A Word of Encouragement in one of Jesus’ Stranger Sayings

110313It’s one of the stranger dialogs that occurs in the Gospel. We read it last week in daily Mass and it is difficult not to rejoice in the aplomb of Jesus has he says it.

Some Pharisees, likely disingenuous in their motives, approach Jesus  to warn him that he needs to leave immediately: Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus, more likely speaking to them, rather than Herod, says the following:

Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Lk 13:32)

Surely Jesus has more in mind here than the next three days on the calendar. He’s obviously speaking of the Paschal mystery, of his passion, death and Resurrection. He is saying in effect, to any who would threaten to kill him, that in so doing, they only serve to undermine their own wickedness and power, and to cause him to fulfill his own purposes.

For nailing him to a cross, he will be on that cross casting out demons and bringing healing. The next day he will descend to Sheol to awaken the dead, summon them to righteousness, and bring healing in life. And on the third day, he arises fully accomplishing his purpose and casting off death like a garment.

There is no way that Herod, or the Pharisees, or Satan himself can win, for in “winning,” they lose.

So also for all who would align themselves with the darkness rather than the Light. For no matter how deep the darkness, the dawn inevitably comes and scatters the darkness, the darkness cannot win. Scripture says The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn 1:5)

And in this strange and provocative saying of Jesus, comes important perspective for all of us. The perspective is this, that evil, no matter how powerful it seems, cannot stand, it will ultimately self-destruct and be overcome by the Light. No matter how awful Good Friday seemed to those first disciples, Jesus, by his own description, was casting out demons and bring healing in that very act of suffering. And his apparent disappearance into death, and down into the place of the dead, was only for the purposes of turning out the Devil’s trophy room, and bringing life into the place of the dead, and healing to the deep wounds caused by sin.

And while Resurrection Sunday manifest an obvious triumph of Jesus, even Good Friday and Holy Saturday were already manifesting his great victory.

In this saying of Jesus, and in the facts of the Paschal Mystery two things are taught to us about evil: one, that we should never glamorize evil, and two, that we should not utterly fear it.

As for glamorizing evil, we love our movies and other things in culture which often glorify evil, whether it is series like “The Untouchables,” “The Godfather,” “Good Fellas,” or perhaps other movies that simply and in a general kind of away exult wrongdoing and equated it with power and glory.

But this is illusion, for evil has its day, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. One of the Psalms says,

I have seen the wicked triumphant, towering like a cedar of Lebanon. I passed by again; he was gone. I searched; he was nowhere to be found. (Psalm 37:35-36)

And therefore neither should we glamorize evil, nor should we inordinately fear its passing power. Yes, we should soberly confront it, and resist its evil demands, but we should not fear it.

No, evil cannot stand. To glorify evil or fear it inordinately, is to miss both Scripture’s lesson and history’s lesson. At the end of the day, evil does not last.

What does last, is God’s holy Word and his Church. Despite repeated attempts to persecute, diminish and destroy the Church she has outlived every one of her opponents. And her history extends back even more than 2000 years into the heritage of God’s people, the Jews. For his word to Abraham persists, and God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and gave his Word on Mount Sinai. And despite every attempt to ridicule, reduce and redefine God’s Word, his promise to Abraham, his Word from Sinai or His Word from The Sermon the Mount, all these persist and ring through to this day.

This is what lasts, this is what persists, God’s Word, and the Church he founded. This is verifiable by the study of history. Empires have come and gone, wicked philosophies risen and diminished, scoffers and persecutors arrived and departed, all in the age of the Church. And here we are,  and they have gone. And those who claim power now, and laugh at us and say our day is done, when they are gone, we will still be here.

I have seen the wicked triumphant, towering like a cedar of Lebanon. I passed by again; he was gone. I searched; he was nowhere to be found. (Psalm 37:35-36)

Evil and error, pride and perversion, do not last. But God does, and so does his Word and the Church to which he has entrusted his Word.

