What is the Sign of Jonah?

In the Gospel for Wednesday (Wednesday of the First Week of Lent) the Lord says, This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah (Lk 11:30). What is the sign of Jonah? Does it apply today?

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present two signs of Jonah, one of which particularly concerns us here.

First Sign: In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus invokes Jonah in a twofold way: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). In this image, Jonah’s descent into the belly of the whale is a sign of the Lord’s descent to Sheol. For the sake of brevity, I would like to set aside this first sign and go on to discuss the second sign of Jonah. (Matthew’s Gospel sets this second sign forth in essentially the same way as does the Lucan version.)

Second Sign: In the Lucan version, read at today’s Mass, the mention of the whale is omitted and only this second sign is declared: This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here (Luke 11:29-32).

But what exactly is this (second) sign of Jonah? On one level, the text seems to spell it out rather clearly. Jonah had gone to the Ninevites with this message: Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed (Jonah 3:3). In response, the Ninevites (led by their King) repented, fasted, and prayed. Seeing their actions, God relented and did not destroy them. So on one level the sign of Jonah is the message “Repent or die.” Just as the Ninevites heard Jonah’s warning, put faith in it, and were spared, so the people of Jesus’ time should put faith in His warning to repent and believe the Good News. If they do not, they will meet with great disaster.

What would cause this disaster? The description of the sign of Jonah taps into the historical context of Jonah’s ministry, but applied to the people of Jesus’ time it has a polemical tone. Let’s consider why.

  1. When Jonah was told to go to Nineveh, he resisted. He must have thought that it was a no-win situation for him: either they would rebuff his prophecy (and likely kill him) or they would heed his message and grow stronger. (Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the mortal enemy of Israel, and Jonah had no interest in seeing them strengthened.)
  2. When Jonah made his announcement of imminent destruction, Assyria did repent, and in their strength they would become a rod in God’s hand to punish Israel. Isaiah the Prophet had well described Israel’s crimes and said that punishment would surely come upon her from Assyria. God would use Assyria to humble and punish His people, Israel. Here is a key passage in which Assyria is described in this way: … Assyria, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets (Isaiah 10:5-6).

Here, then, is a deeper meaning of the sign of Jonah: if Israel will not repent, then God will take their power and strength and give it to a foreign land that knows Him not. These foreigners will shame and humiliate Israel, inflicting God’s punishment on them.

This is humiliating to Israel on two levels. First, a pagan country would repent while God’s own people would not. Second, they are conquered by a foreign and unbelieving people. The destruction by Assyria was a devastating blow to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and resulted in the loss of the ten tribes living there. Only Judah and the Levites were left in the South as a remnant.

Let’s apply this understanding of the sign of Jonah, first to Jesus’ time and then to our own.

In Jesus’ time the sign of Jonah meant that if Israel would not repent and accept the Gospel, God would take it from them and give it to the Gentiles. Jesus says elsewhere to his fellow Jews, Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matt 21:43). Just as ancient Israel’s refusal to repent led to its destruction by the Assyrians, so Israel’s refusal to repent in Jesus’ time would mean destruction by the Romans (in 70 A.D.). This was prophesied by Jesus in the Mount Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:1-25:46, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36). According to Josephus, more than a million Jews were lost in this horrible war.

In our time, I suggest that the sign of Jonah may be active. I know that this may be controversial, but it seems to me that many Christians and Catholics in the decadent West have stopped loving life. Birth rates have dropped dramatically and are well below replacement level. We are on our way to aborting and contracepting ourselves right out of existence. God has loosed judgment on us in the form of the sign of Jonah. He seems to be saying this to us: “Fine, if you do not love life and are not zealous for the faith I have given you, then disaster is upon you. Others in this world still do appreciate larger families and are zealous for their faith. And even if they (like the Assyrians of old) are not Christian, I will use them to humble and punish you. They will grow and increase while you decrease. Perhaps when you are punished by a people who do not respect your religious liberty, you will repent and begin to love life.”

In the European Union today, the birth rate is about 1.6 children per woman. Globally, Muslim women average 2.9 children. Do the math and realize that Europe as we have known it is coming to an end. In the United States the birth rate is 1.8 children per woman. In general, the Catholic world in the West is in decline, both in terms of our birth rates and our zeal for the faith. We are surely being diminished by our culture of death and decadent sloth.

Is it the sign of Jonah upon us today in the decadent West? You decide.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: What is the Sign of Jonah?

A Dramatic Moment in Biblical History that Almost Everyone Missed

Presentation in the Temple – L. Carracci (1605)

Continuing our reflection on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, let’s ponder a moment that was glorious in its significance and fulfilment, yet was missed by nearly everyone.

Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the Temple to present Him there. As they ascended the glorious steps to the Temple Mount, they were fulfilling a requirement of the Law.

You are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons’’ (Ex 13:12-15).

Although they were fulfilling an obligation, something much more dramatic was taking place. To understand what, we must look back to 587 B.C.

The Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem and the unthinkable had happened: the Holy City of Jerusalem had been destroyed and along with it the Temple of God. Inside the Temple had been housed the precious Ark of the Covenant.

Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a gold-covered box of acacia wood, inside which were the two tablets on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and a vial of the manna. Even more important, in this ark dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel; here He was present as nowhere else. This is certainly our belief today regarding the tabernacle in Catholic churches: though present everywhere, God has a true, substantial, and real presence in the Eucharist reserved there.

