See What the End Shall Be – A Homily for Palm Sunday

The Passion, which we read in the liturgy for Palm Sunday, is too long to comment on in detail, so we will only examine a portion of it here.

It may be of some value to examine the problems associated with the more moderate range of personalities involved. The usual villains (the Temple leaders, Judas, and the recruited crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”) are unambiguously wicked and display their sinfulness openly. But there are others involved whose struggles and neglectfulness are more subtle, yet no less real. It is in examining these figures that we can learn a great deal about ourselves, who, though we may not openly shout, “Crucify him,” are often not as unambiguously holy and heroic as Jesus’ persecutors are wicked and bold.

As we read the Passion we must understand that this is not merely an account of the behavior of people long gone, they are portraits of you and me; we do these things.

I. The Perception that is Partial – Near the beginning of today’s Passion account, the apostles, who are at the Last Supper with Jesus, are reminded of what the next days will hold. Jesus says,

This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Note that the apostles are not being told these things for the first time; Jesus has spoken them before on numerous occasions:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life (Matt 16:21).

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (Matt 17:22-23).

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life” (Matt 20:18-19).

Thus we see that the Lord has consistently tried to teach and prepare them for the difficulties ahead. He has told them exactly what is going to happen and how it will end: not in death, but rising to new life. But even though He has told them over and over again, they still do not understand. Therefore He predicts that their faith in Him will be shaken.

Their perception is partial. They will see only the negative, forgetting that Jesus has promised to rise. Because they cannot see beyond the apparent defeat of the moment they will retreat into fear rather than boldly and confidently accompanying Him to His passion and glorification (for His passion is a lifting up; it is His glorification). Instead they will flee. He has shown the “what the end shall be,” but they can neither see nor accept it. Thus fear overwhelms them and they withdraw into a sinful fear, dissociating themselves from Jesus. Only a few (Mary, His Mother; John; Mary Magdalene; and a few other women) would see Him through to the end.

As for the rest, they see only what is gory and awful, missing what is glory and awesome. Their perception is quite partial. Paradoxically, their blindness comes from not hearing or listening to what Jesus has been telling them all along.

We, too, can easily suffer from a blindness caused by poor listening. The Lord has often told us that if we trust in Him, then our struggles will end in glory and new life. But, blind and forgetful, we give in to our fears and fail to walk the way of Christ’s passion boldly. We draw back and dissociate ourselves from Jesus, exhibiting some of the same tendencies we will observe in the people of that day.

Next, let’s examine some of the problems that emerge from this partial perception and forgetful fear.

II. The Problems Presented – There are at least five problems that emerge. They are unhealthy and sinful patterns that spring from the fear generated by not trusting Jesus’ vision. Please understand that the word “we” used here is shorthand and does not mean that every single person does this. Rather, it means that collectively we have these tendencies. There’s no need to take everything here personally.

1. They become drowsy – A common human technique for dealing with stress and the hardships of life is to become numb and drowsy; we can just drift off into a sort of moral slumber. Being vigilant against the threat posed to our souls by sin or the harm caused by injustice (whether to ourselves or to others) is just too stressful, so we just “tune out.” We stop noticing or really even caring about critically important matters. We anesthetize ourselves with things like alcohol, drugs, creature comforts, and meaningless distractions. Prayer and spirituality pose too many uncomfortable questions, so we just daydream about meaningless things like what a certain Hollywood star is doing or how the latest sporting event is going.

In the Passion accounts, the Lord asks Peter, James, and John to pray with Him. But they doze off. Perhaps it is the wine. Surely it is the flesh (for the Lord speaks of it). Unwilling or unable to deal with the stress of the situation, they get drowsy and doze off. Grave evil is at the very door, but they sleep. The Lord warns them to stay awake, lest they give way to temptation, but still they sleep. Someone they know and love is in grave danger, but it is too much for them to handle. They tune out, much as we do in the face of the overwhelming suffering of Christ visible in the poor and needy. We just stop noticing; it’s too painful, so we tune out.

The Lord had often warned them to be vigilant, sober, and alert (Mk 13:34, Matt 25:13, Mk 13:37; Matt 24:42; Luke 21:36, inter al). Other Scriptures would later pick up the theme (Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thess 5:6, inter al). Yes, drowsiness is a serious spiritual problem.

Sadly, God described us well when He remarked to Isaiah, Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep (Is 56:10).

We do this not only out of laziness, but also out of fear. One strategy is to try to ignore it, to go numb, to tune out. But despite the sleepiness of the disciples, the wicked are still awake; the threat does not go away by a drowsy inattentiveness to it. Thus we ought to be confident and sober. Life’s challenges are nothing to fear. The Lord has told us that we have already won if we will just trust in Him. The disciples have forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So they, and we, just give in to the stress and tune out.

2. They seek to destroy – When Peter finally awaken, he lashes out with a sword and wounds Malchus, the servant of the high priest. The Lord rebukes Peter and reminds him of the vision: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11) Jesus then heals Malchus, who tradition says later became a follower.

In our fear, we, too, can often lash out and even seek to destroy our opponents. But if we are already certain of our victory, as the Lord has promised, why do we fear? Why do we need to suppress our opponents and enemies ruthlessly? It is one thing to speak the truth in love, boldly and confidently. But it is quite another to lash out aggressively and seek to win a debate. In so doing, we may lose a soul. The Lord healed Malchus, seeing in Him a future disciple. The Lord saw what the end would be. Peter did not. In fear, he lashed out with an aggression that did not bespeak a confidence in final victory.

It is true that we are required to confront evil, resist injustice, and speak with clarity to a confused world. But above all, we are called to love those whom we address. There is little place for fear in our conversations with the world. The truth will out; it will prevail. We may not win every encounter, but we do not have to; all we must do is plant seeds. God will water them and others may well harvest them. In Christ, we have already won. This confidence should give us serenity.

Peter has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So Peter, and we, give in to fear and lash out, driven by a desire to win when in fact we have already won.

3. They deny – Confronted with the fearful prospect of being condemned along with Jesus, Peter denies being one of His followers or even knowing Him at all. He dissociates himself from Christ. And we, confronted with the possibility of far milder things such as ridicule, often deny a connection with the Lord or the Church.

Regarding one of the more controversial Scripture teachings (e.g., the command to tithe; the prohibition against divorce, fornication, and homosexual activity) some might ask, “You don’t really believe that, do you?” It’s very easy to give in to fear and to respond, “No,” or to qualify our belief. Why suffer ridicule, endure further questioning, or be drawn into an unpleasant debate? So we just dissociate from, compromise, or qualify our faith to avoid the stress. We even congratulate ourselves for being tolerant when we do it!

Jesus says, If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mk 8:38). But too easily we are ashamed. And so, like Peter, we engage in some form of denial. Peter is afraid because he has forgotten to “see what the end shall be.” He has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. We lack confidence and give in to fear; we deny in order to avoid suffering with Jesus.

4. They dodge – When Jesus is arrested, all the disciples except John “split.” They “get the heck out of Dodge.” They are nowhere to be found. After Jesus’ arrest, it is said that Peter (prior to his denials) followed the Lord at a distance (Mk 14:54). But as soon as trouble arose, he “scrammed.”

We, too, can run away. Sometimes it’s because of persecution by the world. But sometimes it’s our fear that following the Lord is too hard and involves sacrifices that we are just not willing to make. Maybe it will endanger our money (the Lord insists that we tithe and be generous to the poor). Maybe it will endanger our playboy lifestyle (the Lord insists on chastity and respect). Maybe we don’t want to stop doing something that we have no business doing, something that is unjust, excessive, or sinful. But rather than face our fears, whether they come from within or without, we just hightail it out.

The disciples have forgotten that Jesus has shown them “what the end shall be.” In three days, he will win the victory. But, this forgotten, their fears emerge and they run. We too, must see “what the end shall be” in order to confront and resist our many fears.

