Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fourth (Lætáre) Sunday of Lent—15 March AD 2015

The Pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance
Saint John's Gospel - Chapter vi

“We are sons of the free woman
by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.” [1]

    Up until this past week I had never paid attention to the second word in today's Introit.  “Lætáre,” of course, meant “rejoice,” and many commentators called attention to the fact that being half way through Lent, and that much closer to Easter, was a reason for rejoicing.  Certainly it is.   But the word is not directed to us so much as it is directed to Jerusalem:  “Lætáre Jerusalem—Rejoice Jerusalem.”

    Modern Catholics probably don’t think too much about Jerusalem—most likely, our favorite pilgrimage destination is Rome, or perhaps Lourdes or Fatima.  But to the Jewish people and also to early Christians—at least through the middle ages—Jerusalem was a one of a kind city.  To the Jew it was in the land promised them by God, the city of David and Solomon, the city in which could be found the Temple, the unique temple in all the world where God actually dwelt with His people.  Able bodied Jewish men journeyed to Jerusalem and the Temple at least three times a year to join in the sacrifices of Passover, Pentecost,  and the feast of Tabernacles[2].

    No city, not even Rome itself, was as sacred as Jerusalem to Christianity.  It was the backdrop to every significant event in the life of Christ from His Presentation in the Temple, His being left behind at the age of twelve, even to the Last Supper, His death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven.   It was the site of the first Pentecost and the base of Apostolic operations.  It was the one place in the world where it was possible to trace the steps of Christ, the Virgin, and the Apostles.  Catholics even went to war in an effort to take the city back from the Moslems who invaded it in AD 636, shortly after Mohammad's death.

    The literal Jerusalem was mentioned repeatedly in the prayers and scriptural readings of faithful Christians, and an allegorical Jerusalem reminded them of the “New Jerusalem” that had been promised them in the hereafter[3].  Jerusalem on earth was more than just an historic treasure.  It was a portent of heaven—“Jerusalem on high”—the place where all Christians hoped to see God face to face.[4]

    In today’s epistle, Saint Paul refers to the “Jerusalem which is above, which is free, which is our mother.”  He is telling us that while the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament was a sort of servitude, we have been freed from that servitude by Jesus Christ.  As the adopted sons and daughters of God we freely receive the graces merited by Christ on the Cross.  We should recognize this, doing the will of God out of love for Him, and not out of fear.  That “Jerusalem which is above” ought to be our constant goal, and not the riches of any earthly city.

    The Gospel today—the beginning of Saint John’s sixth chapter—is just a prelude to one of the most important passages in Scripture.[5]  Catholics ought to make a point of reading the entire chapter at least once a year.  Today our Lord demonstrates His ability to multiply loaves of bread.  Later in the same chapter He discloses that “[He] is the Bread of Life: he that cometh to [Him] shall not hunger: and he that believeth in [Him[ shall never thirst.”[6]  It is this Bread of Life that is our food and our entry into the Heavenly Jerusalem.  Our Lord tells us:  “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.”[7]

    It is divine providence that some in the crowd could not believe that Jesus was speaking literal truth.  “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  This is a hard saying, who can listen to this?”[8]  I say it was divine providence, for our Lord answered them that He literally intended what He said.  Those in the future who would hold that the Mass is just a communal meal, or that the host and chalice are mere symbols of our Lord’s body and blood, are permanently refuted by our Lord’s words and actions in this chapter.  By His words: “My flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”[9]  And by His actions:  Even though He knew that the skeptics would leave, and cease to follow Him, He did not call them back.  He did not say to them “You have misunderstood.”  He did not say to them: “I was only speaking of symbols of my body and blood.”  He said no such thing, because a year later, at the Last Supper, He would give the power of the priesthood to His Apostles, enabling them to make His body and blood present whenever they commemorated His actions on that night before He died.  “This is My body…. This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.”[10]

    From that night forward, until the end of time, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Catholics stand with Jesus at His Cross, even though thousands of miles and thousands of years may intervene.  It is at the foot of the Cross that our journey begins.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ invites us to journey to that Jerusalem on high, where we will see His Father and our Father face to face.  And it is this Bread from Heaven that is our food for the way.

“We are sons of the free woman
by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.”



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