The Lost Ark – Incredibly, the Ark of the Covenant was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Some thought that Jeremiah had hidden it in the mountains. Others, that the priests had hastily secreted it in the maze of caves beneath the Temple Mount. Still others argued that it was taken to Ethiopia. But the Ark was gone.

Empty Temple – When the Temple was rebuilt some eighty years later, the Holy of Holies was restored, but the Ark was still missing. The high priest still performed the yearly ritual and entered the Holy of Holies, but the room was empty. Some argued that there was a spiritual presence in the Temple, but in fact the Ark and the certain presence of God were missing after 587 B.C. Something—someone—was missing. The very Holy of Holies was an empty room. The Ark and the presence of God it carried were missing. The Ark, the mercy seat, was gone. Would it ever be found? Would it ever be returned to the Temple? Would the Holy Presence of God ever find its way to the Temple again?

The ascent to Jerusalem is a steep one. Mountains surround Jerusalem and it sits at a higher altitude than the area around it. As the ancient Jews made the climb, they sang the psalms of ascent (120-134). As Joseph and Mary ascended, they too sang the words that instilled joy:

I Lift up mine eye to the mountains from whence cometh my help (Ps 121). I rejoiced when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (Ps 122). To you O Lord I have lifted my eyes (Ps 123). Like Mount Zion are those who trust in the Lord (Ps 125). Out of the depths I call unto you O Lord (Ps 130). Let us enter God’s dwelling, let us worship at the Lord’s footstool. Arise O Lord and enter your dwelling place, You and the Ark of your strength (132). Come and bless the Lord. You who stand in the House of the Lord Lift your hands to the Sanctuary and bless the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion (134).

Singing these songs, Mary carried Jesus. The climb was even more difficult when carrying a newborn, but the burden was sweet. Then came the final ascent up the stairs to the Temple Mount. They probably entered on the southern side through the Huldah gates. They went up the steep stairs, through the tunnel in the walls, and emerged on the bright Temple platform.

God had returned to His Temple. He and the Ark who carried Him were now found: Mary, the Ark, carrying Jesus in her arms. Jesus, very God Himself, true God from true God. Yes, God and the Ark had been found; God was once again present among His people on the Temple Mount. Scripture says,

And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? (Mal 3:1-2)

What a dramatic moment, yet remarkably understated by God! If I had directed the moment I would have called for blaring trumpets, claps of thunder, and a multitude of angels. Everyone would have fallen to his knees in recognition of the great fulfillment and the great return of God to His Temple.

Despite the significance of this moment, only an elderly man and woman (Simeon and Anna) recognized it. They alone understood that they were in the presence of greatness and marveled in it.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophetess, Anna … Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2).

Yes, this was the moment that had been anticipated for centuries. The Ark of God (Mary) had been found and God (Jesus) had returned to His temple, but only Simeon and Anna noticed, understood, and celebrated.

What about us? At every Mass, Jesus, God Himself, is present. Do you notice? Do you really see Him or do you see only the priest and the human elements of the Mass? Are you Simeon? Anna? Mary? Joseph? Or are you like the many on the Temple Mount who missed the dramatic moment of God with us?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: A Dramatic Moment in Biblical History that Almost Everyone Missed

Of the Glory and Means of our Salvation in Christ Jesus

The Crucifixion – Giotto (1304-06)

As we continue to read the Letter to the Hebrews in daily Mass, we are reminded that although the Temple liturgies were glorious and elaborate, they merely pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

Let’s consider three things regarding the saving work of Christ:

IT IS SURPASSING. At Tuesday’s daily Mass we read this passage:

The Law is only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. It can never, by the same sacrifices offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would not the offerings have ceased? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all and would no longer have felt the guilt of their sins. Instead, those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins (Hebrews, 10:1-4).

All the shed blood of lambs could not save. Those offerings only pointed to the true Lamb of God and our Passover, Jesus Christ. Even the extravagant offering of a bull could never pay our debt of sin; only Jesus could redeem us, paying the price of our salvation. All those ancient sacrifices could only remind us that by our sins we had a debt we could not pay; they could only serve to symbolize our repentance.

The Temple, though glorious—one of the wonders of the ancient world—was not Heaven itself, but a poor copy. Monday’s reading said,

For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice (Heb 9:24-28).

Christ does not operate on some movie set or some earthly copy of Heaven. No, he enters the real temple, the Holy of Holies in Heaven, a place not made with human hands but eternal.

Unlike the high priest, who must repeat the offering again and again, Jesus does this once and for all. Thus, the Mass is not a re-sacrificing of Christ but a making present of His perfect, once-for-all sacrifice. Calvary and its fruits are made present and applied to us in every Mass.

IT IS SUBMITTED. What was the sacrifice that Christ offered? It was surely His suffering and blood, but it was more than that and deeper as well. We also read this passage at Tuesday’s Mass:

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sin offerings You took no delight. Then I said, ‘Here I am, it is written about Me in the scroll: I have come to do Your will, O God’” (Heb 10:7-9).

Thus, it is also by Christ’s submission to the Father’s will, by His obedience, that we are saved. His suffering and the shedding of His blood are expressions of that obedience. His suffering and obedience are so together as to be one, and yet we can distinguish them. Had Christ suffered without having obediently willed it, we would not be saved. It was thus necessary for Him to take a human nature—and thereby a human will—so that he could obey His Father. We are saved by the human decision of a divine person. Christ’s obedience to the will of the Father undoes Adam’s disobedience, and that obedience is expressed in His sufferings.

