Why Did Christ’s Glorified Body Still Have Wounds?

Several of the Resurrection accounts stress that Jesus showed the disciples His wounds. On one level we can understand that He was trying to make clear to them that the same Christ who was crucified stood before them; He was not a ghost or an apparition or simply someone who looked like Jesus.

When Christ rose, He took up His same, true body, but it now manifested a perfected glory. When we rise on the last day, the same will be true of our bodies. Why, then, were Christ’s wounds visible in His glorified body? Are not wounds and scars inconsistent with a glorified body?

St. Thomas Aquinas provides five reasons that Christ’s wounds are fitting in His glorified body. His reflections, from the Summa Theologiae III, Q. 54, Art. 4, are beautiful and poignant. St. Thomas’ words are presented below in bold, black italics, while my remarks appear in plain red text.

It was fitting for Christ’s soul at His Resurrection to resume the body with its scars. In the first place, for Christ’s own glory. For Bede says on Luke 24:40 that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxii): “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”

Christ’s wounds are a dignity not a deformity, a sign of love not of loss, an indication of obedience not of onerousness. Through His wounds the Lord can say, “Here is what the world did to me, yet I live. Here is the cost of your redemption and the lavishness of my love.”

Secondly, to confirm the hearts of the disciples as to “the faith in His Resurrection” (Bede, on Luke 24:40).

This is what theologians refer to as “continuity.” The wounds demonstrate that the body that died on the cross is the same one the disciples see standing before them. Jesus has not taken up or fashioned a new body or a similar one; He is truly risen. The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis, which literally means “to stand again.” The word “resurrection” means the same thing: re (again) + surrexit (he stands). None of this would be true if a different body were before them, no matter how similar. Thus, Christ’s wounds confirm the truth of the resurrection.

Thirdly, “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us” (Bede, on Luke 24:40).

Beautiful! The picture here is of the Son, Jesus, showing His wounds to His Father and saying, “See how I have loved them, Father. Have mercy on them.”

The Book of Hebrews says, Consequently, Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself (Heb 7:25-27).

Fourthly, “that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death” (Bede, on Luke 24:40).

To those who doubt the Lord’s love or His understanding of our trials, Christ’s wounds speak tenderly and clearly of His love and of the price He was willing to pay for us. His wounds are more eloquent testimony than any words could be. Is God merciful? Does God understand or care at all about our condition? Look to the wounds of Christ; dwell in them; take shelter in them.

Lastly, “that in the Judgment Day He may upbraid them with their just condemnation” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Hence, as Augustine says (De Symb. ii): “… So will [Christ] show His wounds to His enemies, so that He who is the Truth may convict them, saying: ‘Behold the man whom you crucified; see the wounds you inflicted; recognize the side you pierced, since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter.’”

Such powerful and moving word, in this case from St Augustine. There is also a refutation of the idea that God is simply harsh on Judgment Day. In effect, He will say, “I endured suffering from you out of love for you. When I was on the cross, the soldier pierced my side. My heart was literally opened for you and still you would not enter. What more could I have done than to allow your own sins to be your redemption? Still you refused.”

In spite of receiving lifelong graces and unmerited favors and blessings, in spite of God’s call echoing in their depths, many still refuse God’s offer. It is a tragedy that some hearts are so hardened. Christ’s wounds testify to the justice of God’s only (and final) recourse: allowing them to live apart from Him. Accepting the choice of their free will, God’s last act is simply to recognize their refusal and say, “you would not enter.”

Dwell in the wounds of Christ.

 

Many Titles of Christ from Scripture

In this time after Epiphany and before Lent we continue to ponder the fundamental question: Who is Jesus Christ? There 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

There may be other titles of Christ that are not on the list. You can 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.

 

Why Was Jesus Born When and Where He Was?

The Nativity, Lorenzo Monaco (1414)

In preparation for the coming of Christmas, we have been discussing some of St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings. In this last installment we’ll be looking at his commentary on the time and place of Jesus’ birth.

