments. To repent-rethink our ways.
Our Lord invites Saints Peter, James and John to the mountain to pray just days before he would descend into Jerusalem to be judged, mocked, and crucified by the creatures He had called into being. Knowing that His apostles, His friends, could not understand what they experienced, still He had them see Him in His glory.
…While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem…
…a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.
During those times that all we feel is nausea
at the situation we find ourselves in. Or that of our loved ones. Times when we cry out, “I don’t know what to do!” Or when we ponder the persecuted peoples all over the world, all we can do is bow our head and slog through. [Bishop Barron’s phrasing is, at times, irresistible.]
Surely those eleven men and handful of women could do nothing more.
Because this faith, these graces, these precious sacraments and devotions of the Church, what are they except weapons to fight a war that by now we know is not with men?
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Think of it: we planted that dead trunk in a hole in the
ground atop Golgotha, intending bitterness, and instead we
get the wine of life and the water of salvation, coming from
the riven side of the Lord. Therefore we sing out with the
choirs, after the Reproaches are done:
We adore thy cross, O Lord, and we praise and glorify
thy holy Resurrection: for behold, by wood has come…
joy unto all the world. May God have mercy on us,
and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us,
and have mercy on us. We adore thy cross, O Lord,
and we praise and glorify thy holy Resurrection: for
behold, by wood has come joy unto all the world…
We may sin, but he is faithful, and the cross
is the tree whose leaves will be for the healing of the nations, fresh and green for all eternity. Let us gather in its
shade—and its light.Anthony Esolen The Terrible Irony of Sin