June 28, 2019

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Finding hope in the passing nature of this world

Sean GallagherI don’t get to Columbus very often nowadays. But when I do get there, I sometimes drive by the church building where my wife, Cindy, and I exchanged our wedding vows on June 9, 2001.

It was one of the last wedding Masses at St. Bartholomew Church before the parish dedicated later that same year a new and larger worship space on the north side of Columbus to accommodate its membership, which had grown considerably since the church near its downtown was built.

The old church building was eventually sold, and subsequent owners have not kept the structure in good shape. Seeing the church in a state of disrepair is bittersweet for me.

That was the place, after all, where Cindy and I pledged before God and the Church to join together with the help of his grace in a covenant of life and love until death do us part.

The current state of the building where something very holy happened in my life tangibly reminds me that our world, as beautiful as it is and as permanent as it may seem to be, is passing away.

Even the precious sacraments that Christ gave to the Church will fade away when he returns in glory. The sacrament of marriage, which has defined my life since that beautiful day in 2001, will be no more at the resurrection of the dead where “they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30).

The sacraments, after all, in all their beauty and goodness are but fleeting shadows of the fullness of God’s life into which we will be fully immersed if, by the aid of his grace, we share in his friendship at the moment of our death or when Christ returns again.

When we love our spouses and the sacraments of the Church with all our hearts, it can be difficult to imagine life without them. But Christ has promised us in heaven a happiness that infinitely exceeds the limits of our minds.

C.S. Lewis poetically presents this attractive yet challenging reality in The Last Battle, the culmination of the books that make up his Chronicles of Narnia.

Narnia is a fantastic world peopled by talking beasts and dancing fauns and trees in which various children from our world are magically drawn. There they encounter Aslan, a great lion that is a Christ-like figure who lives in his own country across the sea but mysteriously comes and goes in Narnia to right wrongs.

In The Last Battle, one of these children, Jill Pole, speaks to Jewell, a unicorn, as they make their way to a battle that they know they will lose and which will mark the end of Narnia.

After Jewell tells her of the centuries of happiness that have filled Narnia’s history, Jill sadly says it would be “lovely if Narnia just went on and on.” The unicorn answers wisely, “Nay, sister, all worlds draw to an end; except Aslan’s country.”

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to read to my boys this book and the others of the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet I have to say that there’s something in me that doesn’t like reading The Last Battle. Maybe I’m like Jill, just wishing that Narnia would go on and on.

It doesn’t, of course, but it is succeeded by a far greater world, by Aslan’s country, in a way that couldn’t be foreseen in that terrible final battle.

Living the Gospel today is a battle just as it was in the earliest days of the Church. And when so often it seems like we’re on the losing side of the struggle, perhaps the Church’s teaching of the passing nature of this world can actually be a source of hope. †

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