In this Sunday’s second reading, Saint Peter exhorts us always to be ready to explain the reason for our hope. The Catechism says that hope is the virtue “that responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man.” The Greeks called that aspiration eros and the Church has adopted that language to describe our yearning for the Infinite … for God. Tragically, we often make the mistake of aiming eros at finite pleasures (God substitutes), expecting them to be our satisfaction. It’s called sin, which, as an archer’s term means “to miss the mark.” Destiny is also an archer’s term and means “to aim at.” Saint John Paul II observed that “hope turns us toward God as the aim, hope is the wish for or even the desire of ‘the everlasting hills’ … [and it] does not accept fiction nor ‘substitutes.’” The virtue of hope, if we let it, purifies our desires “so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven” opening our hearts “in expectation of eternal beatitude” (CCC 1818). We are created for bliss (beatitude). We are created for ecstasy – the fulfillment of eros in the eternal embrace of divinity and humanity in the “Marriage of the Lamb.” The more we let this hope sink in, the more we will understand the sentiment of this Sunday’s responsorial psalm: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!”
I spent my weekend holding back tears on multiple occasions and letting them flow on others. On Friday afternoon I had finished watching the controversial Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why. Its brutally honest portrayal of the horrors that people suffer in our sexually dysfunctional culture has been haunting me ever since.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is jam-packed with profound Trinitarian theology. It also speaks of how our participation in the life of the Trinity is the fulfillment of human desire and how all of this is revealed through the human body. Trinitarian theology: “If you know me, then you will also know the father”; “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”; “The Father who dwells in me” – all of these passages speak to the eternal bond of love between the Father and Son which is the Holy Spirit. Participation in this eternal exchange of love and bliss is the North Pole to which the compass of human desire points. Christ came precisely to lead us to the eternal bliss and love that flows from the Father: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us,” says Philip. Enough … a word that speaks to full-fill-ment. How do we see the Father and thus attain that which is enough for us? The body of Christ reveals the mystery: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Christ has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us. To Jewish ears, this was all nuptial. In Jewish culture, the bridegroom prepared a place for his bride in his father’s house. Faith cries out with the Spirit and the Bride: “Come, Lord Jesus! Come and take your Bride home to be with you forever!”
“I came so that they might have life,” proclaims Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, and precisely as a Bridegroom, he is a creator, a life-giver. Easter is celebrated in the spring for a reason. All of creation is singing the song of new life! All of creation is telling the story of Easter, of God the life-giver. And the life-giving mystery inscribed in the natural world culminates in us, in our creation as male and female and the call of the two to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Our bodies tell the story of God’s eternal plan to marry us and fill us with eternal life. Here, also, is where the thief comes to “steal and slaughter and destroy.” Our sexuality, precisely because it reveals the “great mystery” of Christ’s life-giving love for the Church (see Eph 5:31-32), puts us at the center of a great battle between good and evil, love and sin, life and death, which we see all around us today. But having “returned to the shepherd and guardian of [our] souls” (second reading) we can “walk in the dark valley” and “fear no evil” (psalm). For “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” so that we might be “free from sin” (second reading).
[Guest Post by John Paul West]
When I first heard about Netflix’s controversial new show 13 Reasons Why, the charge that it glorified suicide and encouraged copycat behavior was enough for me not to want to watch it. Then my brother, whose judgment I trust, urged me to watch it because of how insightfully it portrayed the lives of most modern teenagers. After watching the first few episodes, I agree with him: but for some slight exaggerations, it’s the story of the pain I saw everyday in public high school.