To Begin Again
Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away." The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water."
These wonderful words were spoken to the beloved disciple John on the Island of Patmos in a vision and are recorded for us all in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation to the Beloved Disciple John. They are words of promise that address the heart cry of the entire human race on this day. They answer one of our deepest longings - to be made new, to begin again.
December 31st, the world pauses to mark the passing of one year and the beginning of the next. We do it in different ways, but we all do it. Billions of people, crossing all national, ethnic, religious, racial and socio-economic lines join in hoping that this New Year will bring with it a new beginning. We will wish each other a "Happy New Year." We will also be drawn to reflection. At this time of the passing of one year and the beginning of another we seem compelled to make resolutions to change. This is a deep and universal desire to be made new.
There was a powerful scene in the Mel Gibson masterpiece "The Passion of the Christ". In it, Mary, the Mother of the Lord, ran to her wounded Son who had just fallen for the third time from the weight of the Cross. It was followed by a flash back to an earlier day when that same Son, as a child, was playing in the dusty streets of Nazareth and was about to fall. With the tender love of a mother, Mary reached out to her Son.
Then the film flashed flash forward to Mary's loving hand again touching the wounded face of the Savior who looked up at her and, through words addressed to her, spoke to every human person - from the beginning of time until the end- saying: "Behold, I make all things new." I was reminded of the scene once again this morning as I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours on this last day of 2005. I was reminded that in Jesus Christ, there is always a new beginning.
I had the privilege of first viewing that film in a private showing in Washington D.C. The theatre, owned by the Motion Pictures Association of America, was filled with Washington "movers and shakers." Each of them had been glad-handing and talking through one another in the way that Washington insiders do, at least before the film began. They were different people by the time it was over.
Of all the poignant scenes in the film, that encounter between mother and Son was the one that grabbed me, at the core of my heart, and shook me to tears. They were tears of sorrow and joy co-mingled. It was so human and yet so divine - so full of promise and hope. The wounds on the Saviors sacred head, that had in the earlier scenes seemed so brutal, painful and hard to view, seemed to, almost in an instant, become beautiful. It became clear to me that they were wounds of love, freely received by the Savior in order to "make all things new" for the entire human race.
With others, I stayed in the theatre afterwards, to comment on the film for Mel Gibson and his team. It was in that small informal gathering that a very influential political figure in Republican politics, a man whom I have known for many years to be a dedicated evangelical Christian, made an intriguing comment: "Mel, that film was so faithful to the biblical text, except for one scene." "Which one" asked Gibson? "When Jesus meets his mother and says "Behold, I make all things new", he continued "that is not in the Gospel account".
I immediately disagreed. "To the contrary", I said "that scene summarizes the very meaning of the Gospel, and, in fact, it is profoundly theological. It takes the words of Jesus from the Book of Revelation and positions them right within His redemptive offering of Himself in his suffering, Passion and death. It was one of the most powerful moments of the film!"
These words are timeless. We need to hear them today and every day. We can always begin again, when we know the One who "makes all things new."
Tonight, we will regret the failures of this past year. We will resolve to "be better" and "do more" that is good in the coming year. However, we are always confronted with the reality of our human condition and our own weakness. We know that our resolutions to change often end in failure. That is, when fulfilling them relies solely on our own human efforts. We are prone to making wrong choices. Classical Christian theology speaks of this inclination to sin as "concupiscence".
Our resolutions, as well intended as they are, can only go so far. There is something at work in us that we simply cannot overcome on our own; an inclination. Without the Lord it can lead us to making wrong choices. Only Jesus Christ can free us. That is why he speaks these timeless words to all who open the ears of their hearts: "I make all things new!"
Tonight as we cross from one year to the next, let us make our first resolution to behold His face, wounded by love, as his mother did in the encounter so beautifully portrayed in the "Passion of the Christ". Let us open wide our hearts to hear these words of extraordinary hope and promise. Let us invite Him to come and live within us.
To begin again.
Third Millennium, LLC
https://www.catholic.org WI, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Deacon, 757 546-9580
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