As a child growing up in the 90’s there is no question that I listened to the Irish rock band, U2. For better or for worse, music is an incredibly powerful form of art. Decades later, I can still remember the lyrics to one of their hit songs, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This song is considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time for various reasons. In a sense, it resonates within people because deep down there is a universal truth that nothing will satisfy our hearts this side of heaven. Millions have sung along with Bono these very words, “I have climbed the highest mountains. I have run through the fields…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
Deep down in all of our hearts, God has placed a desire for the infinite. He has placed in us a desire to enter into paradise. Only then will we fully “find what we are looking for.”
Before the fall, Adam and Eve experienced a type of paradise in the Garden of Eden. I had a theology professor in college who liked to speculate on how long it took Adam and Eve to sin. We may never know the real answer but his theory was, “About eight seconds.”
When sin entered the world, paradise was lost. God placed an angel at the garden entrance with a flaming sword “to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Ever since, humanity has been toying with every pleasure under the sun to try and satisfy this desire in our hearts. Nothing seems to quench our thirst. On the other hand, God always had a plan to reopen the gates and bring us back to him.
Through some of the most beautiful theology you can imagine, the Church Fathers understood that at the moment of the wounding of Christ’ heart, paradise was restored. “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). The earthly soldier that pierced the heart of Christ with his lance reminds us of the angel that blocked paradise with his sword. We have access to paradise once more through the wounded heart of Christ.
There flowed from his side blood and water. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that the water and blood symbolized baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born. (St. John Chrysostom, Office of Readings, Good Friday)
Christ’s death on the cross, which is the new tree of life, and the opening of his heart have paid our ransom for sin. From this moment, the Church was born. As St. Augustine mystically made known, “What then was Paradise is now represented by the Church.” From the new tree of life, we also have the new plentiful fruit that sustains us: the Eucharist. Therefore in the Church, we have direct access to paradise every Sunday, and possibly every day for those of us extra thirsty souls.
Where did this fruit from the new tree of life come from? “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Luke 1:42).
The fruit of the new tree of life dwelled in Mary for nine months and subsequently in the home of Joseph and Mary for thirty years. The Holy Family was paradise.
[The Holy Family] was a heaven, a paradise on earth, endless delights in this place of grief; it was a glory already begun in the vileness, abjection and lowliness of their life. (Monsieur Jean-Jacques Olier, The Shadow of the Father)
How great is the longing in your heart for paradise? In what ways do you try to quench that thirst with the things of this world?
Today, we discovered an answer to Bono’s thirst as well as our own. In the words of St. Augustine, “The Church becomes a well of satisfaction by this gift of the Spirit … for it is in her a fountain of living water springing up unto everlasting life” (The Writings Against the Manichaens and the Donatists).
Joseph and the Holy Family found this satisfaction, this paradise, right in the midst of their home in Nazareth. The Holy Family is the model and example of what God wishes for your Christian home to become. God wishes for you to enter into the mystery of the School of Nazareth and learn at the side of St. Joseph. In what ways can you bring Christ more intimately into your home and everyday life?
Heavenly Father, my heart longs to enter into yours. Through the wounding of Christ’s heart, your love for me has been poured out in abundance. Help me to bathe in your mercy and grace. Lead me as I find my way to paradise through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And guide me to discover the mysteries of paradise on earth just as truly as did your servant, St. Joseph.
St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.