A wedding, not a picnic. Profound words. We will get in our 'Sunday best' for a wedding, even for a wedding of someone we really don't know. Maybe a spouse's co-workers child is getting married. Regardless, if we're invited, we dress in our best. There are number of functions we may be asked to attend that would mean we'd get dressed up. If you were to meet President Clinton or the Pope, would you dress in T-shirts and jeans? Of course not! We'd get dressed in our suits and ties, or best dress or pant suit, etc. When we were there, we would be thanking them for seeing us, for inviting us. We wouldn't presume to act as though the honor was theirs that we came. We even see 'Holiday dresses' going on sale. For those parties we'll attend for Christmas, so we'll look our best.
Yet, every Sunday, we're invited to meet the greatest of all, the Creator of all, the King of kings and Lord of lords. We meet God, really and truly present.
And we wear? Well we see T-shirts, tennis shoes, worn baggy jeans, etc. We act and behave as though He should be happy we even came. Singing about how great we are, how we are strong, how we are one, and forget that it's God Who is great, strong, and makes us one.
In some churches, they even have to go 'fetch' Him because we can't have Him in the church with us, too distracting. (From what? Our view of ourselves?) And when we go to receive Him, we act as though He doesn't matter any more than receiving a piece of gum.
For the wedding couple and family, for the President, or the Pope, we'd dress and act with respect, but for God, we act as though He doesn't matter. Indifference can be worse than hatred, or rejection. It betokens that we don't need Him, that He is not an important part of our lives. "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches'" (Apocalypse/Revelation 3: 14-22).
What we wear to church, to the Mass, seems to be what we symbolically wear in our souls. We think we're ok, but in fact we're ill, but refuse to go to the Divine Physician for healing. We say we are rich and need nothing, but we refuse to see that we are spiritually poor and have nothing. That we are naked before the Lord.
It's almost like a spiritual rendering of the "Emperor's New Clothes"! He thought he was dressed in new and beautiful clothes, and, of course, only the enlightened could see their beauty. So we are told that we need to be 'enlightened' to see this new spiritual nakedness. We aren't asked, or even encouraged, to look critically at what we are wearing, what we call our faith.
But just as it was a simple child who spoke the truth to the Emperor, so God tries to speak the truth to us. A truth we reject, or worse, ignore. We look to those dressed in 'fine clothes', dressed in the world's finest. Those with sweet sounding words, dressed in the vain praises of men. Yet we reject the hard, coarse words of Christ. "Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, 'Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear'" (Matthew 11: 8-15).
Christ was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a stables manger. Yet He was the greatest gift ever given. He is the true wealth. John the Baptist was dressed in camel hair yet he was dressed in Heavenly richness.
"A very delicate young man of noble birth entered the Order of St. Francis. A few days after he took the habit, through the instigation of the devil, he began to hate the habit he was wearing so much that he felt as though he was wearing a very coarse sack. The sleeves got on his nerves, he disliked the cowl, and the length and roughness of the habit seemed an unbearable burden to him. And so it happened that as his distaste for the Order increased, he firmly resolved to throw the habit away and return to the world."
I stop here to ask if we can't see ourselves in this young man? How many of us 'hate' to wear the coarse habit of our faith? How many complain that it's too burdensome, and either throw it away or try to remake it to our liking? (How many religious have done precisely that?)
"...it happened on the night when he decided to put aside the habit and leave the Order that he had to pass before the altar of the friary, and there, as usual, he knelt and bowed. And all of a sudden he was rapt in spirit and was shown a marvelous vision by God. For he saw passing before him and almost countless throng of saints, two by two, in procession, and they were dressed in very ornate and precious vestments, and their faces and hands and visible parts of their bodies were shining more radiantly than the sun... Among those saints there were two who were more splendidly dressed and adorned and who were surrounded by such brilliance that they dazzled anyone who looked at them. And almost to the end of the procession he saw one who was adorned with such glory that he seemed like a new knight being especially honored by the others...
'...Son, all of us are Friars Minor who have just come from the glory of Paradise.' [they responded to the young man] And he asked, 'Who are those two who shine more brightly than the others?'