We live in a culture that tends toward a kind of temporal pride. We think that we have come of age, that we are smarter and wiser than our forebears. Scientific, technical, and medical knowledge are more highly developed to be sure, but there is more to life than what falls into those realms.

The religious version of temporal pride is expressed in this utterance: “If Jesus lived in our times, He would …” The sentence is then completed with any view we favor or consider to be “enlightened” and “modern.” Jesus did not choose to live in our time, however, and there may well be good reasons for that. As God, He could have chosen any age—and He did not choose ours.

St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, pondered the reasons for the time and place of Jesus’ birth in his Summa Theologica. In it he addressed some of the questions and objections raised during his era.

The time of the Lord’s birth – St. Thomas discussed this in his Summa Theologica, Part III, Question 35, Article 8. He used as his starting point St. Paul’s attestation to the fittingness of the time of Christ’s birth: When the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal 4:4). Here, the “fullness of time” is understood to mean “at the designated or determined time.” St. Thomas wrote,

Whereas [other men] 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.

St. Thomas responded as follows to objections raised in his day regarding the time of Christ’s birth:

Some objected that because Christ came to grant liberty to His people, it was not fitting that He came at a time when the Jewish people were subjected to Roman occupation and the Herodian dynasty (Herod was not a true Jew). St. Thomas answered that because Christ came in order to bring us back from a state of bondage to a state of liberty, it was fitting that He be born into bondage with us and then lead us out. We can grasp this logic in a wider sense when we consider that He assumed our mortal nature in order to give us an immortal nature; He died in order to restore us to life. St. Thomas, referencing Bede, wrote that Christ submitted Himself to bondage for the sake of our liberty. He also added that Christ wished to be born during the reign of a foreigner so that the prophecy of Jacob might be fulfilled (Genesis 49:10): The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent. The bondage was not to be ended before Christ’s coming, but after it and through it.

Others objected that the time of year, near the winter solstice, was not fitting for Christ’s birth. They argued that it was not fitting for the Light of the World to be born during the darkest time of the year. Thomas replied that Christ wished to be born at a time when the light of day begins to increase in length so as to show that He came to draw man back to the light, according to Luke 1:79: To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The place of Christ’s birth – St. Thomas discussed this in the Summa Theologica, Part III, Question 35, Article 7.

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); … 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.’”

St. Thomas responded to some objections to Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth.

Some argued that Christ should have been born in Jerusalem because it is written (Isaiah 2:3) that “The law shall come forth from Sion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and that because Christ is the very Word of God, made flesh, He should have come into the world at Jerusalem. St. Thomas answered that Christ, as the Son of David, fittingly echoed David’s priestly/kingly role. King David was born in Bethlehem and finished his ministry as priest/king in Jerusalem, so it was fitting that Christ as King be born in Bethlehem and, as true High Priest, die in Jerusalem.

Others argued that Bethlehem was too poor and unseemly a place for the Christ to be born. Thomas responded, [The Lord] put to silence the vain boasting of men who take pride in being born in great cities, where also they desire especially to receive honor. Christ, on the contrary, willed to be born in a mean city, and to suffer reproach in a great city. Thomas added, [And] that we might acknowledge the work of God in the transformation of the whole earth, He chose a poor mother and a birthplace poorer still. He cited Scripture: “But the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Still others argued that because Scripture (Matthew 2:23; Isaiah 11:1) said “He shall be called a Nazarene,” Christ should have been born in Nazareth. Thomas easily dispatched this objection by observing that one is not always born where one is raised. He also added (referencing Bede), He wished to be born at Bethlehem away from home…in order that He who found no room at the inn might prepare many mansions for us in His Father’s house.

With St. Thomas to guide and teach us, we have pondered over the past few days some aspects of the incarnation and birth of our Lord. May you who have read and I who have presented be enriched by the teachings of the Lord through the great St. Thomas Aquinas.

