A Word of Encouragement in One of Jesus’ Stranger Sayings

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

Some Pharisees, likely disingenuous in their motives, approach Jesus and warn Him to leave immediately: Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus, more likely speaking to them than to 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 than the next three days on the calendar! He’s obviously referring to the Paschal mystery: His passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus is saying, in effect, that anyone who would threaten to kill Him is only undermining his own power while facilitating the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose.

Nailed to a cross, Jesus will be 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. On the third day He will arise, 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.

This is also the case for all who align themselves with the darkness rather than the light. No matter how deep the darkness, the dawn inevitably comes, scattering the darkness; the darkness cannot prevail. Scripture says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5).

In this strange and provocative saying of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke is an important perspective: evil, no matter how powerful it may seem, 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 was casting out demons and bring healing in that very act of suffering. His apparent disappearance into death and His descent into the place of the dead was only for the purposes of turning out the Devil’s trophy room, bringing life into the place of the dead and healing to the deep wounds caused by sin.

While Resurrection Sunday is an obvious triumph, even Good Friday and Holy Saturday were already manifesting Jesus’ great victory.

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

As for glamorizing evil, we certainly do a lot of that, particularly through movies and television. Whether it’s “The Untouchables,” “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas,” “Ocean’s 8,” or other films that glamorize wrongdoing as a way to achieve wealth, power, and/or glory, we eagerly consume this fare. This is illusion; evil is not glamorous. It may have 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).

Neither should we inordinately fear evil’s passing power. Yes, we should soberly confront it and resist its demands, but we should not tremble in fear.

No, evil cannot stand. To glorify evil or to fear it inordinately is to miss the lesson of both Scripture and history: 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. Her history extends back even more than 2000 years into the heritage of God’s people, the Jews. God rescued the Jews from slavery in Egypt and gave His Word on Mount Sinai. In spite of 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 through to this day.

This is what lasts: God’s Word and the Church He founded. This is verifiable by the study of history. Empires have come and gone, wicked philosophies risen to popularity and diminished, scoffers and persecutors have arrived and departed, all in the age of the Church. Yet we are still here, and they have all gone. To those who claim power now, who laugh at us and say that we’re through: when you are gone, the Church 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, error, pride, and perversion, do not last; but God does and so does His Word and the Church to which He has entrusted it.

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 in accomplishing my plan; I will break the back of your power. When you persecute my disciples or shed the blood of my Church members, you are sowing seeds for the Church. Whatever “victory” you claim is hollow; it is really my victory.

Yes, go tell that fox that I accomplish my purpose. By these words the Lord decodes history for us. There’s no need to obsess over this temporary loss or that apparent defeat. The world and the devil may 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 fool you. 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).

3 Replies to “A Word of Encouragement in One of Jesus’ Stranger Sayings”

  1. Thank you, Msgr. Pope! I’m always so encouraged by your posts. May Christ our God be blessed forever! Even in the midst of all the chaos and betrayal within the Church, we know with absolute certainty that Christ has conquered every enemy, even death. We therefore have a sure rock to stand on, a shelter in the storm. When He “awakens”, not only will the diabolical schemers/traitors in the Church see their coming recompense, but so will the whole human race.

  2. Thank you, Monsignor. It is very discouraging to watch our society cast aside all traditional virtues (humility, chastity, etc.), chasing after false Gods.

    I know intellectually that Good will triumph, but Evil is ahead by 3 touchdowns and it’s late in the 3rd quarter.

  3. Thanks for these great words of encouragement It reminds me of a passage from The Lord of the Rings:

    “Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a bright star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

    Thanks again for you work, here and on the radio!

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