'Those two who are brighter than the others are St. Francis and St. Anthony. And the last one whom you saw being honored is a holy friar who recently died. Because he fought valiantly against temptations and persevered in his holy undertaking until the end, we are now conducting him in triumph and glory to the joy of Paradise, with the Saints as companions, while the angels rejoice. And these very beautiful garments which we are wearing were given to us by God in exchange for the rough habits which we wore with patience as religious. And the glorious radiance which you see in us was given to us by God for the humble penance and holy poverty and obedience and pure chastity which we observed to the end with joyful minds and faces. Therefore, son, it should not be hard for you to wear the 'sack' of such a fruitful Order because if, with the 'sack' of St. Francis, for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, you despise the world and mortify your body and fight valiantly against the devil, you will likewise have a similar garment and will shine with us in glory.'
And when he said these words, the young man came back to himself. And encouraged by that vision, he rejected all temptation and acknowledged his fault before the guardian and the other friars. Henceforth, morever, he longed for the roughness of penance and of the habit as for wealth." (Little Flowers of St. Francis; #20)
If we care so little about God that we would wear clothes fit for a picnic or a day at the beach to His Mass, if we care so little about God that we long for the rich garments of the world rather than the course garments of His, then what 'clothes' will we receive from God when we come before Him at our death?
"Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one" (1 Corinthians 9:25).
"Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted with evil and He himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death" (James 1: 12-15).
Pax Christi, Pat
By "life everlasting" we mean that there will be another existence after this present life, and in it the just will be happy for all eternity. In that life the just will dwell in Heaven with God, in perfect and everlasting happiness. Heaven is both a place and a state: Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven, and ascended into it. Heaven is a state: even when the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, appears to men, she does not leave Heaven, which she carries with her, in the state of her soul.
This is why the good and holy have a foretaste of Heaven even here on earth, in the peace and joy they possess in their hearts. "And I say the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard aloud voice from the throne saying, -'Behold the swelling of God with men, and He will dwell with them. And they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God'" (Apocalypse/Revelation 21:2-3).
Those are rewarded in Heaven who have died in the state of grace and have been purified in Purgatory, if necessary, from all venial sin and all debt of temporal punishment; they see God face to face, and share forever in His glory and happiness.
We do not obtain Heaven without working for it. He that for God's sake has suffered most and given up most will get the greatest reward in Heaven. "He who loves his life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting" (John 12:25). As Saint Paul says: "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21).
The greatest joy of Heaven is the Beatific Vision. This is the sight of God face to face. This vision is called beatific, because it completely fills with joy those who possess it. They know and love God to their utmost capacity, and are known and loved by God in return. The Beatific Vision will satisfy completely and supremely all our desires. Having God, we shall never wish for anything else. "One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).
On earth, even when we obtain the dearest desires of our heart, we can never be completely happy. "We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner; burt then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I have been known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). In Heaven, "They shall be inebriated with the plenty of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure" (Psalm 35:9).
The other joys and perfections of Heaven will be numberless and of infinite variety. There will be neither sin, nor death, nor sorrow, nothing to cause trouble or affliction, nothing to mar the eternal bliss. "They shall neither hunger nor thirst any more, neither shall the sun strike them nor any heat...and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes"(Apocalypse/Revelation 7: 16-17).
Our companions will be the most Holy Virgin Mary, the Angels and the Saints. We shall be reunited with those we have loved on earth, and we shall love them there more intensely. There will be no more separation. Whatever we have desired to know here on earth, we shall learn in heaven. All the mysteries of faith and science will be revealed. After the resurrection, we shall have our bodily senses in Heaven, and by them relish joys unending.
On November 14, 1957 Pope Pius XII named him Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Kaisiadorys, being installed on Christmas Day the same year. Two years later the local communist authorities refused to recognize his episcopal appointment, forcing him to retire to a remote parish under house arrest for thirteen long years until the Consistory of June 28, 1982 when Pope John Paul II elevated him to the cardinalate and three weeks later made him Apostolic Administrator to the Diocese of Kaisiadorys. Cardinal Sladkevicius received the tiutlar church of the Holy Spirit alla Ferratella. In April 1988 his fellow bishops elected him President of the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference and the Holy Father tabbed him as Archbishop of Kaunas on March 10, 1989. On May 4, 1996 at the age of 76 he resigned his post because of age, retiring in his home diocese at Valanciaus 7, 30000 in Kaunas, Lithuania.