And thus Jesus, when threatened by the Pharisees and indirectly by Herod,  simply says:

Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Lk 13:32)

In other words, neither you nor Herod can thwart my plans. In killing me you merely assist me to accomplish my plan. In killing me I will break the the back of your power. And when you persecute my disciples, or shed the blood of my Church members, you are sowing seeds for the Church by the very blood of the martyrs you spill. Whatever victory you claim, it is hollow, for it is really my victory.

Yes, Go tell that fox, I accomplish my purpose. And by these words the Lord decodes history for us. I doesn’t matter how we might wish to obsess over this loss or that apparent defeat, it doesn’t matter how the world and devil might wish to gloat over an apparent victory, in the end, the Lord holds the cards, and the house, his House, always wins.

It is true, read history. Do not admire evil or fear its apparent ascendance. Jesus has won, and his victory is shown time and time again. Don’t let the Devil fake you out, do not be deceived evil cannot stand. The devil is a liar.

Indeed, in the name and power of Jesus, Go and tell that fox [the devil], ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Lk 13:32)

18 Replies to “A Word of Encouragement in one of Jesus’ Stranger Sayings”

  1. If one will go into a deep analysis of what transpired for more than two millennia of faith and of JESUS CHRIST leaving the Church to be proclaimed by a group of ‘just’ fishermen maybe literate or illiterate with nary an experience on public speaking, managing, planning or of organizing, leading nor of knowledge of philosophy, psychology, theology, of higher Mathematics you will get crazy as to why and how the Church flourished up to now. It only goes to show that no power on earth can deprive the Church of its place in the heart of men, culture and history. The devil might have bragging rights but the ultimate picture of confidence will be that of ‘CHRIST’s’. AMEN.

    1. Yes, it will trouble us if we over analyze things. Easier to have childlike faith and accept that, for us nothing is possible; for God, all things are possible. Yes, Jesus Christ, our only Hope, has already won. Amen.

  2. A lot of people, especially when they are younger, are taken away with the writings of people like Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche. Seems like I have known a million of them. Here is part of what St. Aquinas has to say about power viewed as the final end of man:

    ” . . . Happiness is the perfect good. But power is most imperfect. For as Boethius says (De Consol. iii), “the power of man cannot relieve the gnawings of care, nor can it avoid the thorny path of anxiety”: and further on: “Think you a man is powerful who is surrounded by attendants, whom he inspires with fear indeed, but whom he fears still more?””

  3. Father, thank you for another excellent article and I know you are right.

    But when I see in the news today Joe Biden who passes himself off as a good Catholic and was even welcomed by name to Mass on Palm Sunday by Cardinal Dolan attack a Senate Canidate in Virgina because he is pro-life it makes me ill to hear the slience of our Bishops.

    When the Mass murder of children by abortion in this country being led by Catholic politicians and our Bishops refuse to call them on it. It sure does not seem like Jesus has won when Catholics are doing the killing and the Bishops are silent.

    1. Clergy and laity fall short. Despite it, the Church survives by God’s grace. I find it helpful to stay in my lane and work my own stuff. If I am tempted to criticism the Bishop or the Diocese, I realize that I don’t run a perfect parish either. I don’t always get the balance right between correction and patience. Neither do parents have perfect families, or get the balance right. The human condition frequently misses the mark. Many critique the bishops, and I understand, but knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, or when to publicly rebuke and when to be more discrete, are matters of prudence. Joe B et al. need to be warned about Hell, and I am more concerned that THAT has happened than if they have been publicly reprimanded. For too often the public reprimand of popular elected officials gives them a martyr’s status and generates more heat than light. I do not say it should never happen, only that I understand that there are concerns related to prudence.

      1. I agree Monsignor Pope that sometimes it is more prudent to be silent than to publicly rebuke a politician, but someone like Biden should never be recognized at Mass. If what Kevin says is true, Cardinal Dolan was wrong to recognize Biden’s presence at the Mass. There is a difference between being a pastor and being a politician. It sounds as if Cardinal Dolan was being more of a politician in this case.

