Memorial of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, Franciscan

Lectionary: 398

But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Americans, always rushing toward the future with its promise of new gadgets and unbridled freedom, habitually dismiss the past. In places the Civil War is still a felt presence; its controversies remain unresolved.  But we hardly remember the Revolutionary War with its fife and drum, red and blue coats and strategy of continual retreat. Unlike Stephen Daedalus who said, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” we rise and greet each morning like Adam and Eve, remembering nothing of the past.
Early Christians had a stronger sense of history. The first gentiles to join the church were eager to study Jewish sacred scripture and to be initiated into Jewish history. They wanted to be children of Abraham through baptism and descendants of King David through Anointing in the Spirit. They pondered the Exodus and saw themselves escaping slavery in Egypt and starvation in the Sinai Desert. Their liturgical prayers imitated traditional Jewish household prayers and evolved into our Mass. Especially, they were blessed to know Jesus; he was the fulfillment of all Jewish and gentile expectations.

It was as if Americans would reinterpret all human history as a march toward freedom and equality for African-Americans, women and gays, a march which finally reaches its goal in the American Experiment. It is not merely another nation with its peculiar vices and virtues but a narrative with its roots in the ancient past and its destiny in the undiscovered future. 

The New Testament authors regarded the past as preamble; the "law, the prophets and the psalms" made sense in the light of Jesus. We call that narrative “Salvation History.” It begins in the eternal mystery of the Holy Trinity; its highlights include Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses and David; it culminates in Jesus. It continues to appear in the Church and looks to that future event which is the Last Judgement and then, Communion.
Hebrews 11 gives us a fascinating overview of salvation history; the author recounts the patriarchs who “did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth…” (vs13)

What promised future do 21st century Christians see and greet from afar? Parents hope their children will be happy, healthy and prosperous. Business people hope their companies thrive in an uncertain future; statesmen and women envision security for their respective nations. What about Christians during this age of future shock?
Engineers of every sort are madly creating new gadgets to be placed around and within our bodies. Where are they taking us? NASA engineers dream of earthlings travelling to distant stars to colonize the universe. Is that where we want to go? Do they plan to take the gospel and the sacraments with them? 

Personally, I long to see a reunion of all Christians as the Eastern and Western churches learn to pray together. It's nearly a thousand years since our unhappy schism, and we've seen that, once people start splitting they can't stop. The Protestant reformation has been fracturing since 1517 and other sects have left the Catholic Church after the first and second Vatican councils. They believed they could find truth beyond the communion. 

But the way forward is in Jesus prayer that all may be one. Our destiny is communion. No Christian can believe that the Son's prayer must be disappointed. 

...many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Amen, come Lord Jesus. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.