HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
HOMILY THEME: Heaven is Here!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
The first words we utter in the morning can be a very effective way of knowing our mental and emotional condition. If we wake up in the morning and we say, ‘Good morning, Lord,’ we have a peaceful and happy disposition for the day. But if we say, ‘Good Lord, it’s morning,’ that means a rough day is ahead of us.
Every morning we have every reason to thank and praise God. This is easy to see for those people who are simple and humble, the child-like – people of the Beatitudes. Jesus praised the heavenly Father for them: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike” (Mt 11:25). These are the ones who have discovered the mysteries of the Kingdom and who clearly see the wonders that God does at every moment of every day.
But for people who are steeped in selfishness and worldly attractions, unfortunately, that is not the case. Their greed for material things, and their insatiable egoistic desires made their eyes blind to the supernatural and heavenly realities, which are the true and lasting treasures. This is what Pope St. John Paul II referred to when he said, “The greatest misfortune of this age is that people consider money as the highest good.” The scourge of this present humanity is materialism. When it rules, the spiritual matters invariably disappear, and the true and lasting treasures lose their value.
Last Sunday, we reflected on the terrible reality of hell, the unquenchable fire of eternal punishment. For this Sunday, let us fix our eyes on the infinitely priceless treasure of heaven. The Gospel gives three parables of the Kingdom of God, about heaven. Just as hell is not only a geographical place, but is rather “the state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed” (CCC, no. 1033), so also is heaven not really a physical place. Indeed, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (no.1024). In other words, if hell is the state of being away from God, heaven, on the other hand, is the state of being in the presence of God, being with God.
The good news is that even though we are still on earth, it is possible for us to have a taste and a glimpse of heaven. This happens in and through Jesus, the true God in human flesh. The early Fathers of the Church loved to refer to Jesus as the “autobasileia.” “Auto” means “self” and “basileia” means “kingdom.” Jesus is himself the Kingdom of God. To enter the Kingdom of God, therefore, is to enter into a relationship with Jesus. When we are with Jesus, we are in a state of supreme happiness, for we are with God. We are in heaven, our greatest treasure.
How do we come into direct contact with God while on earth? How do we get some taste and glimpse of heaven on earth? Pope Benedict XVI said, “The Liturgy is the act in which we believe that God enters our lives and that we touch Him…We come into contact with God. He comes to us – and we are illumined by Him” (“Light of the World”, p. 155). In a very unique and special way, Jesus is really present in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist. Pope St. John Paul II said, “The liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy” (Angelus, Nov. 3, 1996). He further said that, in fact, “It is the eternal worship of Heaven, but it is also steeped in time.” (Address on Liturgy to the US Bishops,1998). A famous biblical scholar in the U.S., Dr. Scott Hahn, said, “When Jesus comes again at the end of time, he will not have a single drop more glory than he has right now upon the altars and in the tabernacles of our churches. God dwells among mankind, right now, because the Mass is heaven on earth” (The Lamb’s Supper, p.116). St. John Chrysostom attested to this truth: “When Mass is celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.”
In the Gospel this Sunday, the man who found the buried treasure in a field sold everything he had in order to buy that field. The merchant who found the pearl of great price sold everything in order to buy it. Jesus is talking about the priceless value of heaven that one can readily sacrifice everything just to possess it. Can we let go of our valued possessions in favor of heaven? Are we willing to invest all our hard-earned savings of a lifetime on the Lord’s promise of eternal glory in heaven?
But heaven is not just some abstract idea. Heaven is real, for it is Jesus himself. And Jesus is here with us in the Mass! Are we ready to leave behind our tasks at home just to be here at Mass on Sunday? Are we ready to sacrifice that baseball game, or forget about that cold beer with our friends and taste the sweetness of heaven here in the Mass with Jesus? Is that beach party next Sunday more interesting than the experience of heaven on earth in the Mass? This is something we have to think about very seriously. We are Catholics. We have the fullness of the Truth. We have all the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ. And we encounter and receive Jesus really present in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, many of us take our Catholic faith for granted. We often tend to neglect Sunday Mass. This is very sad.
St. Anselm said, “A single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death.” St. Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart bewailed the people’s lack of reverence towards the Eucharist: “Ah, what continual irreverence he receives from man in his own house! In his humility, he deigns to dwell in our midst, yet how often is he neglected and forgotten, left in empty churches, while in his turn, he never grows weary of this lonely vigil. Truly ‘Love is not loved!'” Let us ask God to continually grant us the gift of wisdom, like the one granted to Solomon, and to open the eyes of our faith so that each time we come to Mass, we will be able to see the infinite beauty and priceless value of heaven – despite the distractions and limitations of this material world. May we eagerly look forward to every Sunday as a great blessing and a precious opportunity for us to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, have a taste heaven on earth, and begin to enjoy eternal happiness now and for eternity.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422