So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their labor through the days of life that God gives them. — Pope Francis
I was shocked to read this. Such a shallow vision of life! Imagine living life this way. What a pagan mindset, appreciating the good things of this world as if they were comparable to a life lived in the light of an otherworldly eternity. How could a pope have succumbed to the hedonism of secular humanism? We should deny ourselves of all worldly pleasures for God and seek spiritual realities and their supernal beauty! What are we coming to?
So earthly minded, our pontiff is of no heavenly good. Where is my pale faced Christian saint who’s left behind the tainted pleasures of this world?!
Well, actually, this quote is from Sacred Scripture, from Ecclesiastes 8:15. Pope Francis quoted it once in a speech, so I took it out of context to make a point. The inspired book of Ecclesiastes, which you might say is the Old Testament Gospel of This-world Realism, assumes the existence of no afterlife, and so forcefully counsels that the elusive human quest for happiness be vigorously sought in this life whenever opportunity presents itself.
I am grateful Ecclesiastes was kept in the Canon of Scripture as a corrective to exaggerated hyper-spiritualized forms of other-worldliness that can easily spring from a Christian hope in an eternal life (wrongly) divorced from this world. As I say so often, the Christian vision of the New Creation is a vision of this creation saved, redeemed, perfected, re-created by God through Christ.
Our calling as Christ’s Body is to love this world — our common home — as God loves it, to cultivate the world as God’s garden, to transform earth into an offering to the God who first entrusted it to us. That offering, carried by the faithful to Mass each Sunday, has the most mind-blowing destiny. Our Catechism #1047 eloquently expresses it:
The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just, sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.
The entire visible universe. 💥
But how do we, “the just,” know what it means to engage in this celestial transaction for glorification in the risen Jesus? Who can teach us this superhuman art form? Well, Jesus, the “glutton and drunkard” who dines with sinners (Luke 7:34), the mixer of one-hundred thirty five gallons of spiced wine (John 2:6f), the bread and fish mass-distribution Maker (Matt. 14:19), the breakfast Chef (John 21:12), the Bridegroom who has come to inaugurate an eternal wedding feast, the dancing Son (Luke 15:25), the new Adam who brings creation to completion by loving the world to the end.
In fact, Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), declare God’s “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1) work of creation now complete in an act of divine and human selfless sacrificial love. Now the Church, Christ’s Fire-breathing Body in the world, remains to carry our His act of love to the very end of time so that every quark of this cosmos can be saved.
This is really the art of the laity, of us baptized royal priests who are heaven’s secular world-loving missionaries. For us, as Vatican II put it, “nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in [our] hearts.” Saintly laity are so earthly minded they are of supreme heavenly good.
Now, as we have had millennia of magnificent canonized saints whose vocation was to renounce earthly goods to lift humanity’s eyes upward toward heaven’s future hope, it’s time for us to long now for a new millennium overflowing with canonized saints whose vocation is to rejoice in earthly goods, drawing heaven downward to consecrate earth.
So next time you find opportunity to love the world, first call down the Heavenly Spirit to consecrate your earth, or your boat…
…as many a truth is spoke in jest, maybe eliminating such false heaven-earth oppositions by teaching us laity how to rightly love this world might eliminate some of our knee-jerk rebellion against what we see as a world-degrading heaven…
For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Together with the offering of the Lord’s Body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God. –– Lumen Gentium