In a former parish where I was stationed, as I would drive into the car port, I would see stored in the rafters two barely use basketball hoops and backboards. And each time I saw them, I was saddened. You see, the hoops had been put up on the playground of the school. And then taken down within a week and a half, because people were frightened about WHO was using the hoops. They wanted them up for their school children, but discovered that a lot of the neighborhood teens and older folks of various ethnic varieties were using them. And they were afraid. They were afraid for their kids. So as quickly as they went up, they came down. And I would think each time I parked: How do we get to the place where John got – how do we learn to see a new heavens and a new earth?
I was at a wedding reception Friday night – relatives of the gal who cuts my hair – and I was sitting with the Father-in-law. “How do you like Pope Francis?” I have known him long enough to recognize ‘that tone’ in his voice, so I responded by flipping the question back to him – “What do you think of him? “He’s making a mess of the church – Is everything going to be up for grabs? That’s where we’re headed.” “I, John, saw a new heavens and a new earth.” In his fear for what might be lost, he didn’t…
Living in a time of instant global awareness of all the tragedies and terrorism of our time, it is sometimes hard to believe that God is with us. It is hard to ‘see’ that there could be a new heaven and a new earth coming to be. How do you learn to see a new heavens and a new earth? That is where the work of our faith comes into the fore. We have to believe it before we can see it. We have to believe before we see.
Growing up, my mother dragged my brothers and me to the cafeteria at Our Lady of Providence for several weekends, beginning at Thanksgiving. There we helped carry bags of clothes and toys and items to be given to the poor from our car and from the cars of people dropping stuff off. Sometimes we helped in the sorting through of the items. (and sometimes we just played) But I remember thinking I wish I could have the toy that I was putting into a box for some unknown family. “Mom, could I have this?” “No”, was her answer each time I would ask. “The poor need it more than you do.” I don’t know if I was ever convinced by mom’s rationale that that was a true statement. But I was convinced by her love of people that she had never met, that this was worth the doing. Mom believed that God had a special love for the poor. Because of that belief, she saw the need of people who were struggling more than we were, and so she began the work of wiping tears away from the eyes of children at Christmas time with her clothing and toy drive. Because she believed, she saw that a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ needed to come to be, and she worked to create it.
John didn’t have much at his disposal on that island of Patmos – but a quill and some parchment – and the belief that God was indeed dwelling with his people. So he set down the vision that still calls each of us who are ever tempted to respond in fear or become complacent in our faith. God is dwelling with us – so get busy comforting mourners, wiping tears from eyes, ending the same sad story that we read in the daily paper. There is a new heaven and a new earth coming to be. But, to see it, you have to believe it. And to believe it, you have to be convinced that God is NOT done with us, and that the Spirit of God continues to guide and lead us.
“I, John, saw a new heavens and a new earth.” DO you? Dare you? If so, then, like my mom, like John the Evangelist, like the countless generations of believers who have seen because they believe – get busy creating it.