Below is a link to an organ prelude on the hymn “Bethlehem of Noblest Cities,” also known as “Earth Hath Many a Noble City.” It is accompanied by beautiful art related to Bethlehem. Here are the words to the hymn:

Earth hath many a noble city;
Bethlehem, thou dost all excel:
out of thee the Lord from heaven
came to rule his Israel.

Fairer than the sun at morning
was the star that told his birth,
to the world its God announcing
seen in fleshly form on earth.

Eastern sages at his cradle
make oblations rich and rare;
see them give, in deep devotion,
gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
incense doth their God disclose,
gold the King of kings proclaimeth,
myrrh his sepulcher foreshows.

Jesus, whom the Gentiles worshiped
at thy glad epiphany,
unto thee, with God the Father
and the Spirit, glory be.

By Breaking a Wooden Yoke, You Forge an Iron Yoke!

Monday of last week (18th Week of the year) there was a powerful passage from the Book of Jeremiah. It is practical, profound, and sweeping in its implications, and it comes to us from the Lord through the mouth of Jeremiah the Prophet:

By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! (Jeremiah 28:13)

Rather than looking at the historical meaning (i.e., that God was going to use Assyria to humble Israel), let’s consider what it means for us today.

What is the wooden yoke if it is not the cross? Indeed, the Lord says as much: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).

The Lord has a paradoxical answer for us who labor and are heavily burdened. He tells us to take the yoke and burden that He has for us. The yoke is a symbol for the cross, and like most yokes, it connects us with another—the Lord! To be sure, God does have a yoke for us. We do need purification and discipline. However, the yoke He has for us is “easy.” The Greek word used is χρηστός (chrestos), which also has the connotation of being well-fitting, serviceable, or adapted to its purpose. The Lord’s yoke for us is productive unto the end He has in mind: our healing and salvation.

Do not turn the yoke (cross) into something abstract or think of it only in terms of major things such as cancer. The cross also has real, practical, daily dimensions such as exercising self-control and moderation. The cross (yoke) includes resisting sin, forgiving, and living chastely and courageously despite difficulties or persecution. These crosses are common to all true Christians. There are also some specific crosses that each of us carries, ones that the Lord permits for our humility and purification. Perhaps it is a physical illness or infirmity; maybe it is a spiritual emotional struggle; perhaps it is the loss of a loved one, job, or home.

These things are the wooden yoke, the cross of the Lord, and He carries it with us for we are yoked with Him (praise God). Because these burdens are from Him, they are well-suited to us; they are just what we need to avoid even worse things, including Hell itself.

What if we break and cast aside the wooden yoke, as many do today by ridiculing the Christian moral vision and the wisdom of the cross given to us by Jesus?

By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! (Jeremiah 28:13)

How is this? Consider the toll that indulging in the moment can take: 

    • In rejecting the wooden yoke of moderation, chastity, and the limits of God’s moral law, we forge the iron yoke of addiction, obesity, financial trouble, sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, and all the heartache that follows. Pornography, lust, alcohol, and drugs enslave with an iron yoke.
    • In refusing the grace to forgive, we fuel violence and conflict. Many wars in the world today are fought over grievances that stretch back hundreds or even thousands of years.
    • Our greed fuels an insatiable desire for more, and we begin to live beyond our means or to live in such a way that bring us more stress than happiness.
    • Even the simple neglect of our daily duties causes work to pile up and seem overwhelming.
    • Our culture has become ever more severe as we abandon the wooden yoke of common moral standards and simple human decency. What we end up with is a culture that is more unforgiving and severe than ever. General moral standards give way to selective moral outrage resulting in: cancel culture, growing lists of grievances, and an easily offended victim-culture,  a bewildering list of words  are now forbidden and an outright criminalizing of views contrary to the sexual revolution. It is an iron yoke.  

