The mystery of the “other side” has forever fascinated our human intrigue. Books, stories, movies or plays have played on the unknown world of the “next life” successfully for centuries. Houdini, besides being a great magician, had a great fascination with the world beyond and often employed practitioners of the occult in order to find our more about what lies beyond the last breath, the last heartbeat. Tarot card interpreters, palm readers and Ouija board manufacturers still profit from our curiosity. I wonder if any one person has ever escaped the dreamy wonderment of what lies beyond the grave and yet, in today’s Gospel, Jesus points out an important fact: there is an eternal connection between what “lies beyond” and the “hear and now.”
Two Sundays ago, August 27, we heard Jesus declare that He would build His Church upon “this rock.” Mary and I had the privilege of attending noon Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that day, celebrated in the apse right behind the central altar. Here we were, below the familiar stained glass window of golden color with the white dove – symbol of the Holy Spirit – hearing the words that, still today, form the hierarchy of His Church along with His Promise that He Will Remain with us for all time. Even though it was all in Italian, we had our Magnificat’s to follow along and could understand some of the homily, especially the part where the priest pointed out these words of Jesus in Latin imprinted around the central nave under the magnificent dome of our Mother Church. Words cannot express what we were feeling in our hearts and souls. There was a timelessness to the celebration that was beyond description.
Perhaps those are the two key words – time and timelessness – that we need to consider in this eternal connection between the “world beyond” and the “here and now.” Hearing the words of Jesus proclaimed on that day, in St. Peter’s Basilica, seemed to compress more than two thousand years of history into a single moment. There was no separation between “then” and “now.” That’s the timelessness of God’s “now” that we felt.
When Jesus talks about binding or loosing on earth and binding or loosing in Heaven as being the same, He speaks of that eternal connection between these two worlds separated by mystery and curiosity. He is telling us that there is no separation. When the Priest holds up the Host with the Chalice and proclaims, “…Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb,” he speaks inclusively. All my relatives and yours, all my friends and yours, the Saints in Heaven and the souls in Purgatory are there with us and we are joined with every other Mass of all time at the Paschal Mystery of Christ. It is an awesome realization if we can spend just a little quiet time dwelling on the beauty of that Eternal Connection.