5. They deflect – In this case our example is Pontius Pilate, not one of the disciples. Pilate was summoned to faith just like anyone else. “Are you a king?” he asks Jesus. Jesus responds by putting Pilate on trial: “Are you saying this on your own or have others been telling you about me?” Pilate has a choice to make: accept that what Jesus is saying as true, or give in to fear and commit a terrible sin of injustice. The various accounts in Scripture all make it clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. But because he feared the crowds he handed Jesus over.

Note that Pilate did this. The crowds tempted him through fear, but he did the condemning. Yet notice that he tries to deflect his choice. The text says, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility” (Mat 27:24). Well actually, Pilate, it is also your responsibility. You had a choice and you made it. Your own career and your own hide were more important to you than justice was. And though you wanted to do what was right and were sympathetic with Jesus, merely wanting to do what is right is not enough.

So, too, for us. We also often favor our career or our hide over doing what is right. And in so doing, we often blame others for what we have freely chosen. “I’m not responsible because my mother dropped me on my head when I was two.”

We are often willing to say, in effect,

“Look, Jesus, I love you. You get my Sundays, and my tithe, and I obey you (generally, anyway). But you have to understand that I have a career; I need to make money for my family. If I really stand up for what’s right, I might not make it in this world. You understand, don’t you? I know the company I work for is doing some things that are unjust. I know the world needs a clearer witness from me. I’ll do all that—after I retire. But for now, well, you know… Besides, it’s really my boss who’s to blame. It’s this old hell-bound, sin-soaked world that’s to blame, not me!”

We try to wash our hands of responsibility. We excuse our silence and inaction in the face of injustice and sin.

And all this is done out of fear. We forget “what the end shall be” and focus on the fearful present. We lack the vision that Jesus is trying to give us: that we will rise with Him. We stay blind to that and only see the threat of the here and now.

III. The Path that is Prescribed – By now you ought to know the path that is prescribed: see what the end shall be. In three days we rise! Why are we afraid? Jesus has already won the victory. It is true that we get there through the cross, but never forget what the end shall be! Today we read the Gospel of Friday, but wait till Sunday morning! I’ll rise!

We end where we began with this Gospel: This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed;’ but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Yes, after He has been raised He goes before us into Galilee. And for us, Galilee is Heaven. Whatever our sorrows, if we are faithful we will see Jesus in the Galilee of Heaven. Never forget this vision. After three days, we will rise with Him and be reunited with Him in the Galilee of Heaven.

So take courage; see what the end shall be! The end for those who are faithful is total victory. We don’t need to drowse, destroy, deny, dodge, or deflect; we’ve already won. All we need to do is to hold out.

I have it on the best of authority that Mother Mary was singing the following gospel song with St. John for a brief time while at the foot of the cross, as they looked past that Friday to the Sunday that was coming:

It’s all right, it’s all right.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m up sometimes I’m down.
But Jesus he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m almost on the ground.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Stop Yoking Around – A Homily for the 14th Sunday of the Year

We in the West live in a place and at a time in which almost every burden of manual labor has been eliminated. Not only that, but creature comforts abound. Everything from air conditioning to hair conditioning, from fast food to high speed internet, from to indoor plumbing to outdoor grilling, from instant computer downloads to instant coffee machines. You don’t even have write letters anymore, just press send and a text or email is delivered nearly instantaneously. Yet despite all this it would seem that we still keenly experience life’s burdens, demonstrated by the widespread recourse to psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs.

It is increasingly clear that serenity is “an inside job.” Merely improving the outside and amassing creature comforts is not enough. A large fluffy pillow may cushion the body, but apparently not the soul.

Jesus wants us to work on the inside and presents us a teaching in today’s Gospel on being increasingly freed of our burdens. He doesn’t promise a trouble free life, but that if we will let Him go to work we can grow in freedom and serenity. Jesus gives a threefold teaching on how to do this: by filiation, imitation, and simplification.

I.  FiliationAt that time Jesus exclaimed, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Note how Jesus contrasts the “wise and learned” from the “little ones.” In so doing, Jesus commends to us a childlike simplicity before our heavenly Father, our Abba, our “Daddy-God.” This is the experience of divine filiation, of being a child of God, of being one of God’s “little ones.” The wise, learned, and clever often miss what God is trying to do and say, and because of this, they feel anxious and stressed.

It is possible for a person to study a great deal, but if he doesn’t pray he isn’t going to get very far. The Greek word translated here as “revealed” is ἀπεκάλυψας (apekalupsas), which more literally means “to unveil.” Only God can take away the veil and He does so for the humble and simple. Thus Jesus commends to our understanding the need for childlike simplicity and prayerful humility.

Half of our problem in life, and the overwhelming cause of our stress, is that we think too much and pray too little. We have big brains but small hearts, and so we struggle to understand God instead of just trusting Him. Though our reason is our crowning glory, we must never forget how to be little children in the presence of God our Father. No matter how much we think we know, it isn’t really very much. Jesus’ first teaching is filiation, of embracing a childlike simplicity before our Daddy-God.

What does it mean to be childlike? Consider how little children are humble. They are always asking “Why?” and are unashamed to admit that they do not know. Children are also filled with wonder and awe; they are fascinated by the littlest and biggest of things. They know they depend on their parents and run to them instinctively when they’ve been hurt or at any sign of trouble. They trust their parents completely. Children are always asking, seeking, and knocking.

Thus Jesus teaches us that the first step to lessening our burdens is to have a childlike simplicity with the Father, wherein we are humble before him, acknowledging our need for Him and complete dependence upon Him. He teaches us to have a simplicity that is humble enough to admit that we don’t know much and want to learn from Him, a wonder and awe at all that God has done, and an instinct to run to God when we are hurt or in trouble. Above all, Jesus teaches us by this image to grow each day in our trust of Abba, and in our confidence to ask Him for everything we need. Scripture says, You have not because you ask not (James 4:2). An old spiritual says, “I love the Lord; he heard my cry; and pitied every groan. Long as I live and troubles rise; I’ll hasten to his throne.”

Yes, run, with childlike simplicity and trust.

So here is the first teaching of Jesus on letting go of our burdens: grow in childlike simplicity and trust before God, your loving Father and Abba.

II.  Imitation “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest … for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Jesus commends to us two characteristics of Himself that (if we embrace them) will give us rest and relief from our burdens. He says that He is meek and humble of heart.

What does it mean to be meek? The Greek word used is πραΰς (praus), but there is some debate as to how it is best interpreted. Aristotle defined “praotes” (meekness) as the middle ground between too much anger and not enough. Hence, the meek are those who have authority over their anger.

However, many biblical scholars contend that Jesus used this word most often as a synonym for being “poor in spirit.” What does it mean to be poor in spirit? It means to be humble and dependent upon God. By extension, it means that our treasure is not here. We are poor to this world; our treasure is with God and the things waiting for us in Heaven. This is a source of serenity for us, for when we become poor to this world, when we become less obsessed with success, power, and possessions, many of our anxieties go away. To the poor in spirit, the wealth of this world is as nothing. You can’t steal from a man who has nothing. A poor man is less anxious because he has less to lose, less at stake. He is free from this world’s obsessions and the fears and burdens they generate. Jesus calls us to accept his example and to grow in our experience of being poor in spirit.

Jesus also says that He is humble of heart. The Greek word use is ταπεινός (tapeinos), meaning lowly or humble, and referring to one who depends upon the Lord rather than himself. We have already discussed this at length above, but simply note here that the Lord Jesus is inviting us to learn this from Him and to receive it as a gift. The Lord can do this for us. If we will learn it from Him and receive it, so many of our burdens and so much of our anxiety will be lifted.

Here, then, is the second teaching Jesus offers us so that we will see life’s burdens lessened. He teaches us to learn from Him and to receive from Him the gifts of being poor in spirit and humble of heart. The serenity that comes from embracing these grows with each day, for we are no longer bound by the shackles of this world. It cannot intimidate us because its wealth and power do not entice us; we do not fear their loss. We learn to trust that God will see us through and provide us with what we need.