All of these iron yokes, and more come upon us because we break the wooden yoke of the cross. To be sure, fulfilling our daily duties, living moderately, chastely, and soberly are all crosses because they involve some degree of self-denial, at least in the moment. However, the wooden yoke is a lot easier than the iron yoke that results if we cast aside the more manageable, and well-fitting yoke of the cross.

Pay attention, fellow Christian, Satan is a liar. He offers to lift the gentle yoke of the Lord. He expresses “outrage” that the Lord should require any suffering or discipline from us. He “takes our side” and utters a complaint on our behalf, but he is a liar and a fraud. Once we let him lift the wooden yoke he locks us in an iron yoke. Do not forsake the wooden yoke of the cross, for if you do, an iron yoke is sure to follow.

It is a simple pearl of wisdom, yet it is so often ignored: By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! (Jeremiah 28:13)

Four Proofs Advanced by Jesus to Show His Divinity

In the Gospel for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 5:31-47), Jesus sets forth a case for his divinity and presents evidence to his Jewish listeners of his divine status. He does not just come out of Galilee calling himself God. He demonstrates his power and calls other witnesses to testify.

Lets look at the case Jesus sets forth: 

I. The Testimony of John the BaptistBut there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.

John was a revered prophet. Even his enemies admitted his holiness and that he feared no man and sought to flatter no one. John spoke truthfully of Jesus even when it cost him his followers and his own fame. Scripture says,  They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him. John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven….The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease. The One who comes from above is above all. (Jn 3:26-32).

So John the Baptist, a revered and respected prophet testified to Jesus.

II. The Miracles He Wrought But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.

The scriptures record 37 miracles by Jesus (you can see the list here: 37 Miracles) which included the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes, walking on water, raising the dead, healing multitudes from countless illnesses, casting out fierce demons, and calming storms. Of course, the 37 recorded miracles (some which affected multitudes) were only some of the miracles he worked. As St. John notes There are many more things that Jesus did. If all of them were written down, I suppose that not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)

So, the miracles testify to his divinity.

III. The Testimony of the Father Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.

The Father testified at Jesus’ Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But Jesus is more likely speaking here of the interior graces the Father is sending to them so that they may believe. Jesus says elsewhere: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me. (Jn 6:44-45). This indicates an inner inspiration and assistance the Father is providing for them (and us) to believe in Jesus. Even if it is not the grace of faith per se, it is an antecedent grace calling them to faith.

Therefore they are not without supernatural help, and are without excuse for their stubbornness to be docile to the promptings of the Father.

IV. The Scriptures – You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.

Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Scriptures that pointed to his coming, his miracles, his divinity (e.g. Psalm 110), his virgin birth, that he would be born in Bethlehem, be called a Nazorean, feed the multitudes, heal the blind, weak, lame and deaf, raise the dead, and bear our sins, and that by his wounds we would be healed. The list goes on and on. Anyone wishing to look at the evidence cannot honestly deny that he is the promised Messiah and Lord. 

John 5 of course is not the only place where Jesus teaches on his divine nature and status as Messiah. Here are but some passages 

Jesus teaches that He is superior to the angels.

  • The angels are His servants and minister to Him (Mt 4:11 Mk 1:13; Lk 4:13).
  • The angels are His army (Mt 26:53).
  • The angels will accompany Him at His second coming and do His will (Mt 16:27; 25:31; Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26).

Jesus appropriates divine actions unto Himself and thus sets forth an assimilation unto the Lord God.

  • He declares that it was He who sent the prophets and doctors of the Law (Mt 23:34; Lk 11:49).
  • He gives the promise of His assistance and grace (Lk 21:15).
  • He forgives sins, which power belongs to God alone (e.g., Mt 9:2).
  • He, by His own authority, completes and changes some precepts of the Law (Mt 5:21ff).
  • He declares Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5; Jn 5:17).
  • Like the Heavenly Father, He makes a covenant with His followers (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20).

Jesus makes divine demands upon his followers.