          1. Please listen to Msgr. Pope. Rather than get bent out of shape by what a self-proclaimed “Catholic” politician says or does, or what a bishop or cardinal does (or fails to do), we should all be praying and offering suffrages (prayers, fasting, almsgiving, good works, etc.) that each and every one of them will eventually “get it” before they depart from this earth and go to judgment. If we would all conscientiously apply ourselves to doing this before all else, the world would quickly change.

    2. Kevin, you do your cause no favors by overstating your case and misrepresenting the facts. The bishops are far from silent. The bishops have spoken out again and again and they have done so quite loudly and insistently. Most particularly, since you bring up Virginia, Bishop Loverde has practically shouted. So don’t say that the bishops have been silent. It’s not true and it promotes and perpetuates a false narrative that serves only to divide.

      Now, it is also true that the bishops by and large have avoided naming names. They have not called out people by name, Kevin. Is that what you want, Kevin? To what end?

      What the bishops have done, and are doing, is expect people to be adults, to have an adult faith, to think for themselves, discern for themselves the moral thing to do, instead of spoon-feeding people as if they were moral children. The bishops have spoken loudly about the evil of abortion, about the need to protect human life, and about not being morally complicit in abortion by voting for candidates on the basis of their advocacy for abortion. The bishops have not been silent, they have been very loud about this.

      Meanwhile, voters can plainly see for themselves from the commercials that have aired that the NUMBER ONE ISSUE that Terry McAuliffe has run on in Virginia is keeping abortion not only legal, but completely unregulated and paid for by you (and his number two issue has been promoting contraception and his number three issue is keeping divorce easy). He has run an extremely pro-abortion campaign — not “freedom to choose,” but militantly pro-abortion.

      It is time for the laity to grow up and add 2 + 2 for themselves. You don’t need any bishops to come and say that voting for McAuliffe is wrong. Merely based on his making abortion his number one issue, people should be adult enough to make the moral calculus and see that a vote for McAuliffe is a vote for abortion and, thus, contrary to all good conscience and moral truth.

      But what if the bishops were to call out politicians by name, if they were to say that McAuliffe (and Biden and Pelosi, et al.) is pro-abortion and they need to be voted out of office and denied Communion, etc.? What would that gain? EVERYONE knows already their character. They are not fooling anyone.

      But once the bishops descend into that cesspool that is electoral politics, then they become themselves political actors. And then, all bets are off, all gloves are off. The bishops are then fair game. The Church is fair game. The Church is then just another special interest group.

      We don’t need any politician bishops. What we need are some lay people who are grown up enough to quit expecting bishops to do everything, to quit blaming the bishops for why things are not perfect, and to instead take the moral teaching that the bishops speak about every day and to apply those teachings themselves to the issues of the day.

  4. thank you. i look forward for beautiful sermons with a touch and relation of daily life

  5. I know Jesus has won over death. The advance of evil, the suffering of people, and the martyrdom of the faithful bother me, no doubt. This article helps greatly with those concerns. I never receive relief though from the thought that the devil has succeeded in enslaving many individuals eternally. How does Jesus’ victory help them?
    My high school daughter returned home from work crying: A girl at her work announced that she and her long time boyfriend “finally” slept together; all the other kids clapped. I could discern that my daughter saw the seeming futility of being able to reach others. The culture, schools, media, community, authorities, and even churches are not there to help. What about the lost? Should we say like Kathleen Sebelius , “Well, some people die.”

  6. Thank you for calling out 1-mafia movies as evil and 2-our love of them as a love of evil! I think it may be borderline morally permissible to watch these movies while considering them in the light of being a cautionary tale or as a sort of diagnostic of human depravity. But such programming is popular I think because people enjoy how these movies effectively glamorize evil. I am grateful for your nailing it! People need to understand that.

  7. Hi Father, not to beat a dead horse but gay marriage was just passed in Illinois today. It will be signed into law by a Catholic Gov. who our bishops say is in good standing with the church.

    If this is victory………………………….

  8. I know Jesus wins, but how many sheep are straying, being lost, before the final victory, because shepherds think they should think for themselves.

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