Tuesday’s reading from Hebrews concludes as follows:

By thiswill, we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

IT IS SINGULAR. Christ Himself is singularly and personally the sacrifice that saves us. In the older, imperfect Temple rituals, the priest sacrificed something distinct from himself (a lamb, a goat, a bull, or some turtle doves), but Christ the perfect priest sacrifices His very self! As we read in the text just above,

… but a body You prepared for me. … Then I said, ‘Here I am, it is written about Me in the scroll: I have come to do Your will, O God.’

On coming into the world, Christ did not sacrifice something else or someone else (none of which could save). No, He sacrificed His very self, who alone can save us!

Consider well, then, Christ’s surpassing priesthood, His submitted obedience and His singular sacrifice. Be grateful for what He endured out of love for us and for His Father. His is the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice to the Father.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Of the Glory and Means of our Salvation in Christ Jesus

Many Titles of Christ from Scripture

JesusThere are many, many different titles of Christ in both the New and Old Testaments. If one studies them carefully, they can provide a “mini-catechesis” of the Lord Jesus.

Presented below are more than 150 different titles of Christ. For each title, I have included a link to the Scripture from which it was drawn. The list was compiled from various sources, but most come from The Catholic Source Book, which was compiled and edited by Fr. Peter Klein. In addition, some years ago my readers helped me to expand the list to its current state.

I have placed the list in PDF format here, in case you’d like to save it for future reference.

Titles of Jesus Christ in Scripture:

Advocate – 1 John 2:1

Alpha and Omega – Revelation 1:8; 22:13

The Almighty – Revelation 1:8

Amen – Revelation 3:14

Ancient of Days – Daniel 7:22

Apostle and High Priest of our Confession – Hebrews 3:1

Arm of the Lord –Isaiah 53:1

Author and Finisher of our Faith – Hebrews 12:2

Beloved – Matthew 12:18

Beloved Son – Colossians 1:13

Bread of God – John 6:33; 50

Bread of Life – John 6:35

Living Bread – John 6:51

Bridegroom – John 3:29

Bright Morning Star – Revelation 22:16

Brother – Matthew 12:50

Captain of Our Salvation – Hebrews 2:10

Carpenter – Mark 6:3

Carpenter’s Son – Matthew 13:55

Chief Shepherd – 1 Peter 5:4

Chosen One – Luke 23:35

Christ – Matthew 16:20

Christ Jesus – 1 Timothy 1:15; Colossians 1:1

Christ of God – Luke 9:20

Christ the Lord – Luke 2:11

Christ Who Is Above All – Romans 9:5

Consolation of Israel – Luke 2:25

Chief Cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6

Dayspring – Luke 1:78

Deliverer – Romans 11:26

Deliverer from the Wrath to Come – 1 Thessalonians 1:10

The Desire of All Nations – Haggai 2:7

Eldest of Many Brothers – Romans 8:29

Emmanuel – Matthew 1:23

Faithful and True Witness – Revelation 1:5; 3:14

Father Forever – Isaiah 9:6

First and Last – Revelation 1:17; 2:8

Firstborn Among Many Brothers – Romans 8:29

Firstborn from the Dead – Revelation 1:5

Firstborn of All Creation – Colossians 1:15

First Fruits – 1 Corinthians 15:20

Friend of Tax Collectors and Sinners – Matthew 11:19

Gate of the Sheepfold – John 10:7

Glory – Luke 2:32

Good Shepherd – John 10:11; 14

Grain of Wheat – John 12:24

Great Shepherd of the Sheep – Hebrews 13:20

Head – Ephesians 4:15

Head of the Church – Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22

Hidden Manna – Revelation 2:17

High Priest – Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 7:26

He Who Holds of the Keys of David – Revelation 3:7

He Who Is Coming Amid the Clouds – Revelation 1:7

Heir of all things – Hebrews 1:2

Holy One – Acts 2:27

Holy One of God – Mark 1:24

Holy Servant – Acts 4:27

Hope – 1 Timothy 1:1

Horn of Salvation – Luke 1:69

I Am – John 8:58

Image of the Invisible God – 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15

Indescribable Gift – 2 Corinthians 9:15

Intercessor – Hebrews 7:25

Jesus – Matthew 1:21

Jesus the Nazarene – John 18:5

Judge of the World – 2 Timothy 4:1; Acts 10:42

Just One – Acts 7:52

Just Judge – 2 Timothy 4:8

King – Matthew 21:5

King of Israel – John 1:49

King of Kings – Revelation 17:14; 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15

King of Nations – Revelation 15:3

King of the Jews – Matthew 2:2

Lamb of God – John 1:29

Last Adam – 1 Corinthians 15:45

Leader – Matthew 2:6; Hebrews 2:10

Leader and Perfecter of Faith – Hebrews 12:2

Leader and Savior – Acts 5:31

Life – John 14:6; Colossians 3:4

Light – John 1:9; John 12:35

Light of All – Luke 2:32; John 1:4

Light of the World – John 8:12

Light to the Gentiles – Is 49:6, Lk 2:32

Lion of the Tribe of Judah – Revelation 5:5

Living Bread Come Down From Heaven – John 6:41

Logos – John 1:1

Lord – Luke 1:25

One Lord – Ephesians 4:5

My Lord My God – John 20:28

Lord Both of the Dead and the Living – Romans 14:9

Lord God Almighty – Revelation 15:3

Lord Jesus – Acts 7:59

Jesus Is Lord – 1 Corinthians 12:3

Lord Jesus Christ – Acts 15:11

Lord of All – Acts 10:36

Lord of Glory – 1 Corinthians 2:8

Lord of Lords – 1 Timothy 6:15

Lord of Peace – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

The Man – John 19:5

Man of Sorrows –Isaiah 53:3

Master – Luke 5:5

Mediator – 1 Timothy 2:5

Messenger of the Covenant – Malachi 3:1

Messiah – John 1:41; 4:25

Mighty God – Isaiah 9:6

Morning Star – 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28; Revelation 22:16