III.  SimplificationTake my yoke upon you … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. The most important word in this sentence is this one: “my.” Jesus says, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What is a yoke? Essentially “yoke” is used here as a symbol for the cross. A yoke is a wooden truss that makes it easier to carry a heavy load by distributing the weight along a wider part of the body, or by allowing the weight to be shared by two or more people or animals. In the picture at left, the woman is able to carry the water more easily with the weight across her shoulders rather than in the narrow section of her hands. This eases the load by involving the whole body more evenly. Yokes are also used to join two animals and help them work together in pulling a load.

What is Jesus saying? First, He is saying that He has a yoke for us, that is, He has a cross for us. He is not saying that there is no burden in following Him. There is a cross that He allows, for a reason and for a season.

Easy? Jesus says that the cross He has for us is “easy.” The Greek word χρηστὸς (chrestos) is better translated as “well-fitting,” “suitable,” or even “useful.” The Lord is saying that the yoke He has for us is suited to us; it is well-fitting; it has been carefully chosen so as to be useful for us. God knows that we need some crosses in order to grow and He knows what they are. He also knows what we can bear and what we are ready for. Yes, His yoke for us is well-fitting.

Note again that little word: “my.” The cross or yoke Jesus has for us is well-suited and useful for us. The problem comes when we start adding things of our own doing to the weight. We put weight upon our shoulders that God never put there and did not intend for us. We make decisions without asking God. We undertake projects, launch careers, accept promotions, and even enter marriages without ever discerning if God wants this for us. Sure enough, before long our life is complicated and burdensome; we feel pulled in many different directions. But this is not the “my yoke” to which Jesus referred; this is largely the yoke of our own making. Of course it is not easy or well-fitting; Jesus didn’t make it.

Don’t blame God, simplify. Be very careful before accepting commitments and making big decisions. Ask God. It may be a good thing, but not good for you. It may help others, but destroy you. Seek the Lord’s will. Ask advice from a spiritually mature person if necessary. Consider your state in life; consider the tradeoffs. Balance the call to be generous with the call to proper stewardship of your time, talent, and treasure. Have proper priorities. It is amazing how many people put their career before their vocation. They accept promotions and special assignments, thinking more about money and advancement than their spouse and children. Sure enough, the burdens increase and the load gets heavy. This is what happens when we don’t ask God or even consider how a proposed course of action might affect the most precious and important things in our lives.

So stop “yoking around.” Jesus’ final advice to us is to “take my yoke,” but only that. Forsake all others. Simplify. Take only His yoke. If you do that, your burdens will be lighter. Jesus tells us to come and learn from Him. He will not put heavy burdens on us. He will set our heart on fire with love. And then, whatever yoke He does have for us will be a pleasure for us to bear. What makes the difference is love. Love lightens every load.

See What the End Shall Be – A Homily for Palm Sunday

The Passion, which we read in the liturgy for Palm Sunday, is too long to comment on in detail, so we will only examine a portion of it here.

It may be of some value to examine the problems associated with the more moderate range of personalities involved. The usual villains (the Temple leaders, Judas, and the recruited crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”) are unambiguously wicked and display their sinfulness openly. But there are others involved whose struggles and neglectfulness are more subtle, yet no less real. It is in examining these figures that we can learn a great deal about ourselves, who, though we may not openly shout, “Crucify him,” are often not as unambiguously holy and heroic as Jesus’ persecutors are wicked and bold.

As we read the Passion we must understand that this is not merely an account of the behavior of people long gone, they are portraits of you and me; we do these things.

I. The Perception that is Partial – Near the beginning of today’s Passion account, the apostles, who are at the Last Supper with Jesus, are reminded of what the next days will hold. Jesus says,

This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Note that the apostles are not being told these things for the first time; Jesus has spoken them before on numerous occasions:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life (Matt 16:21).

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (Matt 17:22-23).

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life” (Matt 20:18-19).

Thus we see that the Lord has consistently tried to teach and prepare them for the difficulties ahead. He has told them exactly what is going to happen and how it will end: not in death, but rising to new life. But even though He has told them over and over again, they still do not understand. Therefore He predicts that their faith in Him will be shaken.

Their perception is partial. They will see only the negative, forgetting that Jesus has promised to rise. Because they cannot see beyond the apparent defeat of the moment they will retreat into fear rather than boldly and confidently accompanying Him to His passion and glorification (for His passion is a lifting up; it is His glorification). Instead they will flee. He has shown the “what the end shall be,” but they can neither see nor accept it. Thus fear overwhelms them and they withdraw into a sinful fear, dissociating themselves from Jesus. Only a few (Mary, His Mother; John; Mary Magdalene; and a few other women) would see Him through to the end.

As for the rest, they see only what is gory and awful, missing what is glory and awesome. Their perception is quite partial. Paradoxically, their blindness comes from not hearing or listening to what Jesus has been telling them all along.

We, too, can easily suffer from a blindness caused by poor listening. The Lord has often told us that if we trust in Him, then our struggles will end in glory and new life. But, blind and forgetful, we give in to our fears and fail to walk the way of Christ’s passion boldly. We draw back and dissociate ourselves from Jesus, exhibiting some of the same tendencies we will observe in the people of that day.

Next, let’s examine some of the problems that emerge from this partial perception and forgetful fear.

II. The Problems Presented – There are at least five problems that emerge. They are unhealthy and sinful patterns that spring from the fear generated by not trusting Jesus’ vision. Please understand that the word “we” used here is shorthand and does not mean that every single person does this. Rather, it means that collectively we have these tendencies. There’s no need to take everything here personally.

1. They become drowsy – A common human technique for dealing with stress and the hardships of life is to become numb and drowsy; we can just drift off into a sort of moral slumber. Being vigilant against the threat posed to our souls by sin or the harm caused by injustice (whether to ourselves or to others) is just too stressful, so we just “tune out.” We stop noticing or really even caring about critically important matters. We anesthetize ourselves with things like alcohol, drugs, creature comforts, and meaningless distractions. Prayer and spirituality pose too many uncomfortable questions, so we just daydream about meaningless things like what a certain Hollywood star is doing or how the latest sporting event is going.

In the Passion accounts, the Lord asks Peter, James, and John to pray with Him. But they doze off. Perhaps it is the wine. Surely it is the flesh (for the Lord speaks of it). Unwilling or unable to deal with the stress of the situation, they get drowsy and doze off. Grave evil is at the very door, but they sleep. The Lord warns them to stay awake, lest they give way to temptation, but still they sleep. Someone they know and love is in grave danger, but it is too much for them to handle. They tune out, much as we do in the face of the overwhelming suffering of Christ visible in the poor and needy. We just stop noticing; it’s too painful, so we tune out.

The Lord had often warned them to be vigilant, sober, and alert (Mk 13:34, Matt 25:13, Mk 13:37; Matt 24:42; Luke 21:36, inter al). Other Scriptures would later pick up the theme (Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thess 5:6, inter al). Yes, drowsiness is a serious spiritual problem.

Sadly, God described us well when He remarked to Isaiah, Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep (Is 56:10).

We do this not only out of laziness, but also out of fear. One strategy is to try to ignore it, to go numb, to tune out. But despite the sleepiness of the disciples, the wicked are still awake; the threat does not go away by a drowsy inattentiveness to it. Thus we ought to be confident and sober. Life’s challenges are nothing to fear. The Lord has told us that we have already won if we will just trust in Him. The disciples have forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So they, and we, just give in to the stress and tune out.

2. They seek to destroy – When Peter finally awaken, he lashes out with a sword and wounds Malchus, the servant of the high priest. The Lord rebukes Peter and reminds him of the vision: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11) Jesus then heals Malchus, who tradition says later became a follower.

