Every Sunday at Mass, we are invited, “Lift up your hearts,” and we reply, “We lift them up to the Lord.”
Because we say these words so often, they can become somewhat routine to us. But if we step back and ponder these words, we begin to get a glimpse into the promise contained in them. So, how exactly do we lift up our hearts? What does it mean for us to place ourselves in the presence of God? This is one blessing that can come to us as we become intimately familiar with the panorama of God’s plan.
The Way to New Life. The unfolding of God’s eternal plan, which we are calling the panorama, helps us to focus on key events in history: creation, the Incarnation, Pentecost, and the Second Coming. By concentrating on these events, we can grasp God’s plan to fill us with his love and draw us into his presence. It also helps us see how we can best respond to God as his beloved people.
One of the most important things the panorama highlights is the difference between God and us. It shows God as uncreated, infinite, Trinitarian love. And by contrast, it shows us as finite, created beings who are capable of great love and yet who are prone to temptation and sin. This dual vision also reveals the kind of paradox that is part of everyone’s life: we long to touch the love of God and be healed, yet we also know how powerful a hold sin can have on us.
This very tension between what we desire and what we do is the reason why pondering the panorama can fill us with a greater love for Jesus. He is the God who opened the floodgates of heaven and removed the guilt of our sin. It shows us that through Christ, we can be lifted out of the limitations of our sinful nature and brought into the heavenly realm, where we can be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s power.
Jesus: Our Example. It is true that our hope for transformation lies in Jesus, but it is also true that Jesus is our clearest example of how to experience that transformation. Jesus was constantly in touch with heaven. He always kept his Father’s plan in the forefront of his mind and let that plan dictate the way he thought and lived. Over and over again, he said that he did nothing apart from what he heard his Father telling him to do (John 5:19; 8:28; 14:31).
Yet, as much as he was in touch with heaven, Jesus was also keenly in touch with the world around him. He saw the beauty in the world and all the ways creation revealed the love and glory of his Father. He also saw the power of sin and its effects in the world. He knew that this world was meant to be our temporary home, even though so many people around him considered it the only thing worth working for. Jesus could read the hearts of everyone around him. He could tell who came to him with a real desire to be taught or healed and who came to challenge and test him.
The key to Jesus’ ability to live so balanced and peaceful a life in the midst of such chaos was that he lived out in the world everything he learned as he looked to heaven. Surely he enjoyed eating, yet we know that he also fasted. He appreciated a good night’s sleep, yet there were times when he stayed up all night to pray. A man like us in all things but sin, he too felt the need for close friendships, yet he was willing to endure the loss of friends if it meant staying faithful to his Father’s call.
Because he stayed in touch with the heavenly realm, Jesus experienced the power of God in his life—and so can we. Through his Holy Spirit, we can all become more and more like Jesus until the day when he comes again and we see him face-to-face.
The Panorama and Prayer. When we pray through the panorama, not only will we come to a greater understanding of God’s plan for his creation, we will also be encouraged to take our rightful place in advancing that plan. His Holy Spirit will fill us with a desire to taste the blessings that God offers all his children. Our vision for our lives will be broadened, and we’ll see that we were created not just for this world, but for eternity. Let’s take a look at some practical ways in which we can experience and embrace this great plan of God.
• Proclaim These Truths Each Morning. Before you even get out of bed, consecrate your life and your day to Jesus. In faith, proclaim that God created you; that Jesus has conquered sin and death; that through his Holy Spirit you can live a new life; and that Jesus will come again in glory.
• Search for the Panorama in the Liturgy. As you take part in the Mass, be on the lookout for references to God’s eternal plan and the four main interventions of the panorama. Look for the eternal perspective expressed in the Eucharistic prayers, in the Gloria, in the Creed, and in the Lord’s Prayer. Look for the way all these prayers recount God’s blessings poured out in the whole of salvation history.
• Be Cleansed of Sin. At the end of each day, examine your conscience and repent of any sin you find. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any sin of which you might not be conscious. Make regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Trust that, “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 John 1:9). Ask God to purify you. Be careful not to harbor any sin in your heart. Try your best to forgive as you have been forgiven. Take the next step in letting go of any hurts, resentments, or grudges that have a hold on your memory.
• Intercede for Those around You. Pray for your family, your spouse, your neighbors, your relatives, your fellow clergy or religious. Remember too the sick, the poor, and the abandoned. In faith, present each person to Jesus and pray that he or she would know his love. Pray for protection from the inroads of sin and from any evil that may come upon that person today. Believe that these prayers, even in the most difficult of situations, really can fill you with grace and protection.
Have Great Confidence in God! Taking on a panoramic view of God’s plan can help us see things as God sees them. Praying through these four interventions of God can help lift us out of an earthbound perspective and give us a glimpse into the wisdom and intentions of God.
The promise of the panorama is that as we come to view the things of life as God sees them, we will grow in faith and come to believe that our prayers will be answered. We will become more and more confident, as well, as we find our prayers shaped by our understanding of God’s wisdom and plan. Along with all the saints who have gone before us, we too will come to experience Jesus’ promise: “All that you ask for in prayer, believe that you have will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24). May God bless you as you build your heavenly perspective.