Nazarene – Matthew 2:23

Passover – 1 Corinthians 5:7

Power and Wisdom of God – 1 Corinthians 1:24

Power for Salvation – Luke 1:69

Priest Forever – Hebrews 5:6

Prince of Life – Acts 3:15

Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Prophet – John 4:19; John 9:17

Rabboni – John 20:16

Ransom – 1 Timothy 2:6

Redeemer – Isaiah 59:20

Rescuer from This Present Evil Age – Galatians 1:4

Radiance of God’s Glory – Hebrews 1:3

Resurrection and Life – John 11:25

Righteous One – Is 53:11

Rising Sun – Luke 1:78

Root of David – Revelation 5:5

Root of David’s Line – Revelation 22:16

Root of Jesse – Isaiah 11:10

Ruler – Matthew 2:6

Ruler of the Kings of the Earth – Revelation 1:5

Ruler and Savior – Acts 5:31

Savior – 2 Peter 2:20; 3:18

Savior of the World – 1 John 4:14; John 4:42

Second Adam – Romans 5:14

Servant of the Jews – Romans 15:8

The Servant of the Lord – Isaiah 52:13

Shepherd and Guardian of Our Souls – 1 Peter 2:25

Slave – Philippians 2:7

Son – Galatians 4:4

Beloved Son – Colossians 1:13

Firstborn Son – Luke 2:7

Son of Abraham – Matthew 1:1

Son of David – Matthew 1:1

Son of God – Luke 1:35

Son of Joseph – John 1:45

Son of Man – John 5:27

Son of Mary – Mark 6:3

Son of the Blessed One – Mark 14:61

Son of the Father – 2 John 1:3

Son of the Living God – Matthew 16:16

Son of the Most High – Luke 1:32

Son of the Most High God – Mark 5:7

Only Son of the Father – John 1:14

Source of God’s Creation – Revelation 3:14

Spiritual Rock – 1 Corinthians 10:4

Living Stone – 1 Peter 2:4

Stone Rejected by the Builders – Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:8

Stumbling Stone – 1 Peter 2:8

Suffering Servant, Servant of Yahweh – Is 42:1, 49:3

Sun of Righteousness – Malachi 4:2

Teacher – Matthew 8:19; Matthew 23:10

Testator of the New Covenant – Hebrews 9:16

The Glory of the Lord – Isaiah 40:5

The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys – Song of Songs 2:1

The Lord our Righteousness – Jeremiah 23:6

True God – 1 John 5:20

True Vine – John 15:1

The Way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14:6

The One Who Is, Was, and Who Is to Come – Revelation 3:7

Wisdom of God – 1 Corinthians 1:24

Wonderful Counselor – Isaiah 9:6

Word – John 1:1; 14

Word of God – Revelation 19:13

Word of Life – 1 John 1:1

I would also ask for your help. There may be other titles of Christ that are not on the list. I would be grateful if you would use the comments section to add any titles you notice are missing. If you know the scriptural reference, it would be helpful if you could include it, but if not I will try to locate it.

When considering an addition please consider whether it is truly a title or just a description. For example, “kind” is an adjective, and certainly describes Jesus, but it is not a title per se. Nouns show usually show better promise as titles of Christ, but even nouns do not always amount to a title. For example, “walker” is a noun, and surely Christ did a lot of walking, but again it is not a title per se.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Many Titles of Christ from Scripture

Christ’s Victory Is Total, but Often in Surprising Ways

The Disputation – Raphael (1511)

The first reading from Mass for Tuesday of the First Week of the Year is from the Letter to the Hebrews. It sets forth the total victory of Christ and that the Father has subjected all things to Christ. Yet the text also shows how the outworking of this subjugation is paradoxical.

Note first the declaration of all things being subject to Jesus Christ:

In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8b).

All thingsis a pretty substantial category. Yes, everything is subject to Him: the wicked and powerful men of this earth as well as demons. This, of course, brings to mind a question that is addressed in the very next sentence:

Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” … (Hebrews 2:8c)

The text notes we do not currently see all things subjected to Christ; this implies that our inability to see does not mean that all things are not subject to Him! The fact that a blind man cannot see the sun does not mean that the sun is not there. The defect is not in the sun or in reality; it is in the man. So too for us, who do not see that all things are subject to Christ.

Scripture is a prophetic declaration of reality. In effect, it says to us, “This is what is really going on regardless of what you think. You should conform your thinking to this prophetic declaration of reality from God Himself.”

So, then, although we might not see that all things are subject to Christ, we are challenged to permit God to help us perceive this. This is accomplished by instruction in His word, so that we see and interpret things rightly and in conformity with the prophetic declaration of reality contained in Scripture.

The next verses show forth the paradox of Christ’s triumph:

… but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death …. For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).

