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Built on the foundation of the apostles

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

By Father Kyle Schnippel

The month of November is set aside as a time to pray to and for our predecessors in the faith. Beginning with the feast of All Saints and the commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (commonly All Soul’s Day), the last few weeks of the liturgical year cause us to dwell on our own destiny in faith as well. The readings for Mass turn to the four last things (heaven, hell, death and judgment) as we approach the feast of Christ the King and recognize our place in God’s eternal kingdom.

As I was recently praying over these mysteries, a new connection was made.  The end of October finds the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude on the liturgical calendar. What is strange is that even though these two men are apostles of the Lord, travelers with Him and part of His earliest missionaries, we know next to nothing of their lives. For all intents and purposes, these two great figures are anonymous to us today.

Yet, even in their anonymity, the Catholic Church is built upon their faith.  In the Book of Revelation, we see the new city of Jerusalem built upon a foundation of twelve courses of stone, each marked with the name of one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14).
This image called to mind the work I did before entering seminary.  My family members are commercial contractors, building hotels, offices and warehouses throughout western Ohio. During summers and winter breaks in college, my siblings and I were often sent out to job sites to help as general laborers, often doing tasks that the more experienced employees did not want to do. The image of digging a foundation deep into the earth so that the frost layers would not upset the building came back to me. Once the building is complete, the bottommost layers remain hidden to sight; yet if they were not there, the edifice would soon crumble.

In much the same way, as we turn to November and the things that will come, we turn and look to those who have come before us. So many of this great crowd of witnesses before God’s throne in heaven are unknown to us now; not even their names have passed down to us. Yet, without their constant prayer and intercession before the Lamb, we would be lost in this world below.

Once again, the familial nature of the church, stretching back to the time of Christ and on into the future is highlighted. Those who sat at Jesus’ feet during His public ministry continue to sit at His feet now in heaven.

The question arises as to how to reserve a seat at this great banquet. It is both simple, as it is difficult. Simply, we reserve the seat through our union with Christ in all things. As His disciples, we are called to be living witnesses of the Gospel for all to see. This is the example of the saints and how they are our role models in discipleship. The difficulty exists in that we have to put to death in ourselves all those things, even the little things, which keep us from being this living witness. Hence, a life-long pattern of conversion, striving for holiness and unity with Christ is set before us.

But, Jesus has not left us orphans in this pursuit of holiness. The Scriptures guide us on our pilgrim way. We should have them always before us, always on our minds. The sacraments provide graces for us, sign-posts as it were, that direct our lives to Him, strengthening us for the journey, offering healing when we fail and consecrating us to a specific mission in this world.  Finally, the church is the agent of salvation, through whom the graces flow.  Her teachings are trustworthy for they are from Christ.

To embrace this unique path to holiness that God has placed on the heart of each disciple is to strive for greatness in the faith. It is to make a reservation at God’s great eternal banquet in the heavenly city of jerusalem.  Then, we, too, will be able to intercede before God on behalf of our brothers and sisters here below.

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