by Ken Rolheiser
What kind of house will you build in 2021

Legend says that angels scooped up the holy family’s home in Nazareth and transported it through the air to Loreto, Italy. Today that small stone house is enclosed within an elaborate marble structure, within an ornate papal basilica, that has become one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world.

The Angeli family transported the stones of the Nazareth home to Italy by ship when it was in danger of destruction during the Muslim attacks of the Holy Land in 1187.

In researching this story I discovered deep roots that we have enjoyed inside the church’s rich faith history. Here is the Litany of Our Lady of Loreto approved by Pope Sixtus V, if you can get past that title without smiling. This litany was adopted by the church to the exclusion of others.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this to be the litany we prayed in German and later in English in our family home as I grew up. My parents and grandparents indeed built a house of Faith on solid rock, one that would stand against the ravages of time and temptation.

Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24). Homes in Nazareth were built into the dense bedrock that lies under the town.

Metaphorically, Jesus was also referring to the family faith he experienced with Mary and Joseph, and all the faith roots and traditions of the Holy Family. What a blessing that I enjoyed a similar realization in my German-Russian family heritage.

It still makes me smile to think that the children of English, Scottish, French and other ethnic origin are gentle and meek, but the children of German origin are Kinder.

Seriously, to help us focus on the kind of house of faith we want to build for the Lord in 2021, let us consider the meeting we will have at the end of our lives. Throughout our lives we try to be temples of the Holy Spirit, disciples of Jesus. Christ has invited us to follow him. So what will that final meeting with Jesus be like?

Saint Catherine of Genoa explains, "As for paradise, God has placed no doors there. Whoever wishes to enter, does so. An all-merciful God stands there with His arms open, waiting to receive us into His glory.” The catch is that we might not yet be ready and pure and holy.

The ancient churches of the Middle East believed that when we die and are ushered into the presence of God we may say, “Wait! I’m not ready for this. I have been selfish, greedy, mean…” 

And the angel says, “That’s OK, You don’t have to go in until you’re ready. Go into that garden and rest awhile.” And Jesus walks into the garden and begins to teach us how to love. And when we are ready, he takes us by the hand, and we go into the loving embrace of the Father.”

We still have time to build our temple in 2021. In Matthew 5 we hear blessed are the poor in spirit, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness. For this kind of love Jesus promises heaven.

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