St Augustine hit the nail on the head when he wrote, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You’ (Confessions 1:1). We are made for relationship with God and each other, which is why week after week we gather together as Christians. We long for communion with God and each other, and we know instinctively, at the deepest level of our being, that is how we are meant to be. God longs to see humanity flourish, and live as it should. As Jesus says, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ ((Jn 10:10 RSV) Thus at the end of St Paul’s Letter to the Church in Galatia, he sums up the message of his letter, God has given us freedom, let us use it to do good things, and put our faith into practice. Don’t do things so that people will praise you, but do what God wants, sow the Spirit, and reap eternal life. God wants us to be generous and loving people because that’s what life in all its fulness looks like. We can live the life of heaven here and now. You, and me, all of us, together, can, through what God has done in Christ, live this life together. We can make it a reality.
It’s very similar to the hopeful vision we see in this morning’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah. After the mourning, the exile, the destruction, we have a vision of returning home. To Jerusalem, a Jerusalem restored, and renewed, A New Jerusalem. It is a reason to be joyful, and celebrate. And the New Jerusalem Isaiah is looking forward to, is the Church. We see a church which nourishes, which feeds its people, to heal them and give them strength. Truly the Church is our mother, as through her we are brought up in the Christian Faith. The imagery of streams and rivers reminds us that we enter the Church through baptism. We are washed clean, and given new life in Christ. In baptism and the Eucharist we drink deeply with delight from the abundance of Glory. Because in both we are united with Jesus Christ and His Saving Death upon the Cross. His Blood washes us clean. The church as our mother comforts us, like a mother, because she can give us the one thing that brings all comfort and consolation: God himself. God loves us, God dies for us, and is raised to new life, so that we might live in Him. God heals our wounds. The Kingdom of God is a place of healing because of what Christ has done. He has demonstrated one, and for all, how much God loves us. We see Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in Luke’s Gospel, where the sick are healed. ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ What wonderful words to hear! They are a reality. Because the church is a place of comfort, and nurture, where God’s love can be experienced, His healing love.
It is freely given and can be rejected. That’s what freedom means. We’re not forced to accept it. God isn’t a tyrant. People are free to reject the good news of the Kingdom, to reject the healing offered by Christ and His Church. It sounds hard, and it is. But the seventy are sent out as lambs among wolves, into a world that is difficult and which is ready to reject Christ, and attack those who follow Him. But we are still supposed to be loving and joyful, and proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom to those who reject it. Thus God never abandons humanity, it is humanity which turns away, and even in that the possibility is left open for repentance. Ours is the hopeful message of a loving and healing God, and we ourselves are testament to the power of God’s love to change people. It’s a powerful thing, knowing that God can take you, and transform you, in ways you might never expect or imagine. But it happens, here and all around the world, so that the saving truth might continue to be proclaimed by word and deed, and when bad times come to that when we experience these we are united to the sufferings of Christ. We share in His Passion, not for our good, but for the love of the world. Christ suffers for love of us, so when we share in His Suffering, we also share in His Love, a love which transforms, which turns Saul into Paul, an enemy of the Church into its greatest evangelist and missionary, a man who signs of a letter to a new Christian community in his own hand writing in LARGE letters to mark out the importance of what he has to say, ‘far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …. a new creation’. The only reason Paul, or anyone of us can boast is in Christ, and His Cross, through which we are saved and made free. Such is the power of the Cross, it saves humanity, it frees us from our sins, and gives us new life in Christ. This is the cause of our joy, our rejoicing. This is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This is humanity’s consolation. In this we are comforted. And that same sacrifice will be made present on the altar, so that we can feast on Christ’s Body and Blood, to be healed and restored by Him, and with Him. So let us come and experience God’s healing love, and share it with others that they too may know the power of His love in their lives. Let them experience it, so that they and all creation may give praise to to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.