In our fear, we, too, can often lash out and even seek to destroy our opponents. But if we are already certain of our victory, as the Lord has promised, why do we fear? Why do we need to suppress our opponents and enemies ruthlessly? It is one thing to speak the truth in love, boldly and confidently. But it is quite another to lash out aggressively and seek to win a debate. In so doing, we may lose a soul. The Lord healed Malchus, seeing in Him a future disciple. The Lord saw what the end would be. Peter did not. In fear, he lashed out with an aggression that did not bespeak a confidence in final victory.

It is true that we are required to confront evil, resist injustice, and speak with clarity to a confused world. But above all, we are called to love those whom we address. There is little place for fear in our conversations with the world. The truth will out; it will prevail. We may not win every encounter, but we do not have to; all we must do is plant seeds. God will water them and others may well harvest them. In Christ, we have already won. This confidence should give us serenity.

Peter has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So Peter, and we, give in to fear and lash out, driven by a desire to win when in fact we have already won.

3. They deny – Confronted with the fearful prospect of being condemned along with Jesus, Peter denies being one of His followers or even knowing Him at all. He dissociates himself from Christ. And we, confronted with the possibility of far milder things such as ridicule, often deny a connection with the Lord or the Church.

Regarding one of the more controversial Scripture teachings (e.g., the command to tithe; the prohibition against divorce, fornication, and homosexual activity) some might ask, “You don’t really believe that, do you?” It’s very easy to give in to fear and to respond, “No,” or to qualify our belief. Why suffer ridicule, endure further questioning, or be drawn into an unpleasant debate? So we just dissociate from, compromise, or qualify our faith to avoid the stress. We even congratulate ourselves for being tolerant when we do it!

Jesus says, If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mk 8:38). But too easily we are ashamed. And so, like Peter, we engage in some form of denial. Peter is afraid because he has forgotten to “see what the end shall be.” He has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. We lack confidence and give in to fear; we deny in order to avoid suffering with Jesus.

4. They dodge – When Jesus is arrested, all the disciples except John “split.” They “get the heck out of Dodge.” They are nowhere to be found. After Jesus’ arrest, it is said that Peter (prior to his denials) followed the Lord at a distance (Mk 14:54). But as soon as trouble arose, he “scrammed.”

We, too, can run away. Sometimes it’s because of persecution by the world. But sometimes it’s our fear that following the Lord is too hard and involves sacrifices that we are just not willing to make. Maybe it will endanger our money (the Lord insists that we tithe and be generous to the poor). Maybe it will endanger our playboy lifestyle (the Lord insists on chastity and respect). Maybe we don’t want to stop doing something that we have no business doing, something that is unjust, excessive, or sinful. But rather than face our fears, whether they come from within or without, we just hightail it out.

The disciples have forgotten that Jesus has shown them “what the end shall be.” In three days, he will win the victory. But, this forgotten, their fears emerge and they run. We too, must see “what the end shall be” in order to confront and resist our many fears.

5. They deflect – In this case our example is Pontius Pilate, not one of the disciples. Pilate was summoned to faith just like anyone else. “Are you a king?” he asks Jesus. Jesus responds by putting Pilate on trial: “Are you saying this on your own or have others been telling you about me?” Pilate has a choice to make: accept that what Jesus is saying as true, or give in to fear and commit a terrible sin of injustice. The various accounts in Scripture all make it clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. But because he feared the crowds he handed Jesus over.

Note that Pilate did this. The crowds tempted him through fear, but he did the condemning. Yet notice that he tries to deflect his choice. The text says, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility” (Mat 27:24). Well actually, Pilate, it is also your responsibility. You had a choice and you made it. Your own career and your own hide were more important to you than justice was. And though you wanted to do what was right and were sympathetic with Jesus, merely wanting to do what is right is not enough.

So, too, for us. We also often favor our career or our hide over doing what is right. And in so doing, we often blame others for what we have freely chosen. “I’m not responsible because my mother dropped me on my head when I was two.”

We are often willing to say, in effect,

“Look, Jesus, I love you. You get my Sundays, and my tithe, and I obey you (generally, anyway). But you have to understand that I have a career; I need to make money for my family. If I really stand up for what’s right, I might not make it in this world. You understand, don’t you? I know the company I work for is doing some things that are unjust. I know the world needs a clearer witness from me. I’ll do all that—after I retire. But for now, well, you know… Besides, it’s really my boss who’s to blame. It’s this old hell-bound, sin-soaked world that’s to blame, not me!”

We try to wash our hands of responsibility. We excuse our silence and inaction in the face of injustice and sin.

And all this is done out of fear. We forget “what the end shall be” and focus on the fearful present. We lack the vision that Jesus is trying to give us: that we will rise with Him. We stay blind to that and only see the threat of the here and now.

III. The Path that is Prescribed – By now you ought to know the path that is prescribed: see what the end shall be. In three days we rise! Why are we afraid? Jesus has already won the victory. It is true that we get there through the cross, but never forget what the end shall be! Today we read the Gospel of Friday, but wait till Sunday morning! I’ll rise!

We end where we began with this Gospel: This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed;’ but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Yes, after He has been raised He goes before us into Galilee. And for us, Galilee is Heaven. Whatever our sorrows, if we are faithful we will see Jesus in the Galilee of Heaven. Never forget this vision. After three days, we will rise with Him and be reunited with Him in the Galilee of Heaven.

So take courage; see what the end shall be! The end for those who are faithful is total victory. We don’t need to drowse, destroy, deny, dodge, or deflect; we’ve already won. All we need to do is to hold out.

I have it on the best of authority that Mother Mary was singing the following gospel song with St. John for a brief time while at the foot of the cross, as they looked past that Friday to the Sunday that was coming:

It’s all right, it’s all right.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m up sometimes I’m down.
But Jesus he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m almost on the ground.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

The Journey of Jairus – A Homily for the 13th Sunday of the Year

Today’s Gospel today focuses on a man named Jairus and a journey he makes from despair to deliverance, with the help of Jesus. Of course, Jairus is not merely a synagogue official who lived two thousand years ago; you are Jairus and his journey is your journey. We also meet a woman whom the Lord points out as an exemplar of faith. If you are ready to accept it, she can be you.

Let’s observe this gospel in six stages, as Jairus makes his journey.

I. TRIAL – The text says, When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”

Jairus is going through a crisis, a great trial. Most of us have had similar experiences. Perhaps it was the grave illness of a loved one. Perhaps it was the loss of our job. Perhaps it was the effects of a natural disaster. Perhaps it was simply the fear of some catastrophe.

In his crisis, Jairus seeks Christ. Falling to his knees, he pleads for help and healing for his beloved daughter.

Note that it is this very crisis that brings him to Jesus so prayerfully. While suffering remains a mystery, it sometimes takes suffering to bring us to Jesus. It should not be this way, but it often is. Even for regular church-goers, it sometimes takes a real crisis to make us finally cry out, “Lord, I really need you. I cannot survive without you!”

Thus Jairus, quite possibly a proud synagogue official, is now at Jesus’ feet pleading. What about us? Does it take this kind of calamity? Perhaps it does. For whatever purpose, God often allows suffering for a reason and for a season.

Jairus is now undergoing a trial, a test; but remember, there is a “test” in every testimony.

II. TARRYING – The text says, [Jesus] went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

Note that Jesus seems to tarry. He could have healed Jairus’ daughter instantly from right where He was (as He did with the centurion’s servant), but instead He says to Jairus, in effect, “Let’s journey together for a while.” The Lord delays the daughter’s healing and, as we shall see, this delay results in her death.

We, too, must often experience the Lord’s delay, for our crying out for healing and mercy does not often yield instant results. It is as if the Lord wants us to live with our questions and struggles for a while, as if He wants to walk with us on a journey of faith that requires waiting and watchful trust.

Such a delay is likely part of God’s plan to build our trust and faith, but whatever its cause, He often requires us to wait, to hold out. Gospel music is replete with such themes. One song says, “I promised the Lord that I would hold out. He said he’d meet me in Galilee.” Another says, “Hold on just a little while longer, everything’s gonna be all right.” Another says, “Keep your hand on the plow; hold on!” Yet another says, “Lord, help me to hold out until my change comes.”

