14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. Isaiah 66:12
The history of the Church is a history of struggle with the powers of darkness, and so it will be until the Lord returns in glory to claim his Church as His bride and pass judgment on the world and all who have lived. The Church He established seems at times very prosperous and successful in her mission and at other times very poor and struggling just to survive. During such times it is hard to see Holy Mother Church as the seed of the New Jerusalem spoken about in the Book of Revelations nor even the more earthly Jerusalem spoken about by Isaiah in today’s first reading. And yet the Church truly is the New Jerusalem and the new creation of Christ that Paul speaks about when he tells the Galatians that nothing matters except this new creation which we are made part of by our Baptism.
And yet we know by faith that this confusing picture of her history does not in any way undermine her true status as the Bride of Christ and the Holy Mother Jerusalem whose children are innumerable and made rich, or as Isaiah says, are comforted and nourished from her abundant breasts. When we see this happening to her children, in spite of all outward appearances of a struggling Mother, truly do our hearts rejoice as the Lord’s power is made known to his servants.
What then are these riches that ever flow from Mother Church to her children in all ages and in all circumstances, whether the Church seems to be flourishing in this world or is under siege, during the ebb and flow of her history? Because Isaiah is speaking here directly about the earthly Jerusalem, he can be interpreted as speaking about an earthly prosperity, including the reuniting of God’s People and an abundance of material wealth coming in from the nations. But even here, the true riches of Jerusalem is the people itself, and for this reason this passage has prophetic meaning that goes beyond any merely temporal, historical meaning. The passage is in its deepest meaning apocalyptic and points to the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelations.
Thus we can say that the true riches of the New Jerusalem is the People of God, made God’s true children by the waters of Baptism which have their origin in her abundant breasts. “We are God’s Children now” says St. John, and that is what St. Paul means when he says we are a new creation. The harvest is abundant says Jesus, and the abundance is not simply in numbers, but in the holiness that comes into the world in these children made holy at the fount of Baptism. And the fount of Baptism is the spiritual womb of Holy Mother Church. Her children are rich beyond any earthly measure right from their rebirth simply because they bear within them the divine life that comes from the Father, through the Mother.
And the riches of this Mother, which pass to her children, does not end with Baptism. She also pours out the Spirit upon them in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and feeds and nourishes them with the Bread of Angels in the supreme Sacrament of the Eucharist. And she doesn’t nourish them only once in this Holy Eucharist, as in Baptism and Confirmation, but innumerable times during the course of their new lives, if only they come to this endless fountain of Life which is Christ Himself. His riches are unending, and thus does the Church herself grow in holiness in the lives of her children.
And her abundant breasts provide her children with even more riches yet. She heals their wounds of sins in the Sacrament of Penance and gives them the greatest of consolations as she anoints them during grave illnesses with unction of the Spirit, and anoints them at their departure from this world with the same unction and feeds them with Viaticum.
In addition to all these gifts, Holy Mother provides her children with priests who make Christ’s priesthood always present during their pilgrimage in this world, accompanying them as Christ’s ambassadors, instructing them in His truth, and comforting them with His holy sacraments. And our Mother elevates the natural, marital union of man and wife to the stature of a true Life giving sacrament, making marriage a holy institution that in itself can sanctify in the ordinary events of daily life. In this way does She raise up innumerable saints in this world and holy families that deeply enrich both the Church and human society.
There are many other riches the Church provides her children; her devotions, her blessings, her endless prayers for their salvation, etc. , too many to mention here. And all of this takes place regardless of the conditions of the world around her, and even in the midst of the internal struggles that often manifest themselves in the history of the Church. She may appear poor and failing in the eyes of the world, by earthly standards, but she is always rich and enriching beyond our comprehension. She is so because she herself is enriched by the Bridegroom always, until the end of time when her journey will end in the total transformation of the world and her own final perfection as the New Jerusalem, descending from Heaven, as she always has been, since her very source of Life and abundant spiritual riches come from God.
How can all this truth about our Mother not fill us with an irrepressible joy and delight, in spite of the world and its troubles and its opposition and hatred of Christ and His Church. This is a permanent condition of this world, and that is why Paul says, for our sake and instruction, that the world has been crucified to him, and to us. We are no longer to be concerned with the world’s judgments, its standards, its opposition and hatred, even its apparent historical advantages over the Church. We are simply to rejoice always in the Lord, in our Bridegroom, in good times and in bad, when rich or poor, in sickness or in health. He alone is our true riches, and Holy Mother Church is the ever present conduit of them to us her children. In the end, all that truly matters, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, is that our names be written in the Book of Life.