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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The Divine Plan for Peace

Robert Barron - The Divine Plan for Peace

Robert Barron - The Divine Plan for Peace

Peace, be with you. Friends, what is it about mountains that's just so compelling to us? Now, maybe it's because I'm from Chicago, where everything is flat, but whenever I've seen mountains, I'm just drawn to them. I remember the very first time I went to Seattle and I saw Mount Rainier, which is not out, as they say, all the time, it's often covered in clouds, but it was brilliantly visible that day. I don't know. I was just sort of in an ecstasy looking at this mountain. Whenever I'm in a plane going over a mountain, I'm always drawn, even from that great height, to look at them. Here in Santa Barbara, where I'm privileged to live, we have the sea on one side and mountains on the other. And so whenever I can, I look at them and I'm sort of drawn into a mystical state.

Well, of course, it's a great image throughout the Bible, isn't it? The mountain, where we go up, and where God comes down to meet us. It's sort of a trysting place, if you want, between divinity and humanity. Well, the prophet Isaiah, and again, we're reading from Isaiah in our first reading, the image of God's holy mountain comes up a lot. One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is Isaiah chapter two. I'd urge you, by the way, get your Bibles and just open to Isaiah, second chapter, and read it. It's one of the most lyrical and uplifting passages in the whole Old Testament. But we hear that God's mountain will be raised above all the mountains and hills, and all the tribes of the Lord will go up. And on that holy mountain, we're told, chapter two of Isaiah, "they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks".

And there'll be no more war on that mountain. Well, then go a little further: chapter 11 of Isaiah. We hear once again of God's holy mountain, but now just a little bit of a different emphasis. Here we're told that the lion and the lamb will lie down together. The cow and the bear will graze together. The little child, the human child, is going to play by the adders' lair, by the dangerous, deadly snake. But then, I'm quoting, "They will not hurt or  destroy on all my...mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea". It's beautiful. So these paired opposites in the animal kingdom, they come together in harmony  on God's holy mountain. Well, then finally, our reading for today taken from the twenty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, still another reference to God's holy mountain. Listen: "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines".

Beautiful. So three references to the holy mountain. Now, the mountain in question is Mount Zion, which Isaiah knew, it's the mountain of the city of Jerusalem on top of which is the temple, the place of right praise. On that holy mountain, indeed, humanity goes up, divinity comes down, and in the great act of right praise, divinity and humanity are linked together. That's the mountain he's talking about. He's also referring, it seems quite clear, not just to that particular mountain in Palestine, but also to the mystical Mount Zion, you might say the heavenly fulfillment of right praise. So, clearly on Mount Zion, though the temple's there, and yes, right praise is taking place, but yet it's imperfect. You don't find all of this reconciliation and all of this nonviolence  and peace breaking out.

So Isaiah is referring to Zion, but he's also looking forward to what Mount Zion symbolizes, is the ultimate holy mountain of our heavenly union with God. Beautiful. Beautiful. So, what are things like on the mystical mountain? What does the world look like when God is given fully his due? Look at that first image. Conflict dies away. Do you see why? When all of us together are looking away from ourselves, and our own interests, and together are looking to God, what breaks out among us but peace? Where's conflict come from? Well, I've got my interest, you've got your interest, and of course they're going to conflict in this finite world. But when together we all fall in love with the transcendent good of God, then peace breaks out and we can beat the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks, the weapons of war becoming the vehicles of cultivation, to the end of conflict.

Then, shifting metaphors just a bit: traditional enemies and opponents symbolized by these warring animal types, the lion and lamb, and the bear and the cow, and so on, they will come together in peace. When glory is given to God in the highest, and not to the self-interest of my own group, and your group, defending my type against your type -see all of that's born of a self-regard. But together we look to God? The lion and lamb lie down together. That's the mystical Mount Zion. And then return to our reading for today. On the holy, mystical mountain, the place of definitive right praise, all of humanity will be fed. So using all this imagery borrowed from the table, pure wines and juicy meat and so on, what Isaiah's talking about, ultimately, is the feeding of the soul.

Augustine saw this so clearly: the hunger of the human heart. We all feel it. Everybody listening to me right now, we all feel it. We're hungry for God. Nothing in this world will satisfy the deepest longing of the heart. Only, only the total and right praise of God feeds me adequately. That's the pure wine and the juicy meat. But Isaiah takes us even further, as we attend to our reading for today. Listen: on that mystical mountain, I'm quoting now, "the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven" over the nations will be destroyed. What's he talking about? Well, here's the clue: "He will destroy death forever". What's the veil that veils everybody? In fact, in fact, that produces the self-absorption that leads to violence? The veil that veils all peoples is the fear of death.

How beautiful now in this heavenly place, the mystical, elevated Mount Zion, the place of perfect praise, the fear of death will be removed. And that is the condition for the possibility of the deepest peace breaking out. In that heavenly place, we are immortalized. We are raised up to a participation in God's manner of being. Okay? We've looked at Mount Zion, Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that Isaiah knew: the place where, indeed, every year at Passover the tribes would go up; the place, indeed, where they attempted to give God the best praise they could. We look at that historical anticipation, and then we look radically forward to the fulfillment of it in the heavenly Mount Zion. Can I suggest though: there's a kind of middle mountain that looks back, indeed, to ancient Israel and ancient Jerusalem; that also looks forward to the fulfillment on the mystical mountain.

The mountain I'm talking about now is the Mass. It's the Mass. Take all of Isaiah's imagery here, and apply it to what we Catholics do, at least once a week by obligation, every day by invitation. At every Mass, we go up a holy mountain. We step out of the workaday world, and we consciously raise our minds and our hearts upward to God. And in the Mass, God comes to meet us. God comes to gather us, to speak his word, and to feed us. Notice, please, at every Mass, we gather from different places, different backgrounds, different points of view, but all in peace. How beautiful that as the Mass commences, we sing together. That's not just decoration, not just traveling music for the priest to come up the aisle. The singing of the gathered community, the harmonious raising of their voices in common praise, is the sign that the lion and lamb are lying down together. It's the sign that, at least for that moment, we've beaten the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks.

In our common praise of God, we found this beautiful community. Normally antagonistic people and groups lie down, as it were, together, as they pray. And then, how wonderful: Isaiah tells us that on the mystical Zion, we'll be fed with the best food. What happens at every Mass, but Jesus himself gives us the gift of his Body and his Blood? Oh, the purest wine, the juiciest meat, well, those are just evocations. Those are symbols of the food that we eat at every Mass, which is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. We're never better fed than we are at Mass, which again, why it's tragic, everybody, that 70% of Catholics stay away from what Vatican II rightly called "the source and summit of the Christian life". Do you want to find peace in your heart? Do you want to find peace among your fellow human beings? Do you want to be fed with the finest food? That's where you go. That's where you find it.

Ancient Israel all went up to Mount Zion for the right praise of God. We look forward to the mystical consummation of this on the holy mountain. But in the middle, in our time, you find it in the Mass, the sacred mountain. As we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, what happens to us, by the way? We are immortalized. The Church Fathers saw that really clearly. The Eucharist is food for the journey, that's true, but it's also a kind of preparation, listen now, of our minds, our hearts, and yes, our bodies to live the immortalized life of heaven. The Eucharist readies us. It prepares us to live in that space. In other words, everything Isaiah saw in his mystical prophetic vision, that will one day be fully realized in heaven, is present even now at the Mass. And so maybe as I close: with Isaiah, we can say at every Mass: Behold our God, to whom we look to save us. "This is the Lord [for] whom we looked. Let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us! For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain". And God bless you.
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