The Lord walks with Jairus and with us, summoning us to a faith that holds out. Scripture says, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come with the morning light (Ps 30:3).

III. TESTIMONY – Along the way, the Lord arranges a lesson in trust for Jairus through the example of a woman of strong faith. The text says, There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Here is a woman of remarkable faith. She has come to a point in her life’s journey that she simply knows by faith that all she needs to do in order to be healed is to touch Jesus. Surely, she has come to this faith only through a long and painful journey, but she has come to this moment, and now she has the faith to be saved.

She touches Jesus.

Do not miss the significance of this touch; Jesus does not. Sensing the power of her faith, and that healing power has gone out from Him, He says, “Who touched me?” The disciples react with exasperation, in effect saying, “Lord, hundreds of people have been bumping up against you!” But Jesus did not ask who had brushed against Him; He asked, “Who touched me?” It is one thing to bump up against the Lord but quite another to touch Him in faith.

How many of us really touch God when we come to Mass? He speaks to us in the Liturgy of the Word, but do we really hear Him? He touches us in Holy Communion, but do we touch Him? Do we really expect healing when we go to Mass? Do we really expect a healing touch? Or are we only going to be a face in the crowd bumping up against Jesus accidentally?

Many people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in the Eucharist. When they take Tylenol, they expect something to happen. They expect their pain to go away; they expect to be healed. What do they expect when they receive Holy Communion? Often nothing.

What about you? Are you like the woman who touches Jesus expecting healing or like the crowd that just brushes past Him?

Jesus insists on stopping to meet this woman of faith. It may well be that He had Jairus in mind as He did so, as if to say, “Pay attention to this woman, Jairus. Do you see what her faith has gotten her? Do you believe, Jairus?” Into our own life, the Lord will often send those who can testify to us of faith and show us what faith can do.

Thus, on this journey, Jairus is given a witness to encourage his faith. Who are the witnesses in your life whom the Lord has sent?

IV. TEMPTATION – The text says, While [Jesus] was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

During Jairus’ journey there is an encouraging testimony of what faith can do, but there are also temptations against faith and temptations to sink into despair and hopelessness.

What about us? We, too, must often confront a world that is largely negative.

Jairus is told by the negative ones that he should dismiss Jesus: “Why bother the teacher any more?” Yes, there are many in this world who not only have no hope themselves, but who also insist that we dismiss Jesus because they say He is irrelevant. Many secularists, themselves without hope, ridicule us who do and try to taunt us into dismissing the Lord from our journey.

This is a temptation that must be rejected.

V. TRUST – The text says, Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So, he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out.

To those who are negative and who ridicule, Jesus has this reaction: Then he put them all out.

Turning to Jairus, Jesus then says, Do not be afraid; just have faith. The command that we have faith is not merely an order; it is a dynamic principle. The same God who said, “Let there be light” —and there was light—now says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Trust and saving faith are possible for Jairus and for us.

One of the principal tasks for Jesus and His Holy Spirit is to grow faith within each of us. As this faith grows in us our victories become more and more evident. Scripture says,

  • For thus says the Lord God, the holy One of Israel, “By waiting and calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies …” (Is 30:15)
  • Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Is 40:30-31).
  • So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved (Heb 10:35-39).

The Lord Jesus commands faith in order to bring us reward.

VI. TRIUMPH – The text says, He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Sure enough, Jairus’ journey with Jesus leads to victory—so will ours. It may not be the Lord’s will to raise every recently deceased relative, but He will surely give us the victory in every travail and difficulty. To those who die in Him, He will surely say, as He said to the little girl, “I say to you, arise!”

In every trial, if you are in the Lord and journeying with Him, I promise you complete victory in Jesus. In the face of every trial and distress, just say, “I’ll rise!”

In sufferings and sickness … “I’ll rise!”
In setbacks and sorrows … “I’ll rise!”
Tears in my eyes … “I’ll rise!”
Temptations against faith … “I’ll rise!”
No money in my pocket … “I’ll rise!”
Struggles with sin … “I’ll rise!”
On the rough side of the mountain … “I’ll rise!”
Though death is surely coming … “I’ll rise!”

Jairus has made a journey with Jesus, from trial to traveling with Him, through testimony and temptation to the empowering command to trust, and thereby unto triumph.

The journey of Jairus is our journey. His victory is ours if we journey with Jesus, as he did.

The Spirit of the Lord Filled the Earth – A Homily for Pentecost

What a wondrous and challenging feast we celebrate at Pentecost! A feast like this challenges us because it puts to the lie a lazy, sleepy, hidden, and tepid Christian life. The Lord Jesus said to Apostles, and still says to us, I have come to cast a fire on the earth (Luke 12:49). This is a feast about fire, a transformative, refining, purifying fire that the Lord wants to kindle in us and in this world. It is about a necessary fire. For as the Lord first judged the world by fire, the present heavens and the earth are reserved for fire. Because it is going to be the fire next time, we need the tongues of Pentecost fire to fall on us to set us on fire and bring us up to the temperature of glory.

The readings today speak to us of the Holy Spirit in three ways: the portraits of the Spirit, the proclamation of the Spirit, and the propagation by the Spirit.

I. The Portraits of the Spirit – The reading today speaks of the Holy Spirit using two images: rushing wind and tongues of fire. These two images recall Psalm 50, which says, Our God comes, he does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, round about him a mighty tempest.

Rushing Wind – Notice how the text from Acts opens: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

This text brings us to the very root meaning of the word “spirit.” Spirit refers to breath. This is preserved in the word “respiration,” which is the act of breathing. So the Spirit of God is the breath of God, the Ruah Adonai (the Spirit, the breath of God).

Genesis 1:2 speaks of this, saying, the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And Genesis 2:7 speaks even more remarkably of something God did only for man (not the animals): then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

So the very Spirit of God was breathed into Adam! But, as we know, Adam lost this gift and died spiritually when he sinned.

Thus we see in this passage from Acts an amazing and wonderful resuscitation of the human person, as these first Christians experience the rushing wind of God’s Spirit breathing spiritual life back into them. God does C.P.R. and brings humanity, dead in sin, back to life! The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us once again as in a temple (cf 1 Cor 3:16). It has been said that Christmas is the feast of God with us, Good Friday is the Feast of God for us, but Pentecost is the Feast of God in us.

Tongues of Fire – The text from Acts then says, Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

The Bible often speaks of God as fire or in fiery terms. Moses saw God as a burning bush. God led the people out of Egypt through the desert as a pillar of fire. Moses went up onto a fiery Mt. Sinai where God was. Psalm 97 says,

The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

Scriptures also call God a Holy fire, a consuming fire (cf Heb 12:29) and a refining fire (cf Is. 48:10; Jer 9:7; Zec 13:9; Mal 3:3).

And so it is that our God, who is a Holy Fire, comes to dwell in us through His Holy Spirit. And as a Holy Fire, He refines us by burning away our sins and purifying us. As Job once said, But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

God is also preparing us for judgment, for if He is a Holy Fire, then who may endure the day of His coming or of going to Him? What can endure the presence of Fire Himself? Only that which is already fire. Thus we must be set afire by God’s love.

So, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, God sets us on fire to make us a kind of fire. In so doing, He purifies us and prepares us to meet Him one day, to meet Him who is a Holy Fire.

 

II. The Proclamation of the Spirit – You will notice that the Spirit came on them like “tongues” of fire. The reference to tongues is no accident, for notice how the Holy Spirit moves them to speak and ultimately to witness. The text says, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

So behold how the Holy Spirit moves them to proclaim, not just within the safety of the upper room, but also in holy boldness before the crowds that have gathered.

Notice the transformation! Moments ago these were frightened men who gathered in secrecy behind locked doors. They were huddled together in fear. Now, they go forth to the crowds and proclaim Christ boldly. They have gone from fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from terror to testimony!

