Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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May 26, 2019
[St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Church, Mililani (Confirmation & First Communion); Divine Mercy Conference at Hawaii Convention Center; St. Anthony Church, Kalihi (Confirmation & First Communion)]
In the play “Man of LaMancha” which is based on the Miguel Cervantes novel Don Quixote, Don Quixote is a noble knight who is dedicated to righting all wrongs and fighting against injustice wherever he finds it. He has the highest respect for women. There was one woman who was not well respected by others, however, because she was a loose woman, whose morals were by no means exemplary. Her name was Aldonza. But despite what everyone else said and thought about her, Don Quixote spoke of her as a noble lady, and someone deserving the highest respect. He even has a nickname for her, Dulcinea, which means, “sweet one.” Aldonza thinks Don Quixote is crazy and rebels against his characterization of her. She knows she is no “sweet one” and she is very annoyed when Don Quixote keeps calling her his Dulcinea. But by the end of the play, however, she actually becomes a very kind and sweet person, because someone dared to believe that she was not a loose woman but a beautiful and good woman.
Hearing the description of the “new Jerusalem” in today’s reading made me think of this story of transformation. I have been to Jerusalem many times, and while peace may prevail, it is a forced peace, because everywhere in the city you see soldiers with machine guns, and you know there are just certain places you should not enter. Yet the Lord has the vision, which he shares with us through St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who wrote the Book of Revelation. His vision is not so much the current reality, which is more like Aldonza, but the new Jerusalem, which is the beautiful Bride of the Lamb, of Jesus himself – his Dulcinea. They are not two different cities, but a city that is transformed by the presence of God and illuminated beautifully by God and the Lamb, who are its sun, moon, stars, and all it needs for light. This transformation of Divine Mercy is going on even when we are not aware of it, because it is the work of God, who refuses to let his wayward creatures get lost in their misery.
In this season we are celebrating the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. These sacraments of initiation are the gifts of God to his beloved Bride, the Church, so that her members can be transformed from sinners to saints, from wayward rebels to sons and daughters who are embraced in the loving arms of their Maker. In the sacrament of Confirmation, we receive “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit” so that God can constantly work within us, transforming our cold hearts into warm hearts, our darkness into light, and our sinful nature into the Divine nature. We may rebel against this and think we are not worthy, but God in his Divine Mercy, keeps insisting through this Advocate, until one day we – hopefully – will believe and accept the grace of being so infinitely loved. And Jesus, who gives himself for us even when we are sinners who crucify him with our own rebellious natures, invites us sinners to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the One who is God and man. Does he know what he is doing? Does he know how rebellious we can be? Yes, he knows it very well, but he believes in us even when we find it hard to believe in him. And if we allow that little morsel of Divine Mercy to enter us like a little seed that will grow each day, the Lord Jesus can transform us as well and make us members of his beloved Bride, the Church.
Once we truly realize the effects of this Divine Mercy within us, however, we do not simply rejoice in a gift that is given to each of us personally. We take on a different attitude, the attitude that believes that a beautiful new Jerusalem is possible, even when all we see is crime, discord, lust, violence, and many other expressions of inhumanity. When we truly reflect upon this gift of the Holy Spirit, who is given to us once for all time in the sacrament of Confirmation, and when we come back every Sunday (or more often, if we can) to be nourished by this Holy Communion, we become what we eat. We become like Don Quixote to the whole world, so that it can indeed one day know that it is a beautiful bride dressed in the purest white garment, whom God wants to marry forever and ever.