February 13, 2021
The Gospel doesn’t make sense if we are only thinking of our earthly life. Jesus reveals the fullness of life without end that He created us for.
- John Mary recounts the story of the 1596 Christian martyrs of Japan. For more information, go to kirishtan.com.
- Eternal life or everlasting life is a supreme happiness, happiness without end, not found in anything created, earthly or passing.
- The more one loves the things of this world, the farther he is from happiness. Lasting happiness is not to be attained in this world.
- Catechism says that this life that we hold on to so much has so many miseries and can be so difficult that is should be called death than life.
- The principal cause of supreme happiness is the vision of God, to see God as He is. The greatest honor is to be a friend, son and brother of God.
- To be poor in spirit is to put the love for God above all so we are not excessively attached to the things of this world, but can appreciate all the goods of this world in their proper place.
The Beatitudes provide a key to what is meant by happiness in eternal life. What do we mean by life everlasting when we recite the Creed? We don’t just mean existence that doesn’t end, we mean eternal, everlasting happiness, supreme happiness.
The Catechism says, “so far are the goods of this life from conferring real happiness, that on the contrary, the more one loves the things of this world, the farther he is from real happiness.” “For it is written, do not Love the world, neither the things that are in the world.” The principal cause of supreme happiness is this vision of God, to see God as He is.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great and heaven. For so their fathers did to the prophets.” These words of Jesus can seem shocking and crazy. But there are in the history of the Church, many examples of people who have lived these words, and I wanted to just share one with you today. This is from the Christian martyrs of Japan. So, this happened in 1596. And it was a boat, leaving the Philippines for Mexico. A Spanish boat and on it, there are a number of friars on it, among the other passengers, and they were shipwrecked, because of a storm. And they came ashore on Japan. And at that point, there was the warlord, ruler of Japan was persecuting the Christians. And so, he gave an order right about the time when the shipwreck happened, that his men were to round up all religious in the capital of Osaka, and the nearby imperial city of Kyoto. And they were to cut off their ears and their noses, and parade them on ox carts through Kyoto or Osaka, and then march them to Nagasaki, (Nagasaki was where most of the Christians were) where they would be crucified. And so, one of the officers intervened, so instead of cutting off the ears completely, they just cut off part of them. And I don’t think they cut off their noses at this point. But after this mutilation, all 24 of them were put into oxcarts (this is from a website) and three martyrs in each of the carts and paraded around Kyoto. They were all Franciscans, except for the Jesuit brother Paul Miki and his two lay catechist companions. Many called Paul Miki, the best preacher in Japan. And so, as this was going on, during this Via Crucis, he continued to preach from the oxcart. With their ears dripping blood, the three youngest, Louise is 12, Anthony, who was 13 and Thomas was 14. So, some of these martyrs are just 12 and 13 and 14 years old. They were singing the Our Father, these three youngest were singing the Our Father and the Hail Mary from the oxcarts while the others preached to the crowd. So, this is a long, brutal trip to torture and humiliate and frighten these friars. One of them, Thomas, who was 14, wrote to his mother, “you should not worry about me and my father. I hope to see you both very soon, there in Paradise (because his father was with him in this Via Crucis) and this letter, this bloodstain letter would later be found on his crucified body. Paul Miki wrote to his Jesuit provincial, “please don’t worry about us, about us three in our preparations for death, because by divine goodness, we go there with joy and happiness.” So, the final morning of this long trip, the road to Nagasaki was lined with Christians. The air was electric with a holy silence, and all Nagasaki don with grief as the parade of martyrs marched past towards the hilltop, where their crosses were awaiting. The martyrs’ number was now 26. Two laymen, having been robbed and thrown in with them in route by greedy guards. Neither protested but accepted martyrdom as a blessing. Atop the Hill lay their crosses, although the climb was steep. Young Luis (Luis was the youngest,12 – and so this end focuses on Luis), young Luis was full of energy and asked, “which cross is mine.” Then he ran to the one pointed out, laid down and hugged it. This vessel would take him home. Unique among the 26, Louise had been offered a chance to save his life. The sheriff in charge of this execution had orders to crucify only 24. He wanted to save this innocent boy and offered him the chance to be his page on condition that he stopped being a Christian. And Louise responded, “I do not want to live on that condition. For it’s not reasonable to exchange a life that has no end, for one that soon finishes.” And we’ll come back to these words. “It is not reasonable to exchange a life that has no end, an everlasting life, for one that will soon finish.” The crosses rose, Paul Miki began his last sermon, preaching that the only way to salvation was through Christ. The three youngest boys sang a psalm. Praise the Lord ye children, some sang the Te Deum and the Sanctus. And then came the coup de grace. Japanese crucifixions ended with paired spearmen. So, I think these crucifixions, I think they were tied, not nailed, I think they’re tied. Japanese crucifixions ended with paired spearmen driving their spearheads into the flanks of each victim through the heart and out through the shoulders. Here two pairs began their work starting at the opposite ends of the row of crosses and working towards the center. All, both the