Sunday, July 22, 2012

Longing for the Lord

Tablet from the dividing wall in the Temple
Readings for July 22, Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23:1-6
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34

“In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have come near by the blood of Christ.”

These words of Saint Paul remind us that the mission of Christ on Earth was to unify all people, to draw them to Himself and bring them with Him ultimately to the heavenly home He has gone to prepare for us. To illustrate this unifying presence of Christ, Saint Paul speaks of how Christ, in drawing all people to Himself, has torn down the dividing wall of enmity. This was a vivid, striking image for any person who had knowledge of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was built in levels, with literal walls dividing each section. Everyone could enter the outer court, Jews and Gentiles both. But then there was a wall with signs indicating that only Jews could enter the next court and any Gentile caught trying would be killed immediately. Beyond this Jewish court was a court for the Jewish men, then one for the priests, then the Holy of Holies itself, where God dwelt. To say that Christ broke down the dividing wall meant that no longer were the Jews and Gentiles separated and the men and women separated – they were all members in the same court and as such they were all able to worship the Lord side by side. But just because one is able to do something doesn’t mean that they will.

A brother priest in another diocese was named chaplain of the high school in his area and, in an effort to help promote vocations and increase religious activities for the guys, invited only guys to be altar servers. Shortly after making this decision, he received some complaints from parents and faculty. He decided that it might not be the time to make such a change and instead reverted to the previous policy – that guys and girls both could be altar servers. The funny part is that when he put the sign-up sheets out, not a single girl signed up. Despite the uproar for the ability to serve, none apparently wanted to do so.

In a similar way, all of humanity has been blessed beyond understanding to be welcomed into the Presence of God. We can pray to Him wherever we find ourselves in the midst of our days. We can come before Him in Adoration at the chapel or in the tabernacle. And we can even receive His very flesh and blood here in Holy Communion. But just because we can do all of these things, that doesn’t mean that we will. We must choose to follow Christ, choose to be consumed with zeal for the Truth of the Gospel, and choose to allow Him to be in everything that we do.

In the Gospel today we hear about the great crowd that so deeply longs for the Truth of God that they run over 10 miles around the lake to the other side and arrive before Jesus and the Apostles do. They burned with love for God and longed to be in His Presence and hear the words that would continue to give them life. And for their perseverance and love, the Lord had pity on them and taught them many things.

St Mary Magdelene by Carlo Dolci
Also, this Sunday we celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, a great Saint of the Church whose soul longed to be with the Lord. So great was her desire to see the Lord after His death that when the Apostles and all others had left the tomb of Christ, she remained. And because she remained there waiting and longing for Him to return, He came to her and spoke with her before He did to the others.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord has opened wide the gate to Heaven and has given us the path to enter through it in the teachings of Holy Mother Church. But it is for us to take the steps forward and choose to follow the Lord and to be renewed in His love.

Through the grace of a worthy reception of Holy Communion and by the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene and our Guardian Angels, may we have hearts that burn with love for Jesus Christ. If the fire was never there, may it be born today. If the fire has died down, may the Holy Spirit rekindle it. And if it still burns, may it increase today and everyday until the day when the One for Whom we long calls us to Himself.

St. Mary of Madgalene, pray for us.
Guardian Angels, pray for us.
Blessed Mother of us all, pray for us.