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Father Vincent Hawkswell

Nothing in this world can satisfy us

Voices April 16, 2018

John Lennon right decried religious war in his song Imagine, writes Father Hawkswell.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
First Reading: Acts 4:7-12 
Second Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-2
Gospel Reading: Jn 10:14

In his song Imagine, John Lennon said, “Imagine there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people/Living for today/Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people/Living life in peace/Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can/No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man/Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world.”

We all want to abolish greed and hunger, to live in peace and unity, to share the world like loving brothers. Communism tried to do it by abolishing religion and private property, and it failed. Pope St. John Paul II warned that capitalism and consumerism will fail, too, for nothing in this world can satisfy our deepest desires. “Living for today,” as though this world is everything, is wishful thinking.

Heaven does exist, and its King wants to make us his children and heirs. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” St. John says in the Second Reading this Sunday.

This is our faith and our hope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls hope “the theological virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises” and relying on “the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope does not mean escapism or wishful thinking, ignoring or neglecting this world. In fact, it is people who were concerned with heaven who have changed this world most effectively – like the apostles, who converted the Roman Empire, or the English evangelicals, who abolished the slave trade.

It is difficult to “want” or “hope for” heaven, partly because our education tends to focus on this world, but also because we do not recognize the want when we feel it. The longings we feel when we fall in love, or plan to travel, or take up a new subject, are never – can never be – satisfied by marriage, travel, or learning. Something always evades us.

We can try a new spouse, visit a different country, study another subject, or try to repress the longing. This last makes sense if we are just “crying for the moon,” but it is disastrous if perfect, lasting happiness is really available for the asking.

We believe it is. Hunger, thirst, and sexual desire are satisfied by food, drink, and sex. If we feel a desire that nothing on earth can satisfy, it is probably because we were made for another world.

In describing the kingdom of heaven, Christ appealed to the desires aroused by earthly pleasures. We must not despise them, therefore, but we must never mistake them for the real thing. We must maintain our desire for our true country, heaven, making it the main object of our lives and helping others find it, too. (Paradoxically, only thus can we enjoy earthly pleasures.)

The only Way is Jesus. As St. Peter said in the First Reading, he, the stone rejected by the builders, has become the cornerstone. His is the only name by which we can be saved.

“I am the good Shepherd,” he says in the Gospel Reading. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”

Lennon rightly decried religious war. “Truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power,” said Vatican II.

Nevertheless, we have a “social duty” to proclaim “the one true religion, which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church,” says the Catechism. “The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation.”