  • He rebukes some for lack of faith in Him (Mt 8:10-12; 15:28).
  • He rewards faith in Him (Mt 8:13; 9:2; 22:29; 15:28; Mk 10:52; Lk 7:50; 17:19).
  • He demands faith in His own person (Jn 14:1; 5:24; 6:40,47; 8:51; 11:25ff).
  • He teaches that rejection of Him and His teachings will be the standard of final judgement (Lk 9:26; Mt 11:6).
  • Jesus demands supreme Love for Him, which surpasses all earthly loves (Mt 10:37,39; Lk 17:33).
  • He accepts religious veneration by allowing the falling to the feet, a veneration due to God alone (Mt 15:25; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 28:9,17).

Jesus teaches that His own death will be an adequate atonement for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole human race (Mt 20:28; 26:28).

Jesus appropriates to Himself the office of Judge of the World, which according to the Old Testament (e.g., Ps 49:1-6), God would exercise (e.g., Mt 16:27). His judgment extends to every idle word (Mt 12:36), and will be final and executed immediately (Mt 25:46).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus indicates that

  • He is eternal “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58);
  • He has full knowledge of the Father (Jn 7:29; 8:55; 10:14ff);
  • He has equal power and efficacy with the Father (Jn 5:17);
  • He can forgive sins (Jn 8:11);
  • He is Judge of the World (Jn 5:22,27);
  • He is rightly to be adored (Jn 5:23);
  • He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12);
  • He is the way, the truth, and the light (Jn 14:6);
  • His disciples may and ought to pray to the Father in His name (Jn 14:13ff, 16:23ff);
  • His disciples may pray to Him (Jesus) (Jn 14:13ff, 16:23ff);
  • the solemn confession of the Apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is acceptable and in fact an act of faith (Jn 20:28).

Jesus calls himself the Son of God.

  • Jesus first reveals Himself to be the Son of God in the temple, when He remarked to Mary and Joseph that He must be about His Father’s business (Lk 2:49).
  • Jesus claims to be both Messiah and Son of God in the presence of the Sanhedrin (Mk 14:62). The Sanhedrin perceive this as blasphemous.
  • Jesus tells a story of himself in the Parable of the vineyard and the evil tenants, thus confessing himself to be the only Son of God.
  • Jesus speaks of being one with the Father (“The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30,38). The Jews respond by accusing Him of blasphemy.

And many other passages could be listed.

Consider for a moment being a Jew of the First Century, deeply rooted in an understanding of monotheism (i.e. there is only One God) and hearing this sort of talk and these sorts of claims. Would you believe? Or scoff and even shout “blasphemy!”

In a certain sense it is a frightening question. But consider this too, Jesus did give evidence in abundance as to who he was and that his claims were true. In last Thursday’s Gospel Jesus makes it clear that there are four things that made the unbelief of some inexcusable. It is combination of external evidence, testimony and internal testimony.

This video is from John 8, not the passage for Thursday. But here he speaks in greater depth about their resistance to the Father’s testimony.

On the Urgent Anger of Jesus. A Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent

In today’s Gospel we see an example of the anger of Jesus. In our Catholic and American experience we often see most anger as sinful. Further, many have remade Jesus into a friendly and harmless hippie. They screen out a large number of texts where Jesus, in the mode of the prophets, is urgent, demanding and even angry at the obtuseness, sloth and stubbornness so common to the human condition.  His is an urgency borne in love, and and anger meant to underscore the seriousness of of the choice before us, for against him and his Kingdom.

Jesus, of course, has sovereignty over his anger and expresses it to the perfect degree and always focused on the right and just object. This is not always the case with us. For most of us anger is an unruly passion and we do not always how and when to use it well.

Before looking at Jesus’ anger, lets look at our own experience and struggle with anger.

To begin with, some distinctions are in order.