Here, simply put, is the paradox of the cross. It is by the cross that Christ conquers both Satan and our pride. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; and hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. Continuing in that vein, I would add that pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that. Christ does not conquer by having more pride than Satan or than us. He does not conquer by becoming an even worse version of His enemy. No, He conquers through humility, obedience, and suffering. Because of this, He has been exalted by the Father and given a name above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, whether in Heaven, on earth, or under the earth (See Phil 2:10). The text from Hebrews says that because Christ suffered, we now see Him crowned with glory and honor.

This is the paradox for us as well. As Jesus was crowned because of His humble suffering, we too will have the victory because of our suffering.

We tend to think that “all things being subject to” Christ means that all suffering and wickedness are eradicated—not so. As Christ attained to the highest places in this way of the cross, so will we who follow Him. Suffering is not a sign of defeat but the very path to victory! The devil loses at his own game.

Scripture says elsewhere,

For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. (2 Cor 4:17).

All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to his purposes (Rom 8:28).

The more suffering Satan inflicts, the more ground he loses.

This, then, is how all things are subject to Christ: even sufferings that seem antithetical to His sovereignty are part of His plan to give us greater glory. Even when Satan does his worst to the believer he loses. The more he attacks, the greater our glory in Christ if we persevere. It all backfires for Satan. He loses and God is always sovereign. God can make a way out of no way, write straight with crooked lines, and do anything but fail.

All things, even our sufferings, are subject to Christ.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Christ’s Victory Is Total, but Often in Surprising Ways

The Message of the Letter to the Hebrews

Christ at the Last Supper – Duccio (1311)

This week in daily Mass, we are reading from The Letter to the Hebrews, one of the most underappreciated books of the New Testament. It has long been one of my favorites from which to teach; in it we are summoned to faith in Jesus, our Savior and Great High Priest.

The opening lines in the Latin Vulgate are exquisite, particularly to those who can read and recite Latin well.

Multifáriam, multísque modis, olim Deus lóquens pátribus in prophétis. Novíssime, diébus istis locútus est nobis in Fílio.
(In many and varied ways, God once spoke to our fathers through the prophets. In these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.)

Though many doubt that St. Paul wrote Hebrews, I believe he did; it is here that we best see his priestly identity as an apostle, his deep knowledge of the Temple rituals and how they pointed to Christ and are perfected by Him.

The Letter to the Hebrews does not begin with the usual epistolary greetings and salutations, though it does end with them. Throughout, the text “sounds” more like a sermon. The audience of the letter is clearly Jewish Christians; the writer is exhorting them not to fall back on Jewish rituals, which cannot save, but rather to cling ever more closely to Christ, who alone is savior and Lord.

Hebrews was surely written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. (References to the Temple speak of sacrifices as still going on there.) It occurs to me that the context of Hebrews is that of the years from 65-70 A.D., a time during which wars and rumors of wars were growing. Indeed, the tragic Jewish war began in 66 A.D. The Romans had had more than enough of Jewish Messianism and uprisings. It was a horrible, bloody war that cost the lives of more than one million Jews. During this period, Jewish nationalism was on the rise, likely even among those who had become Christians.

Politics has a strong pull, and it is in this context that the author addresses his audience. In effect, his position is that they should not return to what cannot save merely out of some sense of loyalty to a doomed nation. Jesus had prophesied the tragic destruction of Jerusalem in the Mount Olivet discourse recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21). With the war clouds gathering, this was the time to cling to Him ever more!

What follows is a quick summary of the exhortation in the Letter to the Hebrews. (In most cases I have not cited chapter and verse below because I pulled from many parts at once.)

Jesus is Lord: Particularly in the first three chapters of Hebrews, the author reminds his audience of the glory of Christ.

Jesus Christ is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. Having provided purification for sins, He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Christ is far superior to the angels, as the name He has inherited is excellent beyond theirs. To which of the angels did God ever say, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father,” or “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son”? When God brings His firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”

Yes, God has subjected all things to Him, leaving nothing outside of His control. Christ is crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone, bringing many sons to glory. By His death Christ destroyed him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and freed those were held in slavery by the fear of death.

Jesus is the True High Priest: The author of the Letter to the Hebrews then goes on to describe how Jesus has a true priesthood, greater than that of the priests in the Temple.

Jesus has been counted worthy of greater glory than Moses. He is the great high priest who has passed through the heavens, entering the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Indeed, God the Father says of Jesus His Son, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood, why would there have been a need for another priest to appear, one in the order of Melchizedek and not in the order of Aaron?

Jesus is the Perfection that was Promised: The Letter to the Hebrews is essentially an exhortation not to leave the perfect to go back to the imperfect. The Temple and what takes place there is now no more than a movie set filled with actors playing their roles. Jesus is the true and perfect High Priest, who enters into the true and actual Holy of Holies. The Temple rituals merely point to what Jesus actually does:

Jesus is the true High Priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in Heaven and who ministers in the sanctuary and true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not man. He entered the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not of this creation).

Because every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, it was necessary for this One also to have something to offer. He did not enter by the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption. If the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that their bodies are clean, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, purify our consciences from works of death so that we may serve the living God?

Jesus has established the New Covenant in His Blood: The author exhorts his audience not to return to the Old Covenant from the New Covenant. To this he adds this warning:

By speaking of a new covenant, He has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear (Heb 8:13).

Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled on the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant that sanctified Him, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

Do not throw away your confidence; it holds a great reward. You need to persevere, so that after you have done God’s will, you will receive what He has promised.