What about us? Too many Christians are silent, overcome by fear. Perhaps they fear being called names or being unpopular. Perhaps they are anxious about being laughed at or resisted, or of being asked questions they don’t feel capable of answering. Some Christians are able to gather in the “upper room” of the parish and to be active, even to be leaders, but once outside the safe confines of the “upper room” they slip into undercover mode. They become “secret agent Christians.”

Well, the Holy Spirit wants to change that. To the degree that we have really met Jesus Christ and experienced His Holy Spirit, we are less able to keep silent. An old gospel song says, “I thought I wasn’t gonna testify, but I couldn’t keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me.” The Holy Spirit, if authentically received, wants to give us zeal and joy, to burn away our fear so that testifying and witnessing come naturally to us.

Note also how the Spirit “translates” for the Apostles. The people in the crowd before them spoke different languages, yet each heard Peter and the others in his own language. The Spirit, therefore, assists not only us but also those who hear us. My testimony is not dependent on my eloquence alone but also on the grace of the Holy Spirit, who casts out deafness and opens hearts. Every Christian should remember this. Some of our most doubt-filled encounters with others can still bear great fruit on account of the work of the Holy Spirit, who “translates” for us and overcomes many obstacles we might think insurmountable.

III. The Propagation by the Spirit – In the great commission, the Lord said, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matt 28:19ff). He also said, I have come to cast a fire on the earth and How I wish the blaze were already ignited (Luke 12:49).

How is the Lord going to do this?

Perhaps a picture will help to illustrate. My parish church is dedicated to the Holy Spirit under the title Holy Comforter. Above the high altar is the following Latin inscription: Spiritus Domini, replevit orbem terrarum (The Spirit of the Lord, filled the orb of the earth). (See the photo above of our high altar.)

The walls of my parish Church answer the question. The clerestory walls are painted Spanish red, and upon this great canvas are also painted the stories of the lives of twenty saints, surrounding us like a great cloud of witnesses (cf Heb 12:1). (See also the video below.) Over the head of every saint is a tongue of fire.

This is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth. It is not via “magic fairy dust.” It is in the fiery transformation of every Christian going forth to bring warmth and light to a cold, dark world. This is how the Lord casts fire upon the earth. This is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the orb of the earth—in the lives of saints (and in your life)!

In the end, the great commission (Matt 28) is our first and most important job. No matter what else we do, we are supposed to do this. Parishes do not deserve to exist if they do not do this. As individual Christians, we are a disgrace and not worthy of the name if we fail to win souls for Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord is going to fill the orb of the earth, but only through us. The spread of the Gospel has been placed in your hands. It’s scary, isn’t it!

In my short time on this planet, I have seen it. Parishes that were once big and booming (and, frankly, sometimes arrogant) are now in decline; some are near closure. It happens to the best if they do not evangelize, if they do not accomplish “job one” The Lord wants to light a fire. Why not become fire? Let the Spirit propagate the Church through you. (I’m not talking about the person next to you; I am talking to you.)

Happy feast of Pentecost! But don’t forget that the basic image is very challenging, for it means getting out of the “upper room,” opening the doors, and proclaiming Christ to the world. Let the Holy Spirit light a fire in you. Then you can’t help but spread light and heat to a dark, cold world.

Let the evangelization of the whole world begin with you.

This video features details from the clerestory of my parish, Holy Comforter in Washington, D.C. Notice the tongue of fire above each saint. The paintings show how the Spirit of the Lord fills the orb of the earth through the lives of the lives of the saints (and through you, too). It is not magic; it is grace, working in your life, through your gifts and your relationships, so that the Lord will reach each soul. The witnesses on the walls of my Church say, “You are the way that He will fill the earth and set it on fire.” Let the blaze be ignited in you!

The song says, “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, looking on, encouraging us to do the will of the Lord. Let us stand worthy and be faithful to God’s call … We must not grow weary …!”

https://youtu.be/RzR0_xU0bUU

https://youtu.be/uZSNUpFUb38

Dum complerentur dies Pentecostes,
erant omnes pariter dicentes, alleluia,
et subito factus est sonus de coelo, alleluia,
tamquam spiritus vehementis,
et replevit totam domum, alleluia.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come,
they were all with one accord in one place, saying, alleluia.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, alleluia.

My Way Gets Brighter, My Load Gets Lighter – A Homily on the Easter Emmaus Gospel

easter2016There are four different Gospels proposed by the Church for Easter Sunday. Here I offer a homily on the Lucan account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I have written sermons and commentaries on two of the other Gospels; they are available here:

  1. John 20:1-8 The Journey from Fear to Faith
  2. Matt 28:1-10 Jesus is Real – The Journey to Easter Faith

In this homily I reflect on the Emmaus Gospel (Luke 24:13-35) as a resurrection account, focusing on the journey of the two disciples out of darkness and into Easter light. (It is also clear that this whole Gospel account is a Mass, through and through, and I reflected on that aspect in another homily, available here: The Not-so-hidden Mass on the Road to Emmaus).

But on this Easter day, let’s focus on the journey of these two disciples in four stages, watching how their journey gets lighter and brighter as they go.

I. Despair That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”

As the gospel scene opens, we see two people: one named Cleopas and the other not named. Perhaps the other disciple is you.

Though it may be midday, they are experiencing a great darkness. Let’s consider their condition in four ways.

  1. They are Unfocused – As the curtain rises, we see these two, dejected and literally disoriented (they are traveling in the wrong direction, away from Jerusalem). It’s never a good idea to have Jerusalem behind you. Jerusalem is spiritual East, (oriens is the Latin word for east). Hence they are “dis-oriens,” disoriented; their focus is wrong. They are turned toward the west, toward darkness, away from the light and the resurrection.

So, too, for some (perhaps many) today whose focus is worldly and westward, rather than heavenly and eastward, toward spiritual Jerusalem. The second reading today says, Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1).

  1. They are Unaware Jesus joins them and walks along with them. But the text says that their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. We too quickly assume that it is the Lord who is preventing them. More likely, however, it is their sorrow or lack of faith that prevents them. The text describes them as looking downcast. This may speak to their sorrow, but it also indicates a certain lack of awareness and attention.

Sometimes we are so busy looking down that we forget to look up and remember the heavenly glory that should ever be our true focus. Psalm 121:1 says, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Were they to lift their eyes from their downcast state, they might become aware of who it is that is speaking to them! Instead, they are downcast and hence unaware of the saving presence of the very Lord they lament.

  1. They are Unbelieving – They are well aware of the testimony of many in the Church that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead. They also know that this is the third day, for they refer to it as such. But they are sinfully stubborn in that they disregard the news of His resurrection (from the women and the apostles) and are leaving town. This is despite Jesus’ repeated promises that He would rise on the third day, the very day they are departing Jerusalem. Yes, they are unbelieving; they disregard the evidence of the very thing promised. Too easily we can do the same, collapsing at the slightest misfortune despite the countless blessings of the Lord.
  2. They are uninstructed – And thus the Lord rebukes them as foolish for being slow to believe what the prophets had written. The Lord likely does not use the word “foolish” to mean stupid or bumbling (today’s connotation). Rather, He is probably using the meaning common at the time: uninstructed in biblical wisdom. Foolish usually meant unwise, out of touch with or uninstructed in the wisdom of God. Thus the Lord rebukes their forgetfulness of God’s wisdom, as set forth in the Holy Scriptures. They are thinking as men think, not as God (cf Mat 16:23) thinks; they are thinking in worldly ways not in the ways of wisdom. We, too, can easily fall prey to worldly thinking if we neglect the biblical texts and are slow of heart to believe what God teaches us therein.

II. Decoding “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.

The Lord decodes the recent events by teaching them, from the Word of God, what had been set forth about the Messiah.

What is Scripture? Scripture is the prophetic declaration of reality. It says, “This is what is really going on, no matter what you or others might think.”

