By Father James Rodriguez
All throughout the Old Testament, and very clearly in Revelation, God speaks of the Holy City. From the locked gates of Eden, humanity has longed to return to the place of God’s friendship, an endeavor He encourages and even promises to His faithful people.
In the drama of Exodus, God chooses Moses and Joshua to bring the people out of slavery and into the land flowing with milk and honey. He promises prosperity, but even then there is a deeper promise at work, the promise of salvation from something more insidious even than slavery and suffering. God promises salvation from sin, offering us the freedom for which we were made.
Today’s first reading echoes that Old Testament yearning for paradise, for the heavenly Jerusalem worth mourning when she is lost.
He promises that we will be “carried in her arms,” enjoying a level of comfort that transcends earthly pleasure, where “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”
This new Jerusalem is the Church triumphant, the heavenly abode of God where we are nourished with the best food and nursed to health from the ravages of our slavery to sin. We begin to experience this indescribable reality here on earth at every Confession, Mass and Holy Hour, and with the psalmist we cry out to God with joy.
Psalm 66 is a hymn of universal praise. All of creation is roused to respond to God’s goodness with gratitude, even though we know well the pains of this valley of tears. I remember my first Easter Vigil here at St. Rose. It was 2020 and I was still getting used to saying Mass in front of an iPad, accompanied by the saints, the angels, my parochial vicar at the time, and no one else.
I cried as I read the first reading, as it hit me how marred this pristine creation had become, how God’s perfect work was suffering so deeply, yet not without hope. The readings that chart salvation history ultimately reveal His triumph, and His Will that we be part of that victory, shouting with joy that He “refused me not my prayer or His kindness!”
St. Paul evokes this universal healing in the second reading, referring to the Israel of God that is no longer confined to a country’s borders, but one in which citizenship is gained under the waters of Baptism. Indeed the world has been crucified to us under the same waters, since earthly comfort simply can’t compare to Him in Whom we have been born anew.
Just as two of the greatest milestones at the beginning of life are learning to walk and talk, Jesus calls those reborn in Him to go out and proclaim the Gospel. St. Luke tells us that “He sent [the seventy-two] ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” This was more than divine pragmatism on His part! Our Lord was already indicating that His Church is His mystical body on earth. He gave us the deeply humbling and beautiful power to represent Him. This is why the failures of the Church have been and are so deeply painful, but also why her successes produce saints.
May that army of heroes in the heavenly Jerusalem intercede for us who march through this life trying to be faithful, and may we join them one day in that place promised to our first parents and unlocked in Christ Jesus.
Readings for Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20