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Monday, first week of Advent

November 28, 2005

Blessed Monday!

Readings:
Isaiah 4: 2-6
Psalm 122 “I rejoiced when I heard them say: let us go to the house of the Lord”
+ Matthew 8:5-11

We hear more about Heaven today, and what it takes to live there. God, speaking through Isaiah, tells us that it will be a realm of safety, a place of protection that has been purged of all evil. That lack of evil will be the source of a sense of security we can’t even imagine now. It was sin that brought insecurity into the world. When God created us, there was no lying, no selfishness, no greed, no back-biting, no arrogance–in short, none of the things that cause tension and distance to develop between people. We brought all of that on ourselves by thinking we could improve upon God’s plan for us.

Imagine with me for a moment a world in which there was no sin, the kind of world God created in the beginning:

You wake refreshed to a radiant sunrise in a lush garden. The first sound you hear is a sweet melody the birds have composed in your honor, and you love it. The temperature is absolutely perfect. There are no bugs buzzing annoyingly around your face because the insects are your friends too, and actually help you in the garden. In fact, all of the animals are friendly to you and to each other. The lion and the lamb rest together. The calf and the wolf pup romp in play with each other. You’re eager to get up because you can’t wait to see what wonderful surprise God has in store for you today (think of what it was like to get up on Christmas morning as a child). You have no fears, worries or disappointments. You’re in top physical condition & your looks are off the charts gorgeous/handsome. Your equally stunning spouse, who understands you completely and is head over heels in love with you, wakes with a smile to celebrate another day of life with you. You pick your favorite fruit from a nearby tree, enjoy a leisurely breakfast together and then begin the work of the day…except it hardly seems like work because you enjoy it so much, are so good at it, and find it so satisfying. Your mind is sharp, and you know everything you need to know. You never have to wonder what to do or how to do it, or to fight against a desire to do something else. You would rather be doing this than anything else in the world. Your desires are in perfect harmony with what you know. What you want to do is exactly what you should do. You’re neither rushed nor bored because there’s exactly enough time for everything. There is nothing dangerous or destructive or disappointing in your life. Everything is good, enjoyable, fulfilling. In the evening, you and your spouse take a walk with God, basking in His love, enjoying His company and talking with Him about what happened that day. When night falls, you thank Him for such a wonderful day, kiss your beloved goodnight, and settle in contentedly for a peaceful, comfortable night’s sleep, which comes at once.

Have any of you ever lived a day that was even close to that? I certainly haven’t! The world as we know it is radically different from what I’ve just described. Sin needs to be stripped away, purged from our midst before we could even return to the earthly paradise God created for us. But Heaven!…Heaven is incomparably better than the Garden of Eden. “Eye has not seen or ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9) We can imagine a little of what the earth might’ve been like without sin, but Heaven is beyond our most glorious imaginings.

I also notice that it would take quite a bit of adjustment to learn to live in even an earthly paradise, to live in an environment where trust was absolute and self-protection was utterly unnecessary. I’d have to un-learn instincts, coping mechanisms I’ve developed in order to survive here. I’d have to learn to live without my own sins (that is part of the point, after all–and part of the reason for Purgatory)!

In our Gospel, Jesus is approached by a centurion who seeks (and receives) healing for his servant through his dependence on Jesus’ authority. We tend to think of authority as being restrictive, as making our lives more difficult, but that too is largely a result of living in a sin-filled world where authority is abused. True authority, which comes from God and is answerable to Him, is part of God’s plan to restore the sacred order that made the peace of Eden possible. In Eden, everything worked together, everything was in harmony, because everything did what God designed it to do. It was only when we rebelled against God’s loving authority, against His knowledge of what will make us truly happy, that everything fell apart. And it is in returning to His will that we (and creation with us) will be restored.

We need healing for our soul-sickness, for the warping our souls have undergone due to life in the thick of a sin-full world. Even as Jesus praised the faith of the man who believed in Jesus’ authority to heal his servant, we are challenged to believe that Jesus has the same power and authority to heal our soul-sickness, to purify us and prepare us for a new life in a glorious new home.

May we learn to trust in God’s plan to do what’s best for us, to bring us to the eternal rapture of Heaven, that we may follow Him to our eternal home.

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