Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.
In a radio discussion about the movie Black Panther, one fellow described Wakanda, the mythical African kingdom, as utopia. The word means "nowhere," and was first used by Saint Thomas Moore to describe an ideal Christian kingdom. Moore speculated how society, government and business might function without the ominous presence of Original Sin.
Utopia has reappeared often since the sixteenth century in philosophical tracts, novels, poetry and movies. At one time Christian Europe believed it might actually exist somewhere in Asia; perhaps near the lost Garden of Eden. They heard rumors of Prester John who ruled over an ideal Christian kingdom somewhere in Asia. Marco Polo set out to find that mystical place but found only fascinating places like China and Japan. Perhaps the ideal Christian kingdom is in the Himalayas? Tibet? But not Tibet. Perhaps in Shangri-La, the subject of Frank Capra's Lost Horizon.
As unmapped places in the world disappeared Utopia retreated to farther-away places. The sea bottom? Antarctica? And finally, to other planets, galaxies or universes in a multiverse. Perhaps these aliens are looking for us, trying to break through from their four dimensions to ours; they will bring us peace and justice.
On the one hand Utopia reminds us that sin is not necessary; the human being may choose kindness, compassion and forbearance. The supreme holy man in Capra's Lost Horizon urged his guests to "Be Kind." (Sorta like Google's "Do no evil.")
On the other hand, by its absence in Utopia, the fantasy reminds us of sin's relentless presence in our painfully real world.
Utopia does not appear in the Bible. Hebrew prophets and Christian missionaries were too aware of Sin to be enamored of romantic fantasies. With every word they spoke they met opposition which threatened to beat, imprison or murder them. They did, however, believe in God's authority to "create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight."
That "Heavenly Jerusalem," for both religions, remains to be seen; it belongs to the future. It will come with the Holy Spirit who speaks to everyone's heart; healing, forgiving, reassuring and reconciling; drawing us into the Heart of Jesus, into the mystical body of the Church. The Holy Spirit reveals a Holy City which remains always in the future, always out of reach.
We feel its presence in the Mass and Sacraments. We seem to hear the choirs of angels; we can almost feel the tramp of saints marching-in. The scent of incense and candles is heavenly; the stained windows bathe us in ethereal colors; the icons invite us to come inside.
In the meanwhile we live by faith. In today's gospel, the royal official heard a simple word of Jesus. He "believed what Jesus said to him and left." We believe God's kingdom will appear. It doesn't really matter when, where or how. We're content to believe it will.