  1. We ought first to distinguish between the internal experience or feeling of anger and the external manifestation of it.The internal experience of anger as a passionate response to some external stimulus is not sinful since we cannot usually and immediately control the arising of feelings or passions. Anger usually arises out of some sense of threat. It signals us that something is wrong, threatening or inappropriate as we understand or interpret the data. Sometimes our perceptions are incorrect but often they are not. Anger, in this sense, is not only sinless, but necessary as it alerts  us to the need to respond to something that is a threat or unjust and it gives us the energy to address it. It is a passion and an energy to set things right or to address a threatening situation.
  2. But it is possible that our anger can arise from less than holy reasons. Some of the things we fear, we should not fear. Some of our fears are rooted in pride, and an inordinate need for status and affirmation. Some of our fears come from misplaced priorities. For example we may be excessively concerned with money, property, popularity  or material things. And this concern triggers inordinate fears about things that should not matter so much. And this fear gives rise to feeling easily threatened at any loss or diminishment. This in turn triggers anger, since we sense that something is wrong or threatening. But we ought not be so concerned with such things since they are rooted in pride, vanity and materialism. In this case the anger may have a sinful dimension. rooted in the inordinate and sinful drives.
  3. Now external manifestations of anger can and do sometimes have a sinful dimension when they are beyond what is reasonable. If I am experiencing anger there may be little or no sin in that. However if I express that anger by hurling insults, or physically attacking someone I may well have sinned by a sinful expression of my anger. However, it remains true that we live in thin-skinned times and people often take personal offense when they should not. We will see in a moment that Jesus did not often hesitate to describe his opponents’  in rather vivid ways.
  4. Hence, of itself, anger is not a sin.The Scriptures say, Be angry but sin not (Ps 4:4) So anger is not the sin. However, the object of anger or the expression of anger may become sinful.
  5. When is the external manifestation of anger an appropriate response?  Most simply put, anger is appropriate when its object is appropriate and reasonable.

For example, it is appropriate to experience anger when we see or experience injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. harnessed appropriate anger of Americans toward the injustice of racism. He elicited it,  and focused  its energy in productive ways. Notice that he was very careful to teach against violence and revenge. Anger did not to give the Civil Rights Protesters the right to hate. What Dr. King did was to elicit a just anger on the part of many Americans. This anger in turn gave them the motivation to act creatively and energetically to resist  injustice and effect change through non-violence. This sort of angry response was appropriate, reasonable and even holy. The tradition of non-violent resistance to injustice remains strong in those who protest abortion, and other sins, crimes and social injustices. It is the anger that motivates the desire to speak and the zeal to take action to rectify injustice.

Anger is also appropriate and even necessary in some forms of fraternal correction. To fail to manifest some level of anger may lead to the false conclusion that the offense in question is not really all that significant. For example if a child belts his brother in the mouth and knocks out a tooth a parent ought to manifest an appropriate amount of anger to make it very clear that this sort of behavior is intolerable. To gently correct a child in a smooth and dispassionate way with no inflection in the voice can lead to the impression that this really isn’t so bad. Proper anger has a way of bringing the point home and making a lasting impression. Again, note that the anger in question should be at a proper level, not excessive, and not too weak. This of course requires a good bit of self-mastery.

Meekness– And this leads us to an important virtue, beatitude and fruit of the Holy Spirit which helps us to master anger: Meekness. In modern English, meekness has lost its original vigor and tends to signify a person who is a bit of a pushover and easily taken advantage of. But,  in its original meaning, meekness describes the vigorous virtue wherein one gains authority over their anger. Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης) as the middle ground between being too angry, and not being angry enough. As we have noted, there is a place and a need for anger. The meek person has authority over their anger. They are able to summon its energy but control its extremes.  Hence the meek are far from weak. They are the string ones who have gained authority over their anger. St. John Chrysostom says in this regard: He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is a hotbed of many vices. (Homily 11). St Thomas Aquinas says: Consequently, lack of the passion of anger is also a vice, [for it is] a lack of movement in the will directed to punishment by the judgment of reason (II, IIae 158.8).

