Sacred Heart

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Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Homily
Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, April 24, 2016
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
 

Intimacy with God

 

1.    

   Today we have read the breathtaking passage of the glimpse which the Apostle John was given of the heaven promised to the saints: “[God] will dwell with them and they will be his people … He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away….  ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” Verses like this in the scripture give us great hope, and remind us to lift our minds from the passing things of this world to the spiritual teachings of the Church; they remind us of the purpose for which we are made, a purpose about which we forget all too easily.

  There is one expression especially stirring among those verses. When John sees that this world p assed away and a new one was created for the inhabitants of heaven, he saw a city descending from God to this new earth, and we read, “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This is mysterious, for how can a “city” be dressed as a bride? This could only be if that city were one body. And in fact, it is one body, for it is the Church, one body, Christ’s own body.

   Many places in scripture establish this mystery, that the husband and wife become two in one flesh, that the wife’s body is the husband’s and the husband’s is the wife’s, and that all of this is a sign in this world of the union to come between God and his Church. In the book of revelation, the Lamb Once Slain Who Lives Forever is the groom; the new Jerusalem, which is the Catholic Church but in heaven, is the bride. Marriage is the sign, heaven is the reality.

   For this reason, from the Church Fathers to the present times, very much has been interpreted in the scriptures, of those passages referring to marriage, also for example the love poem of the Song of Songs, as passages that teach us about God’s divine love, and the love we should return to him and to his people.

   I would therefore encourage all of us, especially as this is the year of mercy, to open our hearts to the love of God. It is very important for anyone who pursues holiness, to pay whatever price may be necessary to attain divine intimacy.

   Intimacy with God! What does this mean? Most people, I think, have difficulty grasping what divine intimacy means because they have difficulty with human intimacy. Sometimes it is thought of only in carnal ways, but carnal intimacy is absent in one’s relationship with God, and among the angels and saints in heaven. Sometimes people have failed to experience intimate affection precisely in those places where they should have legitimately expected it, for an abusive parent, a cold or unfaithful spouse, a friend who betrayed one, siblings who treat each other terribly. Therefore, every relationship they have is a combative one, where the poor person in question is suspicious of the other, fearing which wounds his or her beloved will inflict, dreading the heartbreak of loving but without being loved back. And that soul who lacks human intimacy especially in the emotional way is particularly exposed to sins against the sixth.

   Without making the mistake of taking an etymology for a definition, etymologies, or historical roots of words, can provide insights into what a term may mean. In Latin there is a term, intra. It means, “within.” It has comparative and superlative forms, such as “more within” or “most within.” The word “interior” is a Latin word, and it is the comparative, “more within”; and “intimus,” from which we derive “intimate” means “most within,” or “extremely within.” Therefore, in Latin, intimus, or “intimate,” was the adjective meaning the inmost part, which in the case of humans was the mind or heart; it was that which was secret from public knowledge; it was the most profound of ideas; it was the closest and most familiar of friends.

   All of this can give us clues about the nature of intimacy, and how to apply it to our relationship with God. For example, between spouses, before intimacy refers to the body, it must refer to the soul, for that which is most inner, or intimate, to a person is not the appearance of the flesh, but the heart and the mind. Spouses therefore must be intimate emotionally and mentally before physically; this includes tenderness, spiritual knowledge of the other’s interior life, acceptance, gentleness, forgiveness and care for the other person’s spiritual wellbeing – including that person’s state of soul in his or her relationship with God. Intimacy also excludes abrasiveness, putting one another down, keeping secrets, condemning one another, mutual rejection, harshness or rudeness; and it also excludes superficiality.

   More could be said about intimacy, perhaps all of you have more you could add to describe it, for it is a deep mystery. But let us think how this applies in our relationship with God. Intimacy with God excludes that kind of fear where you think God is out to get you; but it includes the fear that, each day, you might fail to love him as much as you could. Intimacy excludes superficiality in your relationship with God. Intimacy with God means trust, not distrust; tenderness, not sin; thanking instead of complaining; continually remembering that God is with you and not throwing him aside as one goes about the day. Intimacy means loving the other humans whom God loves, and avoiding the sins by which one crucifies Jesus. Intimacy means loving what God loves, including the Mother of God. Intimacy means you hold nothing back from God, and he in turn holds nothing of himself back from you.

   The greatest expression of divine intimacy isn’t simply an emotional state that is here today and gone tomorrow. All intimacy is found in the exercise of one’s freedom, that is, in real choices and in real acts – actions are active, feelings are passive. And the greatest action of intimacy with God a soul can both receive and do is to worthily receive holy communion.

   At every Mass, and every holy communion, let us open our minds and hearts to Christ, and stop holding back. Let us give everything, and keep nothing. And today let us also remember the consoling words of today’s reading from the Book of Revelation, “[God] will dwell with them… and will always be with them as their God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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