And thus Jesus the Christ was fulfilling God’s plan. Nothing had gone wrong; nothing was out of control. The pride of Satan was defeated by the humble suffering of Christ; the disobedience of man was now replaced by the obedience of the God Man, Jesus. We are saved by the human decision of a divine person.

And for us who are too easily dismayed by the apparent (and short-term) triumph of evil and injustice comes the decoding of history: the cross wins; it always wins. Although it remains a cross, for down through the ages the faithful experience suffering and injustice, it always wins. Sunday always comes and an eternal Sunday dawns one day for all of the faithful.

No matter what you think is happening, this is what is really happening. The Paschal mystery decodes all history: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—this what is really happening. We are always carrying in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Cor 4:10). Jesus is the resurrection and the life and all who believe in Him will live.

III. Disclosure As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Despite the evening hour, it is gradually getting brighter. Their hearts have been stirred by this walk with the Lord, who though hidden, has addressed their burdens, given them hope, and supplied meaning to the recent painful events.

The words of an old hymn come to mind: “My load gets lighter; my way gets brighter; walking up the King’s highway.” Something tells them that this must continue, that it must grow ever deeper. They ask the hidden Lord to stay.

Meals in the ancient world were about more than food; they were also about relationships. Meals were both a sign and a cause of greater intimacy and depth in relationships. And this is to be no ordinary meal.

Clearly this entire pericope has been a Mass, from the gathering of two or three, to the presence of the Lord, to the instruction in His Word, and now to the celebration of the Eucharist. The Lord took the bread, blessed it and broke and gave it to them. No Catholic can fail to hear the words of this familiar action and not realize that this is the Eucharist.

And for us the purpose is the same: that our load gets lighter, that our way gets brighter, and that we grow more deeply related to the Lord, who saves us. It is in this context that the Lord’s fundamental disclosure Lord takes place. Their eyes are opened and they recognize Him in “the breaking of the Bread,” the ancient Christian description of the Holy Eucharist.

Two sad and downcast disciples journey with the Lord. As their load gets lighter and their way gets brighter, they can finally the Lord, who has never abandoned them is now disclosed to them by faith, the Word of God, and the Sacrament. Is this how you experience the Mass and your Christian walk?

IV. Declaration Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

No one goes away from Jesus unchanged. These men, having experienced the Lord profoundly, are now changed. They reverse course; they are “reoriented.” They return to Jerusalem and to the Church, gathered. There, they share with the others the joy that they have experienced. Is this how you leave Mass each Sunday?

Though it is now late in the evening, the spiritual darkness has cleared; the night is as bright as the day. Jesus is risen; they have seen the Lord. The declaration of the Church is clear: “The Lord has been truly raised!” If the Church ever stops being able to experience and declare this, we will no longer be the Church. But as it is, Christ has been raised, and this has been our declaration to an often skeptical, sad world.

It is Easter and we have seen the journey of these two disciples out of darkness and into light. One was named Cleopas; are you the other unnamed disciple? How? What is your story?

Biblical Basics about Mother Mary – A Homily for the Second Sunday of the Year

wedding-feastIn the gospel today of the wedding feast at Cana, there is a theological portrait of both Mother Mary and of prayer. Let’s look at the Gospel along five lines:

I. The place that Mary has – The text says, There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.

A fascinating thing about these opening verses is that Mary almost seems to dominate the scene; the presence of Jesus is mentioned secondarily. St. Thomas Aquinas notes that at Cana, Mary acts as the “go-between” in arranging a mystical marriage (Commentary on John, 98; and 2, 1, n.336, 338, and 343, 151-152). Once the marriage is arranged she steps back; her final words to us are, “Do whatever he tells you.”

How many of us has Mary helped to find her Son and to find our place at the wedding feast of the Lamb? I know that it was Mary who drew me back to her Son when I had strayed.

II. The prayer that Mary makes – The text says, When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.

Notice another central role that Mary has: intercessor. She is praying for others to her Son. There are three qualities to her prayer:

Discernment – She notices the problem, probably even before the groom and bride do. Indeed, mothers often notice the needs of their children before they do. But why didn’t Jesus notice? Perhaps He did; surely, as God, He knew. But He waits for us to ask. Yes, God waits for us; He expects us to ask. In part this is respect; not all of us are ready to receive all of His gifts. This expectation that we ask is also rooted in God’s teaching that we must learn to depend on Him and to take our many needs to Him. The Book of James says, You have not because You ask not (James 4:2).

Diligence – Simply put, Mary actually prays. Rather than merely fret and be anxious, she goes directly to her Son out of love for the couple (us) and trust in her Son. She sees the need and gets right to the work of praying, of beseeching her Son.

Deference – She does not tell Jesus what to do, says simply notes the need: “They have no wine.” Mary is not directive, as if to say, “Here is my solution for this problem. Follow my plans exactly. Just sign here at the bottom of my plan for action.” Rather, she simply observes the problem and places it before her Son in confidence. He knows what to do and will decide the best way to handle things.

In this way Mary models prayer for us. What wine are you lacking now? What wine do your children and grandchildren lack? Do you notice your needs and the needs of others and consistently pray? Or must things get critical for you to notice or pray? And when you pray do you go to the Lord with trust or with your own agenda?

So the Scriptures teach that Mary is the quintessential woman of prayer, a paragon of prayer. Not only does she intercede for us, she teaches us how to pray. 

III. The portrait of Mary – The text says, Woman, how does this concern of yours affect me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Notice three things about this brief dialogue:

The title of Mary Jesus calls her “woman.” In Jewish culture this was a respectful way for a man to address a woman, but it was unheard of for a son to address his mother that way.

Hence this text stands out as unusual and signals that Jesus is speaking at a deeper level. In the Johannine texts Jesus always calls his Mother, “Woman.” This is in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, which says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, while you strike at his heel. And thus Jesus is saying that Mary is this woman who was prophesied.

Far from being disrespectful to Mary, Jesus is actually exalting her by saying that she is the woman who was prophesied; she is the woman from whose “seed” comes forth the Son destined to destroy the power of Satan.

In this sense Mary is also the new Eve. For Jesus also calls her “Woman” at the foot of the Cross; He is the new Adam, Mary is the new Eve, and the tree is the Cross. And thus, just as humans got into trouble by a man, a woman, and a tree, so now we get out of trouble through the same path. Adam’s no is reversed by Jesus, who saves us by his yes. Eve’s no is reversed by Mary’s yes.

The tenacity of Mary – In Greek, Jesus’ words to his mother are, τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι – ti emoi kai soi, gunai (What to me and to thee, Woman?). When this phrase appears elsewhere in the Scriptures (e.g., Gen 23:15; 1 Kings 19:20) it usually indicates some kind of tension between the interlocutors. On the surface, it would seem that Jesus is expressing resistance to the fact that His mother striving to involve Him in this matter. What makes this interpretation odd, though, is that Mary doesn’t seem to interpret Jesus’ response as resistance.

Perhaps there was something in the tone of voice that Jesus used, or perhaps there was a look between them that resolved the tension, and evoked Jesus’ sympathy for the situation. Whatever the case, Mary stays in the conversation with Jesus and overcomes whatever tension or resistance existed. In this we surely see her tenacity.

This tenacity comports well with the tenacity she showed at other times. Though startled by the presence of the angel Gabriel, she engaged him in a respectful but pointed conversation in which she sought greater detail. Mary also hastened to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and in the dialogue that followed she proclaimed a Magnificat that was anything but a shy and retiring prayer. She joyfully acknowledged the Lord’s power in her life, and all but proclaimed a revolutionary new world order.

To be tenacious means to hold fast in spite of obstacles or discouragements. However we interpret Jesus’ initial resistance to Mary’s concern, it is clear that Mother Mary does not give up; she expects the Lord to answer her favorably. This is made clear by her confident departure from the conversation, when she turns to the stewards with the instruction, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The trust of Mary – She simply departs, telling the stewards, “Do whatever he tells you.” She does not hover. She does not come back and check on the progress of things. She does not seek to control or manipulate the outcome. She simply departs and leaves it all to Jesus.

