“What eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…”
I am emboldened by St. Paul, who, when referring to what God has prepared, says, “…this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” We have the Spirit of God, so let us follow the Spirit’s lead and allow our hope to reach in behind the veil and touch this mystery and be touched by it. Hope is a spiritual power given to us by God as a gift that enables us to desire the kingdom of heaven. Hope enables us to trust in Jesus’ promises, not on our own strength but on the grace of the Holy Spirit. The virtue of hope is aimed at the good things that God has prepared for us.
We get a hint of what God has prepared for us when Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” God has prepared for us a life of fulfillment – everything brought to completion, no loose ends, no unfinished business, indeed, no regrets to sadden us. Of course, this only follows after much purification, but in heaven we will understand that saying “…in all things God works for good for those who love him…” We will see that God can and does cause good to emerge from evil itself, even the evil we have done, and the evil we have suffered. And in heaven we will marvel at how God brought this fulfillment about – through the last breath and words of his Son: “It is finished…”
Jesus gives us another hint of what awaits us when he speaks about anger. He contrasts it with what God has really prepared for us: communion. The kingdom of heaven is a place of communion where we will all be of one mind and one heart: no anger, no arguing, no jockeying for position, no insisting on our own way. The only vying for position we will see is the vying to be the first to show honor to the other, the greatest exalting the glory of the lowest, and the lowest thanking God for the gift of the greatest. What God has prepared for us is a celebration – each bringing his or her gift to the eternal altar – not the blood of bulls and goats, but the gift of self, of one’s weaknesses and strengths, to set beside the absolute gift of the Lamb who was slain for us.
Jesus reveals one other aspect of what God has prepared for us – harmony in diversity. His teaching about adultery and divorce is especially poignant here, because God intends marriage to be a sign and sacrament of the harmony of heaven: two unique images of God, a man and a woman, united in the sacrifice of love, overcoming the forces of the world that would estrange and undermine harmony. Now obviously, all marriages are not harmonious, but in heaven we will the see the harmony that God can bring about through the mutual sacrifice of husband and wife. Each cooperates in the salvation of the other: a husband loving his wife as his own body and handing himself over for her so that she might be holy and without blemish; and a wife loving her husband and revealing to him his vocation to perfect imitation of the Lord Jesus. In this harmony and complementarity we will see the image of Christ Jesus and his Church – the mutual gift of self that leaves the uniqueness intact but manifests the union that cannot be broken.
Hope reaches out to this glory which eye cannot yet see, ear cannot fully hear, and the human heart can barely grasp. In our hope we touch the mysteries of heaven, and in the Eucharist we receive a foretaste – of fulfillment, of communion, and of harmony in diversity – made present under the sign and sacrament of bread and wine. All of this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Sunday's homily by Father Vincent.