Thursday, July 3, 2014

Not Only is Heaven for Real, It is the Only Real Thing

Now the good Jesus bids us say these words, in which we pray that the Kingdom may come in us: Hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come. See how great our Master’s wisdom is! I am thinking of what it is we are asking for when we ask for the Kingdom: it is important that we should understand this.

His Majesty saw that because of our weakness we could not hallow or praise or magnify or glorify the holy name of the Eternal Father in a way adequate to its greatness. We could not, that is, do it by ourselves, if His Majesty did not help us by giving us his kingdom here on earth.

And so the good Jesus places these two petitions – Hallowed be thy name and Thy kingdom come next to each other, so that we can understand what we are asking for and why it is important to beg for it and to do all we can to please the one who is able to give it to us. Let me explain how I understand it.

Now, then. The greatest joy in the kingdom of heaven (the greatest among many) seems to me to be that we will no longer be tied up with earthly concerns but will have rest and glory within us – rejoicing that gives joy to everyone, peace that lasts for ever – satisfaction in ourselves, a satisfaction that comes from seeing how everyone is praising the Lord and blessing and hallowing his name, while no-one offends him.

Everyone loves him. Each soul has no wish other than to love him: it cannot stop loving him because it knows him truly.

If only we knew him like that even here on earth, we would love him in the same way – not with that degree of perfection, of course, but in a very different way from the way we love him now.
St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection

Reflection – Well, isn’t this lovely. I’m writing this just before going into poustinia for my usual Friday prayer day (hence posting Friday’s blog Thursday evening), and what better meditation could I personally have before going in.

It is good to ask ourselves, periodically, just how much do we love God, really. We celebrated today the feast of St. Thomas, apostle, and I preached at the MH Mass on the famous Gospel of St. Thomas, ‘unless I put my fingers in the holes…’ etc.

My own sense is not that Thomas was some skeptical cold fish here, demanding to have the resurrection proved to him. I think Thomas really loved Jesus (just a few chapters earlier, he was saying ‘Let’s go [to Judea] and die with him!’). And because he really loved Jesus, he really, really wanted to see Him, touch Him, be close to Him… just one more time.

This desire, this yearning for intimacy with Christ – we need to pray for that, I think. It is so easy for our hearts to grow cold, isn’t it? So easy to get kind of mediocre, kind of blah, kind of… well, Jesus is a nice guy… or a Lord… or God… or… and well, that’s all very good, and…

Yeah, we have to look at our love of God. ‘Thy kingdom come’ indeed. And hallowed be thy name – that our actual life, our destiny, our greatest joy and greatest glory is going to consist in acclaiming the holiness of beauty of God’s name and bearing, reflecting, being taken up into that name, making that name our name, and glorifying the name perpetually.

This requires, for most of us, such a radical re-configuration of our whole being inner and outer. Most people are, basically, kind of self-centred. I don’t mean that in any nasty or mean-spirited way, and I certainly include myself in the crowd.

But we do tend to gravitate around ourselves, don’t we? And that just ain’t heaven, just is not how things are in reality, and heaven is reality, you know. So Teresa throws down quite a challenge for us, quite a call to conversion, really, but in that, such a note of joy and delight, beauty and love. She really got it (and gets it, of course), and so be assured as I head to poustinia that I will pray for all of us to ‘get it’, and I count on your prayers for me to get it, too.