Today’s Gospel: Matthew 9:32-38
At one time or another, each of us must struggle with God like Jacob in today’s reading. He wrestled with an angel, wanting to subdue and name his Opponent in order to know who or what he was dealing with. To name is to know the nature of a thing and express that in the naming; however, God is beyond our understanding. The proper stance before God is reverence, to stand in his presence humbly. As the psalmist says, “I shall behold your face, O Lord,” and “I shall be content in your presence.” Jacob relates that he beheld the face of God without being told God’s name: “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
When I was a child, my mother always explained heaven to me in this way: “You will see God face to face in the beatific vision.” It didn’t sound that exciting. But it did ring true. After all, if nature was so beautiful, and if we found so much fulfillment in knowing and loving people, what might it be like to see the Creator of all these things we enjoy, “face to face”?
Sometimes as parents, we tend to dumb things down for our kids. Yet a phrase repeated over and over, while not fully understood, can stick with them for life. It was that way for me with the beatific vision of heaven. It also had relevance in daily life, since we talk to each other face to face all time, even if we don’t always know each other very well. As mothers we could never forget looking into our newborn baby’s face the first time, or bending down close to our toddler’s face as she is beginning to learn to talk, amazed at this new skill.
Heaven is closer than we think. We don’t have to make up stories about a heaven of pink clouds. The heaven that awaits us has its counterpart here on earth—human love and the beauty of nature; the vision of beauty we see there will be magnified and known in all its levels of glory!
In our own calling to evangelize, we can ease the sufferings of a weary world by being heaven to others through our own daily “face to face”–paying attention to the needs of those around us. As we read in today’s gospel, Matthew chapter 9, the Pharisees claimed Jesus was in league with the prince of demons when he helped a mute man by casting out the evil that made him mute. Jesus paid no mind to their blasphemy, but went out to proclaim the Word, to cure, and to teach, because his heart was moved with pity towards those “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus came close to those he cured, touching them and speaking directly to them, giving them a taste of heaven by this face-to-face encounter. We too are called to do this and be the workers the Father needs: “the harvest is abundant but the workers few; so pray to the master of the harvest to send out workers.” It is only by being a presence of love on earth that people will know there is a heaven to hope for.
Do I see that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, or do I wait for the “pink clouds” of tomorrow? How can I be more involved in building the Kingdom here and now?
Lord, when you walked the earth you looked into the face of each person who came to you and offered truth and healing. Help us to follow you by loving each person we meet.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola