33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we are at the end of the liturgical year. This evening we will bring in the new liturgical year with 1st Vespers of Advent. We are at the end and yet stand at the threshold of a new beginning. This is the state of tension that we as Christians must live in.
Christians have been accused of being escapists focusing only on getting into heaven. So that as someone put it ‘the sacraments are turned into a celestial life-insurance premium.’ But the fact is, as we affirm in the creed – expecto resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi saeculi. ‘I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We do not hope to get into heaven but we wait for the life of the world to come, much as we would wait for a train that is expected to arrive. This life of the world to come is the new heaven and the new earth. This is coming and every day it draws nearer to us. Every day then, we live with expectation for the life of the world to come, for the new heaven and the new earth where every tear will be wiped away and where God will be all in all.
The first reading puts before us, in veiled form, what this restoration will look like. In the second chapter of Genesis, there is a river flowing from the garden. There is the tree of life but there is also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the first Eden, there is work, and the serpent finds his way into it. The presence of the tree of knowledge of good and evil tells us man would be put to the test and with this the possibility of failing the test. We know what happened.
In the reading from the book of revelation, the garden has been transformed into a city. The new heaven and the new earth has come down from heaven. God will never be absent, we will never feel abandoned – the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it. I believe the Lamb is specifically mentioned because the face of the one we will live forever with will not be some alien deity but the face of Jesus who died for us. Now the river runs once again through the streets of the new Eden. The tree of life is there but there is no mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are at rest, there is no testing in the new Eden. There is no possibility of falling away from God anymore. We dwell in security, total security. No longer is there mention of work as there was in the first Eden, the garden that had to be cultivated. But the city is fully developed and perfect as the abode of God and man and we will get our heart’s desire to look upon His face. Then the only work, the only Opus that we will want to do, is the Opus Dei – that is the only work in the city will be worship. His name will be written on our foreheads, and this will embolden us to look upon His face as we together with the angels we will spontaneously sing the Trisagion to the Thrice Holy God.