The Great Story
A Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 16: 24-28 on the Memorial of St Clare
(Internet Image from Kinkaid)
O dearest one, look up to heaven, which calls us on, and take up the Cross and follow Christ Who has gone on before us: for through Him we shall enter into His glory after many and diverse tribulations. (St Clare, A Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges 9-10)
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today,
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (Matthew 16:25–26 NABRE)
In a world that has so thoroughly embraced secularism, the horizon of so many lives is limited to what they can see. The secularist tightly shuts his or her eyes against the divine and sees only life in this world. Only death follows. The secularist motto oft used is, “Carpe Diem,” seize the day while you have the chance! I have even seen people tattoo this motto on their body. Unless we are seizing the day for Christ, picking up our cross, we are giving in to the insidious whispering of the evil one that this life on earth is all there is. Death looms, so live life to its fullest, denying yourself no attainable pleasure for tomorrow you may die, the end. Yet, this is a lie from the “murderer from the beginning”, the “father of lies” (John 8:44). God wants much more for us, He offers life eternal, “the Great Story.”
Secularism insists on a world without God and in doing so leaves so many adherents in a quiet desperation; especially, as they become older and see their approaching mortality. So, many are off on the mad scramble to achieve as much power, honor, wealth, and sensual satisfaction as possible in their time on earth. In this, no effort is spared, no matter that virtue is often sacrificed. It is a dash, no matter who is trampled upon. Time is limited, “memento mori”, remember you must die.
This is such a sad existence. As usual, this whisper of the evil one which the secularists embrace, is the biggest of lies. A lie which leaves so many in a miserable state of depression, darkness, and fear or, the insane and unceasing drive to chase pleasure, that “bucket list.” There is no lasting peace, joy, hope, and love.
How many at the loss of loved ones fall into such a pit of deep darkness, not realizing that God has so much more life in store for that lost loved one, and for each and every one of us? We can lament our own loss, for we assuredly miss those that have passed from this life into a much fuller existence. Countering that evil whisper that this is all there is, we must always remind ourselves of our loved one’s gain in heaven trusting in God’s infinite and merciful love.
St Clare of Assisi whose Memorial we celebrate today, reminds all,
What a great laudable exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life. (The First Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague 30)
Our true life, our full life, is meant to be spent with God in the eternity of heaven. That is the life our Lord is telling us to refuse to forfeit. The Baltimore Catechism in its wisdom answers the question; “Why did God make me?” with the following answer;
God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, No. 1)
We are made for heaven! Christ is calling us to work in this life so that we may arrive at that beautiful eternity. It is a life that begins in sacrificial love, picking up our cross, for, “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross” (CCC 2015) but ends in the joy of the heavenly Jerusalem. Refuse the whispering of the devil that limits your vision to the horizons of this world and rejoice for the Kingdom of Heaven awaits. Therefore, we do not despair, but move in this world with a profound peace, joy, hope, and love in the knowledge of God and His mercy. In the very final lines of the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, aptly named, “The Last Battle”, CS Lewis gives us a beautiful description of heaven as the children enter into eternity,
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (Lewis)
Our life in Christ is not to be found here on earth, “the cover and the title page,” but is found eternally in the chapters of the “Great Story”. St Clare writes,
Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet, to cling with all her heart to Him. (The Fourth Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague 9-10)
We are greatly blessed! Therefore, Live Jesus! Rejoice in the Great Story!
Baltimore Catechism, No. 1 (p. 16). Kindle Edition.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.
Francis and Clare. Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Ed. Richard J. Payne. Trans. Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady. New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1982. Print. The Classics of Western Spirituality.
Kinkaid, Thomas. “The Gateway to Paradise.” Heavenly Wallpaper, wallpapersafari.com/heaven-wallpaper-screensavers/. Accessed 9 Aug. 2023.
Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia Book 7). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
New American Bible. Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.