What is the meaning of this letter for us who read it so long after the Jewish war of 70 A.D? It is simply this:

We are easily mesmerized by politics and cultural movements, exhibiting more loyalty to them that to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Distracted by modern ideas and urgencies, we forsake the message of Christ. We’ll salute Christ, but only if His message agrees with our views and priorities. The Letter to the Hebrews tell us not to give our heart to what cannot save, not to return to the obsessions of a worldly kingdom of darkness now that we have been summoned to the Kingdom of Light.

Jesus deserves your highest loyalty; He alone can save you. Put not your trust in princes and in mortal men in whom there is not help (Psalm 146:3-4). If we forsake Christ for something lesser, do we not treat lightly His blood, which sanctified us, and insult the spirit of grace? Are you worthy of Jesus Christ or are you just worthy of a political party or some popular ideologies of this passing world?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Message of the Letter to the Hebrews

Christmas Wrap-up: Some Less-Obvious Questions about the Incarnation

Flight to Egypt – Francesco Mancini

Welcome to Epiphany-tide. In this week we transition from Christmas to the public ministry of Christ, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord scheduled for this coming Sunday. Before we leave Christmas altogether, we do well to ponder certain less-obvious questions about the Lord’s incarnation and birth. These questions are taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. St. Thomas’s answers are presented in italics, while my inferior commentary appears in plain red text.

Whether Christ was born at a fitting time? (Summa Theologica III, q. 35, art. 8)

There is this difference between Christ and other men, that, whereas they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ, as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just as He chose a mother and a birthplace. And since “what is of God is well ordered” and becomingly arranged, it follows that Christ was born at a most fitting time.

This argument is based on the authority and sovereignty of God. Simply put, God was free to choose a time; whatever He does is properly ordered and best, therefore the time He chose was most fitting.

Moreover, at that time, when the whole world lived under one ruler, peace abounded on the earth. Therefore, it was a fitting time for the birth of Christ, for “He is our peace, who hath made both one,” as it is written (Ephesians 2:14). Wherefore Jerome says on Isaiah 2:4: “If we search the page of ancient history, we shall find that throughout the whole world there was discord until the twenty-eighth year of Augustus Caesar: but when our Lord was born, all war ceased”; according to Isaiah 2:4: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.”

St. Thomas’s claim that the world was at peace at that time is rather sweeping and bold. Does he mean that there was peace everywhere, even within households? We need not interpret it in such absolute terms. Instead, the claim can be understood more generally to mean that there were no known military campaigns underway nor were any necessary at that time. During the roughly 200-year Pax Romana (27 B.C. – 180 A.D.) it is not that there were no threats to peace and no civil disturbances anywhere in the Roman Empire.

Again, it was fitting that Christ should be born while the world was governed by one ruler, because “He came to gather His own [Vulgate: ‘the children of God’] together in one” (John 11:52), that there might be “one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

This is another surprising and sweeping claim, at least to modern ears. We tend to think of “one shepherd” as a reference to a religious leader, e.g., the Pope. Remember, though, that today’s sharp distinction between secular and sacred leaders was largely unknown in the Middle Ages and earlier; back then, faith and governance were quite intertwined. Further, in saying that “the world” was governed by one ruler, St. Thomas has in mind the Roman Empire. He does not use “world” in a literal and absolute sense, but rather refers to a large section of the known world.

Whether Christ should have been born in Bethlehem? (Summa Theologica III, q. 35, art. 7)

It is written (Micah 5:2): “And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata … out of thee shall He come forth unto Me, that is to be the ruler in Israel.”

Christ willed to be born in Bethlehem for two reasons. First, because “He was made … of the seed of David according to the flesh,” as it is written (Romans 1:3); to whom also was a special promise made concerning Christ; according to 2 Samuel 23:1: “The man to whom it was appointed concerning the Christ of the God of Jacob … said.” Therefore, He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace the promise made to David might be shown to be fulfilled. The Evangelist points this out by saying: “Because He was of the house and of the family of David.” Secondly, because, as Gregory says (Hom. viii in Evang.): “Bethlehem is interpreted ‘the house of bread.’ It is Christ Himself who said, ‘I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.’”

Whether Christ’s birth should have been made known to all? (Summa Theologica III, q. 36, art. 1)

Our modern egalitarian notions demand that the answer here be yes, but St. Thomas says no. He does so for three reasons, each of which amounts to the argument that telling everyone about the birth of Christ and who exactly He was would have short-circuited or prematurely ended some important events and truths that save us.

It was unfitting that Christ’s birth should be made known to all men without distinction. First, because this would have been a hindrance to the redemption of man, which was accomplished by means of the Cross; for, as it is written (1 Corinthians 2:8): “If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.”

This is a daring claim: St. Thomas says that some ignorance was necessary for Christ’s crucifixion (by which we are saved) to occur.

Secondly, because this would have lessened the merit of faith, which He came to offer men as the way to righteousness. according to Romans 3:22: “The justice of God by faith of Jesus Christ.” For if, when Christ was born, His birth had been made known to all by evident signs, the very nature of faith would have been destroyed, since it is “the evidence of things that appear not,” as stated, Hebrews 11:1.

Saving faith would have been jettisoned because faith is not needed for things that are evident.

Thirdly, because thus the reality of His human nature would have come into doubt. Whence Augustine says (Ep. ad Volusianum cxxxvii): “If He had not passed through the different stages of age from babyhood to youth, had neither eaten nor slept, would He not have strengthened an erroneous opinion, and made it impossible for us to believe that He had become true man? And while He is doing all things wondrously, would He have taken away that which He accomplished in mercy?”

