The One Task Before Us

The One Task Before Us

8th Sunday after Pentecost

We find ourselves, on this eighth Sunday, as it were, taken back to Pentecost. Indeed, at the very heart of today’s liturgy lies the resplendent mystery of the Church as presented in the great Pentecostal Psalm (Psalm 47). Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. With the joy of the whole earth is mount Sion founded. We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy temple…According to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of justice. The city, the mountain, the temple are all prefigurations of the Church.

In harmony with this, at Matins this morning, we read of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem by Solomon, that magnificent edifice which, until its destruction, was one of the wonders of the ancient world. But Solomon’s Temple only foreshadowed the Temple of the New Covenant, the Holy Catholic Church. In the Old Covenant God made it very clear that, since there is only one God, there is to be only one temple. So, when Christ Our Lord came, not to abolish but to fulfil the law, He established only one Church. But the grace of the New Covenant by far surpasses that of the Old, and so that One Church is established, not just in one city, but throughout the world, and in every place, as the prophet Malachias had foretold, the true and eternal sacrifice is offered in churches which draw their power to sanctify from the One Church, Mystical Body of Christ, and which in turn point to the Eternal Temple of Heaven, in which the Triune God will be forever glorified by all the elect.

So we have the material buildings, our churches, which symbolise the Catholic Church, spread throughout the world, and this in turn foreshadows the Eternal Temple of Heaven. There is however another aspect to the celebration of the Temple. In the New Covenant, God has revealed to us the astounding but consoling truth that He deigns to take up residence in the souls of the just. The soul in the state of grace is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, which is why St Paul warned us today again to mortify the deeds of the flesh so that we may live the life of grace, for if we let ourselves be led by the Spirit of God, then we are truly sons and daughters of God, and we can cry out Abba, Father.

In the Gospel, we are told how to ensure that we do inherit the eternal kingdom. The fundamental point of the parable of the dishonest steward is that we must prepare for eternity while we have the time. The steward is given notice that he must leave his position, and so he takes advantage of his final days to send goods ahead of him. Even though the transactions are dishonest, his master nevertheless praises him, because he has shown himself astute in providing for the future. During his tenure, he had not given satisfaction to his master – that is why he was dismissed –, but when he is placed before the inevitable, that is, death, he sets the record straight.

How many souls act in a similar way! They make their way through life knowing full well that many of their actions are reprehensible, but they seem to get away with it, and so they continue to fall. The attractions of the flesh and the world blind them to the gravity of their misdeeds. But one day something happens to remind them of the brevity of life. It comes home to them that they will soon die and that they had better put their affairs in order. It might be the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, a financial crash, a serious health issue, or any number of other events that the Holy Spirit uses to jolt the soul out of its torpor and arouse it to authentic conversion while there is still time.

The parable concludes with Our Lord telling us to: “Make friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings”. What does this mean if not that we must use the goods of this world in order to give alms, to assist those in need? Everything that is offered to help others is sent ahead of us into the everlasting tabernacle of God’s glory. On the day of our death, we will see with the greatest possible clarity the substance of what we have sent ahead of us. Everything that we kept to ourselves in this life for our own profit we will lose, for when we die we can take nothing at all with us. But what we sacrificed and managed to separate ourselves from for the profit of those in need, we will find it there waiting for us. It will have prepared for us a pleasant dwelling where we will delight to spend eternity.

The soul that understands this takes care to prove itself more astute than the children of darkness. How much trouble people go to in order to secure for themselves a pleasant house, a good position, a far-reaching reputation! How much thought do people put into increasing their fortune and putting themselves beyond the reach of financial strain! The soul that has been touched by grace, however, sees the folly of putting so much energy into making oneself comfortable in this life and failing to send goods ahead of us to prepare a place in Heaven. Such a soul will then willingly part with many things and possessions, with persons it loves and places it cherishes. Such a soul will discover, even in this life, how sweet the Lord is: Taste and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopeth in him, we shall sing in the Communion verse from Psalm 33. Only the one who has made this experience knows what it means. When you give up something or someone for the love of God, God Himself comes to you in abundance, making sweet what was perhaps bitter for you, giving you a foretaste of the unending joys of the eternal Jerusalem.

My Dear Friends, we really have one task before us, and that is to build up the Temple of the Holy Spirit in our soul. We do this by paying serious attention to God’s words, by avoiding sin, by practicing true charity. In so doing, we at the very same time build up the community we live in and indeed the entire Catholic Church, for if it is true that every soul that lowers itself into vice brings down the whole Church, so every soul that lifts itself up by the practice of virtue helps the entire Church to rise and purify itself so that it may once again radiate the adorable Face of Christ before the nations.

Such is the task before us. It has its demands, but there is no happier life on earth than one which prepares for the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb to which we are called, and of which St John writes at the end of the Apocalypse: He shewed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month: the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more. And they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them. And they shall reign for ever and ever (Ap 22:1-5).