I want to begin today by going all the way back to our beginnings, back to the Book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden to Eden. There we find Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and God walking in it to seek them out and be with us, their descendants. There we also find Adam and Eve just after they, sadly, had broken the bond between themselves and God by yielding to the temptation of the Serpent. In Genesis we hear:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths. The mam and his wife heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from God among the trees of the garden. But God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden,’ he replied. ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:7-10)
I want to point out that God had evidently created us so that we could belong to each other, God and us at home with each other, God walking with us and we walking with God. There was a familiarity between us. He wanted us to be family with each other, God and us at home with each other.
In Jesus Christ God presents Himself to us as family. Totally unique in all of the religions of mankind, past and present, Jesus reveals to us that God is a family of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the time of Jesus many considered that idea to be blasphemous and others to be absurd. No other religion or philosophy would ever dream of seeing God that way. It was and is astonishing. Even more astonishing is the fact that Jesus Christ invites us to enter in that family and brings those who accept His invitation into that family of God. That is truly amazing and wondrous.
With that as background I want to turn now to today’s passages from Sacred Scripture. In our first reading we heard: “Thus says the Lord: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her… As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort,” These words tell us of our spiritual home in the Lord’s power and in the comfort of His presence as our Father. Again, the imagery is that of family.
The Holy City of Jerusalem is the home of the Jews even unto today. For Christians Jerusalem has two meanings, one being the Church is our New Jerusalem, the other being the Jerusalem in our souls where we are the Temple, that place in which the Holy Spirit dwells, that holy place in which we find peace and comfort in the presence of God.
In our earthly lives we all are in search of a home, that place where we live with those whom we love, that place where we love and are loved in return. Our lives and what we do in our lives are centered around a home. We work in order to have a home. We do not have a home in order to work.
Summertime is a time to enjoy life with those who live with us in a home, in a family. A summer vacation is more than simply taking time away from work. Summertime is a time to enjoy being away with our families, those who live in our homes apart from work.
At first glance it must be puzzling to have today’s gospel reading connected to the first reading but there is, I think, a connection. That connection has to do with the seventy-two disciples who went out and about doing the work of Jesus in proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom of God among us and preparing the people of the towns Jesus intended to visit.
The gospel account concludes with those disciples rejoicing over their successes and the fact that Jesus’ miraculous power worked through them. Jesus tells them: “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In other words, rejoice because you have found a home in my love; rejoice because you live in my presence.”
All of this prompts me to ask: “Are we at home with Jesus? How aware are we of the presence of God living within us and how aware are we that we are living in the presence of God?” Spirituality is, after all, living in peace and love with God, at home with God. That is the will of God and that is what deep down in our hearts we want
This goal takes us to a place that is far beyond simply doing out duty, far beyond simply following the rules, far beyond simply being nice to others. To reduce our spiritual lives to simply “being nice” falls pathetically short of what it is God wants and what it is that causes our hearts to yearn for the presence of God within us.
There are questions we ought to ask ourselves, questions we should not set aside “for another time.”
Are we at peace in ourselves, at peace with ourselves?
How will I find peace within me?
We are all children of God. Where am I not a peace with others?
God wants to live with us. In a sense He wants to make His home in us, in our hearts and souls. Recall a famous painting of Jesus, the one that shows Jesus knocking on the door of a house. It’s our house. He is knocking on the door of our hearts hoping they will be opened and He will be received within our hearts in a comfortable and close relationship with Him. That painting is based on these words found in the Book of Revelation: “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.” (Rev. 3:21)
A final thought. Knowing that God is a God of love we need to remind ourselves that God loves us as a good Father, a Father who has expectations of us. We should not overlook those expectations. He wants us to do what is right. He wants us to behave and act with standards, standards and values that He has given us in His Ten Commandments. If we love God cannot act as we please. We need to respect God as our Father, to follow His ways, to live in His truth. He has given us His Son in order that we might know what God our Father, expects of us and to reject all that is sinful. To sin is to reject God’s love and to reject God Himself. God’s love does not allow us to do what we please. Love has its demands; love has its expectations. The Serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve was telling them they could decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, ignoring what God expected of them. It is the first and original of all human sin, the origins of sin that has led to our human miseries.
We should govern our actions so that we can live in God’s love and in doing so find our true happiness, the happiness for which God our Father created us and in which He wants us to live forever with Him in the life to come.
About Charles Irvin
Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”