"Rejoice, O Jerusalem!" So begins the Introit of today's Holy Mass. We rejoice today because we are half way through the penitential season of Lent, and that much nearer to our goal, which is Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection. But we have a further goal, an eternal Easter, for which this life is a preparation. God has made it easy for us. The goal is clear, the directions are sure. Yet there are those who do not, or will not, understand.
"Why did God make you?" asked the old catechism. Answer: "God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next."
And how do I get to know God? Some trust in their books and their Ph.D.'s. Some search the heavens and listen for the voice of a superior intelligence from outer space. Their pride prevents them from accepting God at His word. Others bathe in the waters of the Jordan or the Ganges, or go on pilgrimage to Mecca, or watch for the sunrise at Stonehenge. Many are the false religions of this world, "paths" that lead only to perdition. There is really only one way to know God personally, and that is the way God Himself revealed. For God has introduced Himself to us in the Person of His Son: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased." We must respond: "Lord, I believe!"
In knowing Jesus Christ we know the Father. This is so simple a truth that many people miss the simplicity of it, and turn away looking for something more complicated. "Enter by the narrow gate," says Jesus, "For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it" (Matthew 7:13,14).
Flatly contradicting the words of Jesus Christ, and two thousand years of the unanimous teaching of popes, bishops, theologians and saints, the New Vatican now teaches that there are "many paths" to the "common Homeland" (for example, the Papal message, May 20, 2002, for Mission Sunday, October 20, 2002). Take the "broad way," it doesn't matter, since everyone is going to end up in the same place - Heaven. Just recently Benedict XVI followed suit by taking up the error of proclaiming that Jew, Moslem and Christian all worship the same God. But don't take their word for it! The many who take the broad way will end up in Hell. Find the "narrow gate" that leads to eternal life!
And what is this narrow gate? "Amen, amen I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All whoever have come are thieves and robbers; but the sheep have not heard them. I am the door. If anyone enter by Me he shall be safe, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures. The thief comes only to steal, and slay, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10: 7-10). Jesus Christ Himself is the gate to eternal life.
Even the Apostles were slow to understand. Thomas said to Him: "Lord, we do not know where thou art going, and how can we know the way?" (John 14:5). And Jesus replied: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me you would also have known My Father" (John 14:6,7). Even then, Philip said to Him: "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us" (John 14:8). It must have taken the patience of a God-Man to reply: "Have I been so long a time with you and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me also sees the Father" (John 14:9).
It takes a simple faith, the faith of a child, to accept God at His word. Jesus explained to His Apostles: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it" (Luke 18:16,17).
God created me to love Him. But knowledge comes first, because you cannot love a God Whom you do not know. If you do not know Jesus Christ person-to-Person, you cannot love God. But as you get to know Him better, you learn to love Him more. That's why it's so important to grow in you personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. And everyone who loves Him Who begot, loves also the One begotten of Him. In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. Because all that is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is there that overcomes the world if not he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:1-5).
It may be hard to relate to Jesus Christ as a Person, since He lived on this earth so long ago, but He lives NOW. This knowledge and consequent love for Jesus Christ will have a great impact on your spiritual life. If you struggle with sin and temptation, learn to know and love the Lord more. If you find yourself weak in faith, sluggish in prayer, and lax in your religious duties, you must grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. If you are troubled, anxious and fearful because of the state of the Church and the world, while wars and natural disasters threaten, you really ought to know Christ, and love Him more, because perfect love casts out fear. If you are angry at the pope, the bishop, the priest, the president, your husband, your wife, your parents, your kids, turn your thoughts to the Lord and get to know Him more. Spend time with Him every day. Your life will change!
God created me to serve Him. I am serving God best when I am at His Holy Altar, offering together with the priest, through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, the one, perfect and acceptable Sacrifice to God the Father, in which Jesus Christ is both Priest and Victim. I continue to serve God when I go out strengthened by the sacraments, to fulfill the duties of my state in life in obedience to the Lord's commands, and united in prayer with all the faithful throughout the world. Those who know God, who love Him and serve Him, are never alone.
God made me to be happy with Him forever. Those who know, love and serve the Lord in this world are destined for Heaven. "Let not your heart be troubled," says Jesus, "You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house there are many mansions. Were it not so I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14: 1,2).
Let our prayer be that of the psalmist as we yearn for the courts of Heaven, where we will see Jesus Christ face to face, and love Him, and be loved by Him, for all eternity:
"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… I had rather a day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For a sun and a shield is the Lord God; grace and glory He bestows; the Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk in sincerity. O Lord of hosts, happy the men who trust in You!" (Psalm 83:1-3;11-13).