If the whole world had known from the start that Jesus was Messiah and Lord, He could never have lived an ordinary life in Nazareth, laboring and living among us. But these ordinary years were important indicators of His coming and living as true man.

Whether those to whom Christ’s birth was made known were suitably chosen? (Summa Theologica III, q. 36, art. 3)

Salvation, which was to be accomplished by Christ, concerns all sorts and conditions of men: because, as it is written (Colossians 3:11), in Christ “there is neither male nor female, [Note that the preceding portion of the citation is in reality from Galatians 3:28] neither Gentile nor Jew … bond nor free,” and so forth. And in order that this might be foreshadowed in Christ’s birth, He was made known to men of all conditions. Because, as Augustine says in a sermon on the Epiphany (32 de Temp.), “the shepherds were Israelites, the Magi were Gentiles. The former were nigh to Him, the latter far from Him. Both hastened to Him together as to the cornerstone.” There was also another point of contrast: for the Magi were wise and powerful; the shepherds simple and lowly. He was also made known to the righteous as Simeon and Anna; and to sinners, as the Magi. He was made known both to men, and to women—namely, to Anna—so as to show no condition of men to be excluded from Christ’s redemption.

In effect, St. Thomas teaches here of the catholicity (universality) of the Church.

Whether Christ’s birth should have been manifested by means of the angels and the star? (Summa Theologica III, q. 36, art. 5)

Yes, this was appropriate, because when teaching we begin by moving from what is known to what is unknown. Different audiences (Jews and Gentiles) were called, so different approaches made sense, as each group was differently endowed with knowledge.

As knowledge is imparted through a syllogism from something which we know better, so knowledge given by signs must be conveyed through things which are familiar to those to whom the knowledge is imparted. Now, it is clear that the righteous have, through the spirit of prophecy, a certain familiarity with the interior instinct of the Holy Ghost, and are wont to be taught thereby, without the guidance of sensible signs. Whereas others, occupied with material things, are led through the domain of the senses to that of the intellect. The Jews, however, were accustomed to receive Divine answers through the angels ….

And the Gentiles, especially the astrologers, were wont to observe the course of the stars. And therefore Christ’s birth was made known to the righteous, viz. Simeon and Anna, by the interior instinct of the Holy Ghost, according to Luke 2:26: “He had received an answer from the Holy Ghost that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” But to the shepherds and Magi, as being occupied with material things, Christ’s birth was made known by means of visible apparitions. And since this birth was not only earthly, but also, in a way, heavenly, to both (shepherds and Magi) it is revealed through heavenly signs: for, as Augustine says in a sermon on the Epiphany (cciv): “The angels inhabit, and the stars adorn, the heavens: by both, therefore, do the ‘heavens show forth the glory of God.”

Moreover, it was not without reason that Christ’s birth was made known, by means of angels, to the shepherds, who, being Jews, were accustomed to frequent apparitions of the angels: whereas it was revealed by means of a star to the Magi, who were wont to consider the heavenly bodies. Because, as Chrysostom says (Hom. vi in Matth.): “Our Lord deigned to call them through things to which they were accustomed.”

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Christmas Wrap-up: Some Less-Obvious Questions about the Incarnation

The Rich Tapestry Faith On New Years Day

The feast day of January 1st is a very complex tapestry, both culturally and liturgically. Perhaps we can use the second reading by St. Paul to the Galatians as a way to weave through some of the many details. We can look at it in three parts.

I. The chronology of our celebration– The text from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians says, When the fullness of time had come …

Most people are going about today saying, “Happy New Year!” And rightfully so, for it is the beginning of a new year; but most people think of New Year’s Day in almost wholly secular terms. Sadly, it is best known as an occasion for loud parties and excessive drinking.

It is a mistake to view New Year’s Day simply as a secular holiday. In speaking of “the fullness of time,” St. Paul reminds us that all time and all ages belong to God.

It is not simply 2019; it is 2019 Anno Domini (A.D.). Even the most unbelieving of people in the Western world denote their place in time in relation to Jesus Christ. It is 2019 years since the birth of Christ. Every time we write the date on a check or at the top of a letter, every time we see it at the top of the newspaper or on our computer screen, that number, 2019, points back to Christ. He is the Lord of history. Jesus sets the date; He is the clock by which we measure. All time belongs to Him.

Jesus says in the book of Revelation, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, The beginning and the end. He who is, and who was, and who is to come (Rev 22:13).

If it is true that 2019 references the birth of Christ, then why is Christmas Day not also New Year’s Day? The fact that it is not actually makes a lot of sense if we understand liturgical and spiritual sensibilities.

In the Church and stretching back into ancient Jewish times, it was customary to celebrate the high feasts of faith over the period of a week. In Christian tradition this came to be known as the “octave.” Although we think of a week as comprising seven days, consider that we celebrated Christmas this past Tuesday and now this week we celebrate New Year’s Day on Tuesday; Tuesday to Tuesday, inclusive, is eight days.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019 is the eighth day of Christmas. In the Christian tradition, the octave is considered as one long “day” that lasts for eight days. Therefore, Tuesday, January 1, 2019 completes Christmas day; it is fulfilled. Or, as St. Paul says, the “fullness of time” in terms of Christmas day has come. At the end of this eight-day Christmas day, our calendar flips from 2017 to 2019 A.D.