What of Jesus? One the one hand Jesus seems to have taught very strongly against anger:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt 5:21-22)

On the face of it it would seem that Jesus condemns anger without exception. However, if that is the case then Jesus broke his own rule for he exhibited a lot of anger in the Gospels. What Jesus DOES clearly condemn here is unrighteous and wrathful and hateful anger. Notice that he give two examples of the kind of anger he means. The first example is to use the term of contempt: Raca. This term is hard to translate so it is simply rendered in the Aramaic. Essentially what it means to do is to strip a person of any dignity and to regard them with utter contempt. The term fool; has a similar, though less egregious, purpose. Hence, it would seem that the Lord is not condemning all anger her but rather the anger of contempt and depersonalization. To absolutize Jesus’ teaching here to include any anger would seem unreasonable given what we have said above and it would also call into question Jesus’ own example which includes not a little anger.

Most people are familiar with Jesus’ anger in the cleansing of the temple. But there are other places as well where he manifest not a little anger:

Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!”You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matt 23:29-33)

Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire!  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God!” ( John 8:44-47)

Passages like these do not exhibit the “Mr Rogers” kind of Jesus common in the modern imagination. Jesus was no “Caspar Milquetoast.”  His vigorous anger is also on display in the video below.

What to make of Jesus’ angry displays?

  1. Not sinful – Clearly they are not sinful displays of anger since the scriptures assure us that Jesus never sinned (e.g. Heb 4:15).
  2. There may be an important cultural dimension to remember here. In the culture of the ancient Jews there seems to have been a wider acceptance of the expression of anger than in our own American setting. The cleansing of the Temple by Jesus was an expression more acceptable than our culture would usually permit. Turning over the tables etc. was a “prophetic action.” Prophets did things like this. In that culture it was more acceptable than perhaps in ours. But even we find a place for civil disobedience. We may not always like it, but we respect that it has a place in our culture.
  3. Yet Jesus clearly is angry. He is grieved at the hard heartedness of his opponents and his strong tone is an authoritative summons to repent. A lowered and lyrical voice might not convey the urgency of the situation. These are hardened men and there is a need for pointed and passionate denunciation. This is righteous anger.
  4. We ought to be careful before simply taking up Jesus angry tone for two reasons. First, he was able to see into their hearts and properly conclude as to the proper tactics necessary. We may not always be able to do this. Secondly, the wider Western culture in which many of us live may not be as prepared to accept such an angry tone. It may be a less effective tactic in our setting and  prudential judgment is a necessary precursor to using such tactics.

But in the end, anger is not, ipso facto, sinful or wrong. It is sometimes the proper and necessary response. We do well to be careful with our anger, for it is an unruly passion. We ought to see above all the fruit of the Spirit which is meekness and ask to Lord to give us authority over our anger and a prudence as to its effective use.

I want, in future posts to explore more of this Gospel that I cover in my “live” homily” (see video below) and will do that later this week.

 This video shows Jesus’ anger:

And here is a video recording of my Homily:

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?

 

Who is the Thief? Exploring One of Jesus’ More Provocative Images


One of the more interesting and surprising images the Lord used for Himself was “thief.” There is a reference to this in the first reading for this Wednesday of the 29th week of the year. I’ll comment more on that passage in a moment, but first here are some other texts in which He used this imagery:

  • But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matt 24:33; Lk 12:39).
  • Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you (Rev 3:3).
  • “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed” (Rev 16:15).

St. Peter also used the image of a thief, but perhaps out of reverence for Christ, applied it more to the Day of Judgment.

  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10).

In today’s first reading, which we will discuss in more detail, St. Paul used a similar image.

  • Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief … let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess 5:1-4; 8-9).

It is provocative and even shocking that Lord would compare Himself to a thief. Let’s consider some of the implications.

1. By this image the Lord turns the tables. Thievery suggests unjust possession. In this sense, the Lord is clearly not a thief; He is using a simile. He says that He is like a thief, not that He is a thief. Indeed, how can the owner of all things unjustly possess what is already His?

