Sixty years ago this past week, on October the sixth, 1961, the first holy Mass was celebrated in the basement of the rectory here at Saint Barnabas. The cornerstone to this parish church would be placed in the summer of 1962 and the Dedication Mass would be celebrated in the completed church one year later on June 16, 1963. This weekend, we celebrate the anniversary of that first holy Mass as well as the dedication of this parish church.
Here, in this place, our savior and our God, Jesus Christ, has chosen to dwell and it is holy. How many have come through those doors, pastors and parishioners, to offer Holy Mass! How many baptisms, confirmations, first communions, anointings, absolutions, weddings—how many graces have been given here in the Father’s house! How many of our beloved dead have been lifted in prayer to God at the funeral Mass! Truly, holiness has been sown into the ground here—and the ground we walk on is holy. To God be all praise, honor, and glory.
In these most recent days, many wonder whether there will be another sixty years here. As Jesus passes by, we are like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who say to Jesus, “Mane nobiscum, Domine”—stay with us, Lord. The two disciples had enjoyed the past encounter along the way, but they were worried for the future.
The enemy, the devil, would have us dwell either in the past or in worry about the future. The enemy does this because it takes us away from the present. Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to worry about tomorrow for there is enough evil for one day. Colloquially, therefore, we are often told to live in the “present moment.” He tells us this because the future does not exist and the past is no more. The present in the place where we live under God’s providence.
But there is something peculiar to the present moment, something more that Our Lord wants to highlight: The present moment is the moment in which God Himself has chosen to dwell. As such, it is right that many saints call the present moment the “Eternal Moment.” It is the Eternal Moment because God has entered into it by His Holy Incarnation. The Eternal has broken into the Present—and thus this is the place, this moment, where contemplations can happen.
That is why the enemy would have us living in the past or worrying about the future—precisely so that we would not dwell in the place and moment where God dwells. “Zacchaeus,” says our Lord, “make haste and come down for I must stay at your house …”—in two weeks? No: “… I must stay at your house today.” Notice the immediacy: “Make haste, Zacchaeus,” you do not have this moment for long. Open the doors of your heart right now—for it will soon be past; and do not delay for later, because the invitation is not forever!
And what happened next? The Lord stayed with him to fulfill the Scriptures that have said: “the dwelling of God is with men.”
And what did He do there? He made “all things new.” Those who dwelled in darkness encountered the light; the feet of sinners were turned around to the path of sainthood. “See,” says our Lord, “I make all things new.”
You see, in the Eternal Moment, heaven breaks into our existence. What makes heaven, heaven? It is the place where God dwells. In this moment, therefore, there is a foretaste of heaven. In this moment, just as in heaven, God brings with Him His holy angels and saints; they are here too. We prayed the Gloria and will pray the Sanctus with them. Together, the holy angels and saints beckon us to allow Our Lord entry into our hearts—to let heaven dwell in our souls—for at least a moment. And there in our souls, He will dwell and make things new.
And should He continue along the way and no longer dwell here in this parish church (for He is passing by, after all), we will certainly ask, as did those first Apostles once asked: “Lord, where are you staying?” And His response will be the same as it was then: “Come and see” and “Follow me.”
For there will come a time that this place will be no more. Seven minutes—are you prepared?—seven months, seven million years (only the Father knows and not even the Son)—there will come a time that this place, the first heaven and the first earth, this, will pass away. And the Eucharist, the pilgrim’s food, will no longer be needed either: the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven from God and this pilgrimage and its heavenly food will be finished.
Then we shall see Him face to face, He who was with us here in this moment here on earth, whom we praised and contemplated and adored here. Here, in this present, eternal—beautiful—heavenly moment.