martyrs and the crowd, started chanting Jesus, Mary, as the martyrs’ hearts were pierced one by one. Before the spearmen reached young Louis, the 12-year-old, he was struggling to climb toward heaven. And these words of hope burst forth from his lips. Paradise, Paradise, he shouted. Then Jesus, Mary. Those were his last words. And so, this is from a website called I’ll spell it, kirishtan, I think was the word for Christians at that point, kirishtan.com, dedicated to the Christian martyrs of Japan. And so, this example, these martyrs, even this 12 year of martyr, is just one of the great multitude of men and women, young and old, who are witnesses of these beatitudes that we heard in the Gospel. Witnesses of hope, hope, and a life that doesn’t end, an eternal life. And so, I wanted to reflect with you today on this term we hear, so important, from our Lord, eternal life, sometimes also translated everlasting life. And so, I want to share a good reflection on this, a good teaching from the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was written in the 16th century, about the time at which these martyrs took place. So, it’s an older style, but sometimes it’s good to hear also this older style of the Church’s tradition. So, it’s reflected on the Catechism. I mean, on the Creed, how we say we believe in life everlasting and eternal life. So, what do we mean by life everlasting? Because even the demons and the souls of the damned have an existence that doesn’t end. But when we say eternal life, we don’t just mean existence that doesn’t end, we mean, eternal, everlasting happiness, supreme happiness. So that’s what’s meant by when Jesus speaks to us of eternal life, supreme happiness, happiness without end. And so, why is this? Why do we speak of this as the supreme happiness, as eternal life? The Catechism says, we use the word eternal, to make clear that happiness is not found in any created thing, in anything earthly or passing, because everything in this world is passing. The Catechism says, “so far are the goods of this life from conferring real happiness. That on the contrary,” (this is very much in the spirit of the Beatitudes), “that on the contrary, the more one loves the things of this world, the farther he is from real happiness.” The more one loves the things of this world, the farther he is, the Catechism says, from real happiness. “For it is written, do not Love the world, neither the things that are in the world.” This is the first letter of John. “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It also says the world passes away, and the lust of the world. And so, Jesus said in the Gospel today, “whoa to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you that our full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” The Catechism says that a Christian learns to despise mortal things. And to know that in this world, in which we are not citizens, but sojourners, we don’t belong here. We’re not citizens. We’re just passing through, we’re strangers here. And it says, “happiness is not to be attained.” (that’s the Catechism says) “that happiness is not to be a real happiness. Lasting happiness is not to be attained in this world,” says the Catechism. And we heard St. Paul today say, “if for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men, the most to be pitied.” So, happiness, this happiness is not in this world. But the Catechism says, “Yet even here, we may be happy in hope.” So, we don’t attain the fullness of happiness here. But we may be happy in hope. And this supreme happiness, a supreme happiness can never be lost. “Because if it could be lost,” the Catechism says, “it couldn’t be supreme happiness.” If we had a happiness, which we knew we might lose, which is the way of so many experiences on this earth, it couldn’t be supreme happiness, because we will always have the dread of losing it. This supreme happiness is beyond any ability of our words to express because we haven’t experienced it. And so, we have no words, to adequately express it. The Scriptures use a lot of different terms, the kingdom of God, of the kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, Paradise, the holy city, the New Jerusalem, My Father’s house, the joy of the Lord, all these different terms to help us to have some sense. Why eternal life? Why do we use that word life? Because one of the things we most hold on to, we most desire, is life. And, the Catechism says, “We cherish this life so much.” But even though this life, and here’s what the Catechism says, “this life, even though it is subject to so many and such various miseries, as the more truly to deserve to be called death.” The Catechism says this life is that we hold on to so much so has so many different types of miseries and can be so difficult that it should be rather called death than life. So that’s a very, very strong language. And so, it’s contrasting that with eternal life. That’s kind of the sense of the martyr Luis, who said that, why would he give up eternal life for life that passes? And so, this supreme happiness of eternal life, contains the perfect and absolute aggregate the Catechism says of all goods, and the absence of all evils. So, it is all the goods and without any evil. And so, the Catechism asks, what is the primary cause? What is it primarily consist of, this eternal happiness? And it says,” it consists above all in the vision of God and our joy and enjoying His beauty. He was the source and principle of all goodness and perfection”. Thus, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” And St. John expresses this when he says, in his first letter, “Beloved, we are now sons of God, but it does not yet appear what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him even as He is” so this is a key passage, “we shall see Him even as He is,” in the beatific vision. And so, we will become like Him. So, the Catechism says so that the supreme happiness, the principal cause of supreme happiness is this vision of God, to see God as He is. And the only way that can happen is because of who God is, the only way that can happen is, if we