‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
That blessed hymn at the bible’s very end, at the conclusion of the Revelation of St. John, is our human heart’s desire. In thirty-eight words, ciphering a visionary voice from the throne of God, St. John the Divine touches upon virtually every yearning of the soul.
I owe to my colleague, the Reverend Eileen O’Brien, an insight that has stayed with me now through two Lenten seasons and two Easters. It was on March 1 of last year, which was the Second Sunday of Lent 2015, that Eileen preached new life and dramatic tension into a Gospel scene so familiar that it sometimes risks being domesticated in our telling. It is that portion of the Gospel in which Jesus has been dragged from the Garden of Gethsemane to appear before the high priest. His friend, his Rock, his Launcelot, Peter– the same Peter who declares to Jesus just minutes before the uproar in the garden, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not disown you”–follows close behind and keeps vigil in the high priest’s courtyard during Jesus’ interrogation.
This week I was fortunate to spend several days learning with and from the Franciscan contemplative and spiritual writer, Richard Rohr. The conversations were riveting, and topics ranged from the spiritual practice of contemplation to the cosmic Christ. Sooner or later, our discussions always came back around to the questions: “What is the role of the church? How does the church transform lives?”