IV. The power of Mary’s prayer – Whatever his initial concerns regarding Mary’s request, Jesus goes to work. Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from—although the servers who had drawn the water knew—the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

If we do the math, we may confidently presume that Jesus produced almost 150 gallons of the best wine. Mary’s prayer and tenacity produced abundant results.

Sometimes the Lord tells us to wait so that He can grant further abundance. Scripture says, But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

The Catholic tradition of turning to Mary and regarding her as a special intercessor with particular power is rooted in this passage. But Mary is not merely an intercessor for us; she is also a model for us. Following her example, we should persevere in prayer and go to the Lord with confident expectation of His abundant response. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).

V. The product of Mary’s prayer – The text says, Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.

At the conclusion of this gospel is the significant result that many began to believe in the Lord on account of this miracle. This is Mary’s essential role with reference to Jesus, that she should lead many souls to a deeper union with her Son. And having done so, she leaves us with this instruction, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Mary’s role is to hold up Christ for us to see, as she did at Bethlehem for the shepherds (and later the Wise Men) and as she did for Simeon and Anna at the Temple. Her role is to point to His glory as she does here at Cana. And ultimately her role is to hold His body in her arms at the foot of the cross after He is taken down.

As a mother, Mary has a special role in the beginnings of our faith, in the infancy and childhood of our faith. The text says that many “began to believe.” In Greek grammar, this phrase is an example of an inceptive aorist, often used to stress the beginning of an action or the entrance into a state. Thus Mary has a special role in helping to initiate our faith, in helping (by God’s grace) to birth Christ in us. As St. Thomas Aquinas say, she is the “go-between,” the great matchmaker in the mystical marriage of Christ and the soul. Having done that her final words are, “Do whatever he tells you.” And while she may draw back a bit, she continues to pray for us.

Here, then, are some biblical basics about Mother Mary, from this gospel of the wedding feast at Cana.

A Knock at Midnight – Christmas, Midnight Homily

blog.12.24In this reflection, perhaps we can consider but one line in the Gospel which both challenges our love, and is a sign of God’s humble and abiding love for us: For there was no room for them in the Inn.

I. The Cold There is a knock at midnight. Joseph, speaking on behalf of both Mary and Jesus (who is in her womb still), seeks entrance to the homes and lodgings of those in Bethlehem. And even though the Jewish people placed a great deal of emphasis on the duty of hospitality to strangers, the answer repeatedly given is that there is “No room here.” Mary’s obviously advanced pregnancy seems to make little difference.

This was indeed a cold night, not so much in terms of the air temperature, but in terms of the hearts of the people. Even at the local inn (and surely someone could make room for a pregnant woman!), there was “No room.”

Yes, it was a cold night! The only warmth would be found among the animals of that town. An old Latin antiphon for Christmas says, O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, un animalia viderent Dominum natum iacentem in praesepio. (O great mystery and stunning sacrament, that animals would see the newborn Lord lying in a feedbox. Here, warmth will be found: among the animals. It is sometimes said that man can be brutish. But the reality is that we can sink even lower than the beasts, doing things to ourselves and one other that even animals do not.

Scripture says,

The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know me, my people do not understand….They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him (Isaiah 1:3-4).

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:10-11).

There was a knock at midnight; the animals received Him and gave warmth. His own people, knowing Him not, received Him not. And into this midnight darkness and cold, the light and warmth of God’s love will shine forth. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1).

II. The Condescension – Surely God must stoop low to come down from lightsome Heaven to our war-torn, dark, cold world. And He stoops to the lowest place, to be born not in a palace or even a comfortable home, but a manger. For God will defeat Satan’s pride with humility. And all who will find Him this fateful night must also stoop.

This stooping by God is illustrated even in the very topography of this night. The towns of the Holy Land were built on the tops of the tall hills (something almost never done here in America). This was done so as to leave the fertile valleys open for agriculture. Bethlehem was perched on the higher land and the shepherd’s fields lay below. The streets of Bethlehem were steep and built on tiers or levels. Thus, the back lot of many homes and buildings dropped steeply down and beneath the buildings. And then beneath the buildings they hollowed out caves where animals and tools were kept.

It was there, down underneath, where Joseph and Mary sought hasty shelter. For it was a cold and dark midnight and Mary’s time had come. God stooped with them to be born, among the animals and agricultural implements, in the damp cave underneath some house or inn.

Those who will find our God, they too must stoop low. Even to this day, when one visits Bethlehem to see the place of Jesus’ birth, one must first enter the Church through what is called the “Door of Humility.” For security reasons, this door was built to be only about four feet high. So one must stoop greatly to enter the church. Yes, we must stoop to find our God. The actual site of the birth is at the other end of the basilica, under the altar area. Here again, more stooping is required. One must descend a steep staircase and go through another low, narrow door and into the cave. To touch the very spot, one must kneel and reach forward, into a yet-narrower part of the cave. Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, says the inscription. And the only way to get there is to stoop.

Yes, our God stoops. He stoops to the lowest place. And to find Him and be with Him we, too, must be willing to stoop. God hates pride; He just can’t stand it. He sees what it does to us. He comes to break its back, not by overpowering it, or with clubs and swords, but with humility. Darkness does not defeat darkness; only light can do that. Hate does not defeat hate; only love can do that. Pride does not defeat pride; only humility can do that. And so God stoops.

Tonight God calls us with this same humility. He could have ridden down from Heaven on a lightning bolt and stunned us into fearful submission. Instead, He goes to the lowest place. He comes quietly, peacefully, without threat—as an infant. But even in this lowly way, He is still calling.

And so there is a knock at midnight. Scripture says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). There is an old song with the following lyrics: “Somebody’s knocking at your door! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer?”

And this leads us to the final point.

III. The Crucial thing – When human history is complete and the last books are written, one of the saddest lines in all of that history will be simply the line, For there was no room for them in the Inn. No room … no room. How strange and sad for this world that God simply doesn’t fit! He doesn’t fit with our agendas, into our schedules, or among our priorities. There’s no room. He just doesn’t fit.

Scripture says,

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn 1:11).

But that same passage goes on to add,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

The most crucial decision in and factor of your life is whether or not there is room in your heart. Will you answer the knock at midnight? Some of you who are in this church tonight come only at Christmas. But throughout the rest of the year there is just no room for Jesus. There’s no time for Mass. There’s no time to fulfill the last thing He asked: Do this in memory of me. I beg you to reconsider and make room in your heart for Christ on His terms: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53).

Yes, what about us? Is there room for Jesus in the “inn” of our hearts? If there is, then Jesus comes bearing many gifts. Tonight is a night of gifts. There is a knock at this very midnight. It sounds like Jesus! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer? Somebody’s knocking at your door.

Make room for Jesus. Every year He comes knocking. He stoops low and invites us to find Him in the lowly places of this world, in the lowly places of our own lives. What are the things in your life that may be crowding Him out? What obstacles and preoccupations leave little or no room for Jesus? What keeps you from recognizing Him and opening the door wide when He comes?

If you’ve already opened the door to Him for many years now, praise God! Then ask the Lord to help you open it wider. For it remains true for many of us that even though we’ve invited Jesus in, His accommodations are poor: perhaps the couch or floor of our life.

Make room for Jesus. Make more and more room for Him, in the “inn” of your soul. I promise you that what Scripture says is true: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

If you will receive the gift of Him tonight and make greater room for Him in your heart, I promise you total victory and transformation in Christ Jesus. There will come to you the increasing gift of transformation into the very likeness of God. For tonight is a night of gifts and Jesus stoops low to give us a priceless gift: the power to become children of God.

It’s midnight. There’s a knock at the door. Oh, sinner, why don’t you answer?

Regarding this video … I know, I know. Yet still there is much to ponder.