The Deepest Longings of Our Heart
Jesus makes the claim in today’s Gospel that he is the “fulfillment” of the prophecy of Isaiah. In doing so, Jesus makes known that he is the fulfillment of all the prophets. He is the Christ–he is the messiah. This is made all the more abundantly clear when the powers of darkness yell against Jesus “Have you come to destroy us?” (Spoiler alert: He has!) [Lk 4:34].
But Jesus does more than just fulfill the prophecies that pointed to him. He does more than simply execute the completion of a promise made millennia before his arrival. Jesus, as the son of God, fulfills the longings of the human heart. As St Augustine said in his famous autobiography: “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The question we must ask ourselves is, “Am I willing to allow Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of all my desires?” This is important because so often we allow ourselves to accept cheap substitutes for God. The world’s favorite substitutes are money, power, and pleasure of all kinds. None are bad in their own right but each will leave you wanting more if you try to use them to fill the deepest longings of your heart. If we are to truly be made new, we must desire Christ and allow him to fulfill our desire. As St Francis de Sales observed:
“Our hearts have a thirst which cannot be quenched by the pleasures of this mortal life, whereof the most esteemed and highest prized, if moderate, do not satisfy us, and if extreme, suffocate us. Yet we desire them always to be extreme, and they are never such without being excessive, insupportable, hurtful… O wonderful yet dear unrest of man’s heart!… Ah! what a union of our hearts shall there be with God there above in heaven, where, after these infinite desires of the true good never assuaged in this world, we shall find the living and powerful source thereof… what a holy and sweet ardour to be united and joined to the plentiful breasts of the All-goodness, either to be altogether absorbed in it, or to have it come entirely into us!”
Let us resolve this day to allow Christ to be the fulfillment of all our desires.
Engagement of the Senses
The engagement of the senses has always been an essential element to worship in the Catholic tradition. This engagement, is of course, something we carried over from our Jewish roots as the Old Testament talks of incense, and musical instruments being played before the Lord in worship.
For some reason, those who invoke the “Spirit of Vatican II” (yet, rarely, if ever, possess the ability to cite the actual documents of the Second Vatican Council) often express a desire to “ditch” the “bells and smells” of the Masses of old. Nonetheless the Church of today encourages us to utilize these symbols in worship. As we find in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. “Incensation is an expression of reverence and of prayer, as is signified in Sacred Scripture (cf. Ps 141:2, Rev 8:3).”
Incense has long been a symbol of a prayer pleasing to God, and of our sacrifice of praise rising to the Father. It should also be noted, that in this age of aromatherapy, frankincense has been noted in several places to have great health benefits such as: Reducing inflammation, improving asthma, and even relieving symptoms of cancer. [A cursory Google search on “benefits of Frankincense” will produce several interesting articles]. On solemn feast days, and during Eucharistic adoration. Incense will continue to be used at St Elizabeth to enhance our worship. Recognizing that there are some who may have concerns, in the future, organic, hypoallergenic incense* will be used and its use will be announced in the bulletin and posted in the church on such occasions.
*Yes, such a thing exists. We are also told that it is gluten-free and assured no animals were harmed in its manufacture.