The rest of the secular world has largely moved on already, barely thinking of Christmas anymore. As I walk in my neighborhood, I see Christmas trees already set out at the curb waiting to be picked up by the recycling trucks. Yes, for many in our hurried world, Christmas is over. We in the Church, however, continue to celebrate the great Christmas feast and cycle. Having completed the octave, we move on to Epiphany week.

This New Year’s Day we contemplate the “fullness of time.” The passage of another year reminds us of the magnificent truth that to God all time—past, present, and future—is equally present. He holds all things together in Himself. He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. Whenever He acts, He acts in our time, out of the fullness of time. This is a very deep mystery and we should ponder in silence the mystery that for God, all things are. He is not waiting for things to happen. For Him, everything is accomplished.

II. The content of our celebration – St. Paul goes on to say, God sent forth his son born of a woman. This statement again reminds that we are still in the Christmas cycle.

While it is New Year’s Day, there is also a complex tapestry of religious meanings to this day as well. It is still Christmas day, the eighth day of the one long day that we call Christmas.

Historically, this is also the day of Christ’s circumcision. For a long period in Church history, today was the feast of “The Circumcision of the Lord.” As I have written previously, I regret the loss of this feast, at least in terms of its title.

Today is the day when Joseph and Mary brought Christ to be circumcised. In this, Jesus as man and as God reverences the covenant He has made with His people. It is a beautiful truth that God seeks relationship with His people. In this covenantal act of the circumcision is the moving truth that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Heb 2:11).

There is the first shedding of Jesus’ blood. It is also a sign of His love for us.

This feast day also celebrates the Most Holy Name of Jesus, for not only was a Jewish boy circumcised on the eighth day, but he was also given his name; all heard that name for the first time on that day.

The name Jesus means “God saves.” Indeed, this Most Holy Name of Jesus, when used in reverence, has saving power. We are baptized in His Holy Name along with that of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and all of our prayers conclude with His Holy Name. Scripture says this of His great and holy name:

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2: 9-11).

Yet another meaning of today’s feast day is shown in its current, formal title: “The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.” This replaced the title of “The Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord” in 1970. However, it is the most ancient title for this feast day. Again, you may read more on this topic in a previous blog post.

We note in the second reading that St. Paul says that God sent forth his Son, born of a woman. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father; He is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. Jesus is God, and because Mary gave birth to Him, she is the Mother of God because Jesus is not two different persons.

Mary did not just give birth to part of Jesus, she gave birth to Jesus. Thus, the title “Mother of God” speaks to us as much about Jesus as it does about Mary. She has that title because of the Church’s insistence that Jesus cannot be divided up into two different people. We cannot say that Mary gave birth to one Jesus but not to “the other one.” Although He has two natures, human and divine, there is only one Jesus.

Thus, on this feast of Christmas, on this eighth day of Christmas, we are reminded and solemnly taught that Jesus is both human and divine. In taking a human nature to Himself from His mother Mary, He remains one person. God has sent forth his son, born of woman.

III. The consolation of our celebration– St. Paul goes on to say, Born under the law to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son in our hearts crying out Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and, if a son, also an heir through God. Note three things about this passage:

Our Adoption– We have already noted that on the eighth day Jesus is circumcised and enters into the Covenant, into the Law. In the Incarnation, He joins the human family; in the Covenant, He joins our family of faith. He will fulfill the old Covenant and inaugurate the new one. By this New Covenant, by baptism into Him, we become members of His Body and are thereby adopted as sons.

We become sons in the Son. When God the Father looks at His Son, loving Him, He is also looking at us and loving us, for we are in Christ Jesus, members of His Body through baptism. God is now our Father, not in an allegorical sense, but in a very real sense. We are in Jesus and therefore God really is our Father.

Our Acclamation– St. Paul says that the proof of our sonship is the movement of the Holy Spirit in us that cries out Abba! In Aramaic and Hebrew, Abba is the family term for father. It is not baby talk, like “Dada.” However, just as most adults call their father “Dad” or some other endearment rather than the more formal “Father,” so Abba is used in a similar way. It would be quite a daring thing for us to call God “Dad” unless we were permitted to do so and instructed to do so by Christ.

St. Paul speaks of this word, Abba, as proof that we are sons. In so doing, he emphasizes that it is not merely the saying of the word that he refers to. Even a parrot can be taught to say the word. Rather, St. Paul is referring to what the word represents: an inner movement of the Holy Spirit wherein we experience a deep affection for God the Father. By our adoption, our baptism into Christ, by our reception of the Holy Spirit, we love the Father! We develop a deep affection for Him and dread offending Him. By this gift of the Spirit, God is our Father, whom we deeply love!

Our Advancement– Notice that St. Paul then speaks of how we have moved from being slaves to being sons, heirs. In Jesus, we are not just any son; we are the only Son of the Father. As Jesus has a kingdom from His Father, so do we as we too inherit it with Him. As sons in the Son, we are heirs with Jesus to the Kingdom!  Jesus speaks of His disciples as reigning with Him one day: And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me (Lk 22:29). In Jesus, all Heaven will be ours and we will reign with Him forever. This is not our doing, not our glory; it is Christ’s doing and His glory in which we share.

Thus we have a very rich tapestry on this New Year’s Day, this feast of the Octave of Christmas, this Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, this Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, this Feast of Mary, Mother of God. We are given this feast wherein the glory of Christ is held before us and we who are members of His Body are told of the gifts that we receive by His holy incarnation and His passion, death, and resurrection.

It’s not a bad way to start the new year: being reminded of God’s incredible love for us and of His rich blessings and promises.