ourselves are transformed the Catechism says, so that we become ourselves, as it were gods, so that we become like gods. In this vision of God, we become like gods. And it says, “For those who enjoy this vision, the Beatific Vision, although they retain their own substance, or as humans, yet assume a certain admirable and almost divine form, so as to seem gods rather than men”. So, the souls in heaven beholding God, by this vision are transformed, so they seem god’s rather than men, even though they’re still humans. And so, the Catechism tries to give a little comparison of how this could be, of that we remain human, but how we share God’s life. And it says like iron, when iron is heated by fire, it becomes fiery, even while still being iron, its substance hasn’t changed, but is now fiery, iron. And so, in this supreme and absolute bliss, the Catechism says, which consists in the possession of God Himself, the Beatific Vision is the possession of God Himself. And so, it transforms us so powerfully, that we share in His life, like this iron, which becomes fiery. And so that’s the principal cause, that’s the principal source of joy. And with that came many other goods and the Catechism names some of them. It cites St. Paul, when St. Paul talks about glory, honor, and peace, to all that do good. And so, it speaks about this glory. So, it’s not just the essential glory, of the beatific vision, but it says it’s also the glory, you know, how much we desire glory, right, glory is such an attraction. It says this glory consists in a clear and distinct knowledge, that each of the blessed will have of the singular and exalted dignity of his companions, so that we will be aware of the dignity of all the other of all our companions. So just, you know, it says that we’d like to be honored by those who are most our authorities in a given area, like say, like in the Olympics, we have the Olympics right now, saying the Olympics there’s like for the ice skating or gymnastics, or something like that. Most of us would be hard pressed to judge. But there’s certain people who are experts because they know a lot about skating or gymnastics so, they’re the ones who do the judging. They’re the ones whose opinions are most important. And so, because we want to be, we want to be held as worthy by those who are most authorities. And so, it says, in this case, how distinguished the honor conferred by God Himself, on those whom He no longer calls, servants, but friends, brothers, and Sons of God, the greatest honor is of being a friend of God, brother and son of God. Hence, the Redeemer will address His elect, in those most loving and honorable words, come ye blessed of my father, possess the kingdom prepared for you. Justly, then may we exclaim, thy friends of God are made exceedingly honorable. And they may also be celebrated with the highest praise from Christ the Lord, in the presence of His Heavenly Father and angels. And so, the desire for glory and honor, this will be the fullness of the true glory and honor. And so, with that will come all sorts of other goods and I won’t go into all of these right now. The Catechism give some examples, maybe some time we can come back to that but just one example. The Catechism says how much we desire to have a spacious and beautiful mansion and most of us don’t have a spacious and beautiful mansion. But imagine what will be the dwelling given to God. So, when you see photos of beautiful, beautiful mansions and beautiful places around the world that cost a whole lot of money, you can say, that’s nothing compared to what is awaiting the souls in heaven. And so, this eternal life is what gives sense to the Beatitudes that we heard today in the Gospel. Today we heard it from St. Luke, St. Matthew gives a slightly different version. But today, St. Luke, we heard these words, “blessed are you poor,” and Matthew’s Gospel says, “the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of God,” that is those who put love for God above all, and so they’re not excessively attached to the things of this world, that we can still appreciate all the goods of this world but appreciate them in their proper place. “Blessed are you that hunger and hunger for justice now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. And I want to read a little commentary on that. And this is from Maria Valtorta, about those who weep. “Because I solemnly tell you, that those tears are not an impairment, but are perfection of man. Man is an absent-minded child, a thoughtless, superficial child, until tears turned him into an adult, thoughtful, intelligent person. Only those who weep or have wept, know how to love, and can understand. They know how to love their weeping brothers, how to understand them in their grief, to help them with their goodness, which is fully aware how bitter it is to weep alone. And they know how to love God, because they have realized that everything is grief, except God, because they have understood that sorrow can be soothed, if tears are shed on God’s heart. They have also realized that resigned, tears, resigned tears, which do not cause faith to be lost, or prayer to become barren, and which loathes rebellion, such resigned tears, change nature, and instead of sorrow, they become comfort. Yes, those who weep, loving the Lord will be comforted.” So, blessed are those who weep. And then the passage I read at the beginning blessed are you, when men hate you, and so forth. And so, with our Blessed Mother, to console us and with the saints, and the martyrs, we gather here for this Holy Eucharist to be strengthened in hope, in our hope for eternal life, even amidst all the sorrows here, and when we unite our sorrows and our tears to Jesus, they prepare us for this eternal happiness, eternal fullness, of abundant life without end, without any evil or sorrow, or shadow to enter into the joy of the Lord. And so, I’ll just finish by reading again, these Beatitudes. “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, For you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great in heaven. For so their fathers did to the prophets.” Amen