Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Living Out Heaven on Earth

Today was one stressful day for me! Everything that could have gone wrong did -- almost. As is my daily custom, I attended afternoon Mass. During Mass, I was experiencing the pangs of chronic pain, which is often exacerbated by stress. Nevertheless, I felt elevated -- lifted up above the pain.  I began to experience joy in the midst of my suffering. The graces of the Eucharistic Sacrifice made me realize that in this present situation, I was living out Heaven on earth. St. Pope John Paul II  described the Mass as "Heaven on Earth," explaining that what "we celebrate on Earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy." (Angelus address, November 3, 1996). 

The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Divine Liturgy confirms John Paul II's description, further elaborating:  "In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8).

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us: “In Mass are contained all the fruits, all the graces, all those immense treasures which the Son of God poured out so abundantly upon the Church, His Spouse, in the bloody sacrifice of the Cross.”

During the Mass, as always, I united my sufferings with those of Christ and surrendered to His will for my life. Each time I participate in Mass, I receive an infinite amount of graces, which strengthen me to deal with the trials and tribulations of living in our world, so often saturated with the stain of sin. When I left Mass, Jesus remained with me in the tabernacle of my body. Later on, I heard Him speak to me in the silence of my heart, encouraging me to invite my husband and a neighbor for a walk on this beautiful evening. As I walked and talked with my husband and our neighbor friend, I felt His presence not only in and through my interactions with them, but in the silent beauty of the night.  The golden harvest moon, the clear, star-filled skies, the gentle breeze all whispered His love to me.

When I returned home from the walk, He shared these beautiful Scripture passages with me:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands." -- (Psalm 19: 1)

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him." -- (1 Corinthians 2:9)

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -- (Romans 8:35-38).

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you." (Jeremiah 29:11)

"You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!" -- (Psalm 139:13-14)

St. Josemaria Escriva sums up Christ's love for each one of us:

“The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men – their desires, their struggles, their sufferings. He is a Father who loves his children so much that he sends the Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man he may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts.

“This is the source of the joy we feel on Holy Thursday – the realization that the Creator has loved his creatures to such an extent. Our Lord Jesus Christ, as though all the other proofs of his mercy were insufficient, institutes the Eucharist so that he can always be close to us. We can only understand up to a point that he does so because Love moves him, who needs nothing, not to want to be separated from us. The Blessed Trinity has fallen in love with man, raised to the level of grace and made ‘to God’s image and likeness.’ God has redeemed him from sin – from the sin of Adam, inherited by all his descendants, as well as from his personal sins – and desires ardently to dwell in his soul… The Blessed Trinity’s love for man is made permanent in a sublime way through the Eucharist.” (Christ is Passing By, 84-85).

Thank you, Lord, for your great love for me! Help me to model myself after you by sharing the gift of your self-giving love with your children.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann August 2014

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