Summary: Jesus healed the whole person; so the Church has the mission to bring the world to His healing touch through the sacraments.
December 10, 2012
Monday of 2nd Week in Advent
Gaudium et Spes
Let’s be very clear about one thing in today’s lesson from Isaiah–the Judean desert is nothing to joke about. Hot, desolate and arid, it devours lost travelers just as easily as its scarce rainfall. The people Isaiah was addressing were spiritually like that: weak in hands and knees and heart, frightened because of their experience of oppression that they had brought on themselves. The promise of God in prophecy was imaged as the desert blossoming, but the deeper meaning was that the people themselves would blossom, just as soon as they made a deep and unwavering commitment to walk in the paths of the Lord. When that happened, He would make them a highway.
Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. The land was laid waste and the people were destroyed by sin. Jesus healed, but His healing was first of all a healing of the heart. True conversion and true rebirth has to begin from within. Blessed Fr. Chaminade taught “the essential is the interior.” What we do is important, but who we are is more important. Jesus forgives sins, an action that cannot be seen; then he proves his power to heal the whole person by making the paralytic walk by himself. That is a lesson for all of us. The most important healing is not of the limbs, but of the mind and heart. That’s what we need to focus on this Advent.
The Council Fathers had much to say about the healing mission of Christ through the Church. In Gaudium et Spes we read: Coming forth from the eternal Father's love,(2) founded in time by Christ the Redeemer and made one in the Holy Spirit,(3) the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, of members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God's children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns. United on behalf of heavenly values and enriched by them, this family has been "constituted and structured as a society in this world"(4) by Christ, and is equipped "by appropriate means for visible and social union."(5) Thus the Church, at once "a visible association and a spiritual community,"(6) goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society(7) as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God's family.
That the earthly and the heavenly city penetrate each other is a fact accessible to faith alone; it remains a mystery of human history, which sin will keep in great disarray until the splendor of God's sons, is fully revealed. Pursuing the saving purpose which is proper to her, the Church does not only communicate divine life to men but in some way casts the reflected light of that life over the entire earth, most of all by its healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which it strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activity of men with a deeper meaning and importance. Thus through her individual matters and her whole community, the Church believes she can contribute greatly toward making the family of man and its history more human.
Recall that St. Athanasius taught “God became human so that humans could become divine.” This is the mystery we celebrate each Advent. But before we can become divinized, we must be humanized. We must be good human beings before we can be in union with the Trinity. The Church has always had four things that help in both pursuits. We call them code, cult, community and creed. We profess one faith, one credo. We worship sacramentally, with the Mass being the pinnacle of that sacrifice of praise. That is our “cult.” We follow a code given us by God. The basic tenet is do good and avoid evil. The ten commandments help us to avoid evil, and the works of mercy guide our doing good. And we act and live in community with each other. This is more of a family than a club. We can’t choose our family members; neither can we choose the members of the Church. Only God can do that. So being a member of the Church community is more of a challenge than being a member of a civic club. All four of these critical parts of our identity should be attractive to others looking for a home, for a real transcendental experience of God. We must make it our constant effort to perfect them.