OH SO HEAVENLY: A HOMILY ON THURSDAY, 34TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
Oh so heavenly is the name of a set of cosmetics. There is a soap for this and there is also a cream. There might be more, but I am not into cosmetics. I am not about to advertise this consmetics to you, but to advertaise something else, which is Oh! so heavenly. As catholics, we believe that the Mass is the highest prayer that can be prayed and after the Mass comes other sacraments and then the divine office. These prayers we call liturgy. But what is it that makes them so special, even when sometimes the one who is celebrating them can be very borring. Sometimes the priest does not give a good homily, and that can give us the impression that the Mass was a waste of time. Well, there is more to the mass than the homily and as important as the homily is, the mass is not only about the homily. In our readings today, we are given two images. One image is that of destruction and the other image is that of salvation.
Jesus in the gospel gives us the image of destruction, first of Jerusalem, and then that which will happen at the end of time. However, to his followers He said they should stand erect and hold their heads high, because salvation is coming. Standing erect and holiding our heads high can be understood in a spiritual way. But we can also understand it physically, because everything that happens in our physical life also affect our spiritual life. For example, if you are praying while kneeling down and another person is praying while lying down, your levels of concentration cannot be the same. There are times at the mass when we stand, namely the entrance and recession, during the Gospel, during the creed, durring the offertory till the ‘Holy, Holy’, during the Lord’s prayer, etc. Standing up is a sign of being alert. You cannot go to church in the first place, if you have refused to get out of bed and get going.
In our first reading we also see, as we see in the entire book of revelation, both images of destruction and images of salvation. In the image of destruction it is said that Babylon the great has fallen. Babylon becomes the symbol of all evil structures, who even when we consider them great, will all fall at the end. They will all become a resting place for every foul spirit and every evil creature. Babylon is thrown down into the sea and is forever drowned. This image should remain in our minds to remind us of the fate that awaits all those who persist in sin and evil.
However, Babylon is said to be deprived of all things liturgical. There will be no more songs in Babylon, but for the redeemed people, they will always be singing Alleluia, and the praise of the one who has saved them. There will be no harpists in Babylon, no fluit and no trumpet. But in heaven, there will be all kinds of musical instruments to the praise of God. Notice that this is what we do at the Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. There will be no craftsmen in Babylon and no skill. But our liturgy is full of all kinds of artwork, from stained glasses, to holy pictures, and sculptures, to beautiful designs, etc. We worship God with beautiful works of art. But Babylon will be deprived of all the beautiful arts. There will be no sound of mill, which means no bread. But at Mass, we have both bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In Babylon, there will be no light of the lamp. In our liturgies, we have lit candles and the tabernacle light. There is always light somewhere in every catholic liturgy. Usually, when catholics pray, they light a cantle to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There will be no voices of bridegroom and bride in Babylon. The liturgy of the church is meant to be our participation in the wedding feast of the lamb. It is a love affair, between the lover and the beloved and every catholic identifies himslf/herself as the Lover’s Beloved. Nothing is sweeter than this wedding feast between God and ourselves. This is why those who are condemned are called prostitutes and fornicators, because not to enter into this love relationship with God, or to enter into it and then be preoccupied with sin and evil, is like having and extramarital affair. Those who have not entered into that union with God are fornicators and prostitutes, but those who have entered into it, and are still living in sin are adultrers. But we always say at every mass ‘Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ It is not said in those exact words, but that is the idea. Among the redeemed people is also the smoke going up for ever and ever, and here, every catholic should think of the incense.
Sometimes when we read the book of Revelation, we are so concerned about how to predict the end time, that we miss the liturgical images. If you are very familiar with the liturgy, especially the Holy Mass, then when you read the book of Revelation, you cannot but notice how much it is loaded with liturical images. Why? Because, our liturgy is meant to prepare us for eternal life, it is meant to be a foretaste of heaven. Therefore, everything that happens in heaven is already found in our liturgy, so that anybody who really wants to go to heaven should prepare by appreciating the liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. The invitation is open, expecially to those who are close to parishes where daily masses are celebrated. At least, you can always celebrate the divine office wherever you are. Happy are those who are invited to the weddng-feast of the Lamb. And I will add, even happier are those who will honour this invitation. It OH SO HEAVENLY!
I am Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro, CSsR. I am your fellow child of God and this is my way of sharing my daily reflections with you. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question. Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the Lord.
View all posts by Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro CSsR