The impact and indictment of the reference is on us, not on the Lord. That He would seem to any of us to be like a thief is indicative of our injustice, not His. Too easily we forget that the things we call our own are God’s and God’s alone. We are stewards, not owners. When the Lord comes to take what is rightfully His—and has always been—we should be grateful to hand it back with interest (see the Parable of the Talents). To those who have forgotten that they are mere stewards, the Lord will seem to come to steal from them. They will see His coming as threatening because He will put an end to their schemes and worldly wealth.

Because they wrongly see these things as theirs, they will see Him as a thief—or worse, a robber. In the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:30ff) the Lord says that they will beat His prophets and even kill His Son. The injustice and crime is theirs. God cannot steal what He already owns. The vineyard was His and He rightly sought His portion. Murderously, they sought to withhold what they thought was theirs but in fact was not.

The Lord’s ways are justice and truth. God will take back all that is His. We will pay for what we have stolen through greed, injustice, selfishness, lust, and gluttony. To some who forget that He is the true owner of the vineyard, He may appear to be like a thief, but it is really we who are thieves. We will cry “Thief!” but the Lord will simply reply, “You are the man; it is you who have said it” (see 2 Sam 12:7; Matt 26:64).

2. By this image the Lord speaks to the hidden quality of His presence to some. In using the image of a thief (Κλέπτης (kleptes) in Greek) the Lord speaks of a stealthy, hidden presence. Thieves do their work in hiding or when we are unaware. A robber, on the other hand, confronts you, taking what he wants with violence while you can only watch helplessly.

The word thief here is indicative of the Lord’s hidden presence. The Lord is not a thief, but He seems like one to those who are forgetful of His presence. Don’t fool yourself, thinking that He is not in the house of your life; He sees and knows everything.

3. By this image the Lord puts to the lie the illusion of our own hiddenness. Thieves work in hiding. Many people who sin and misuse what the Lord owns often forget that to God, nothing is hidden. Thus they meet the definition of a thief because they attempt to take or misuse secretly what is not theirs to begin with.

God may seem hidden and distant, but He is not. He sees everything, knows everything, and is reckoning everything. Every “hidden” deed of ours is written in the book. An ancient hymn says,

Lo the Book exactly worded
Wherein all has been recorded
Thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth
And each hidden deed arraigneth
Nothing unavenged remaineth (Dies Irae).

God is watching and He is closer to you than you are to yourself.

4. By this image the Lord exhorts us to remember and to be ready. A recent break-in at my rectory motivated me and the staff to become more careful and vigilant. But why should the loss of passing goods cause us more concern than the certain arrival of the Lord, the true owner of all things? Although He may seem to come like a thief, He is not a thief. The real questions I should be asking myself are these: Am I a thief? Have I used what God owns in ways that are against His will or that displease Him? If so, He will come when I least expect it and take what I wrongfully think is mine. I may think Him a thief, but He is not. As true owner, He cannot unjustly possess what is already His.

We had better think about this now because the Lord is already in the house and His presence will be disclosed at any moment. Are you ready? Are you watching? Be vigilant. The Judge stands at the gate, but He has the key, not you.

Is He a thief? No. Are you a thief? Am I?

Epilogue: There came a moment in Jesus’ life when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas, who was a thief (see John 12:6), led a band of brigands to arrest Him. Stepping forward, Jesus turned the tables on them and said, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?” (Mk 14:48) Yes, He turned the tables on them and on the temple leaders who sponsored them. They saw Jesus as a usurper, as one who came to steal their priesthood and leadership. He was no thief, no robber. He was the great High Priest, the One who came to fulfill everything that they were supposed to be preaching. It was they who sought to kill him and unjustly possess the vineyard for themselves. To thieves, robbers, and murderers, Jesus was like a thief, but He was not. They were thieves—and even worse, robbers and murderers.

When Jesus says that He may be coming like a thief, be careful; He may be holding up a mirror to you!