Viva Cristo Rey, as Seen in a Commercial

In the car commercial below every imaginable attack is waged on the driver by various nefarious figures, but the driver just keeps on driving. Similarly, we must just keep on preaching and teaching no matter what foolish or evil things assail us, no matter the obstacles. St. Paul reminds us,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

I’m not quite sure what to make of the woman at the end of the commercial. Let’s just call her Mother Church. Christ and His bride will win! The wicked will wage their war, but in the end, they will turn on one another. Evil cannot endure. Jesus and His bride win! Viva Cristo Rey!

Late Advent Messages from God to His People

The Prophet Isaiah, by Lorenzo Monaco (1405-10)

As the end of Advent approaches, the Office of Readings features some final admonitions from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. On the one hand they console; on the other, they challenge us to remain firm.

Isaiah addressed a people in exile who still awaited the first coming of the Lord. Today, these texts speak to us in difficult times when, exiled from Heaven, we await His magnificent Second Coming.

Let’s look at these admonitions from the Lord (Isaiah 46:3-13), which were addressed to three different groups in ancient Israel. However, let’s apply them to three groups in our own times: the faithful remnant, the foolish rebels, and the fainthearted at risk.

To the Faithful RemnantHear me, O house of Jacob, all who remain of the house of Israel, my burden since your birth, whom I have carried from your infancy. Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you; It is I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety.

This is directed to the devoted, to the remnant, to those who remain after the cultural revolution in our times, to those sometimes discouraged and sorrowful over the infidelity of loved ones and of the world around them. To these (often the elderly among us who remember a more faithful even if imperfect time) the Lord first speaks.

In effect, He says, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Who are the mournful? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people: not glorifying the Lord in their lives, not knowing why they were made, spending themselves on what neither matters nor satisfies. Yes, those who mourn shall be strengthened, and, as their sorrow has motivated them to pray and work for the kingdom, they shall be borne to safety.

Such as these, the faithful remnant, should never forget that God has carried them from the beginning, even in the strength of their prime. Now, reduced by age, they are still carried by the Lord. He has never forgotten them and will carry them to safety; their faith in difficult times will be rewarded.

To The Foolish Rebels Remember this and bear it well in mind, you rebels; remember the former things, those long ago: I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me. Whom would you compare me with, as an equal, or match me against, as though we were alike? There are those who pour out gold from a purse and weigh out silver on the scales; Then they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god before which they fall down in worship. They lift it to their shoulders to carry; when they set it in place again, it stays, and does not move from the spot. Although they cry out to it, it cannot answer; it delivers no one from distress.

The word “rebel” is from the Latin re (again) + bellum (war). In this context it refers to those who are forever at war with God and His plan for their lives. They foolishly forget His saving deeds. They imagine vain things: that there are other gods or entities that could save them. Even more foolishly, they craft other “gods” that they have to lift upon their shoulders to carry.

Many in our day act in the same way: always at war with God, His Church, and His plan. As G.K. Chesterton once noted, when people stop believing in God, it is not that they will believe in nothing but that they will believe in anything. Chesterton also wrote that when we break God’s big laws, we don’t get liberty; we get small laws. We transfer our trust away from God to false, crafted gods like government, or science, or the market. We hope that they will carry us, but we end up carrying the weight of these gods on our own shoulders. We carry this weight in the form of taxes, debt, and anxiety about everything in our health or environment (demanded by the increasingly politicized scientific and medical communities).

Science, the market, and government are not intrinsically evil, but they are not gods, either. They cannot deliver us from ourselves; only God can do that. To the many who rebelliously and foolishly persist with their “non-gods,” He says, “I am God; there is no other.”

To the Fainthearted at Risk Listen to me, you fainthearted, you who seem far from the victory of justice: I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry; I will put salvation within Zion, and give to Israel my glory. At the beginning I foretell the outcome; in advance, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every purpose. I call from the east a bird of prey, from a distant land, one to carry out my plan. Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it; I have planned it, and I will do it.

Among the faithful there are some who are at risk, who are nearly ready to give up. God encourages them, but also warns that His plan will stand whether or not they endure. Thus there is an implicit warning from Jesus here (and an explicit warning elsewhere) that we must persevere. Jesus says that because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Matt 24:12-13).

St. Augustine wrote, [God has] devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan … All this had therefore to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future, in order that we might wait for it in faith, and not find it as a sudden and dreadful reality (From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop (In ps. 109, 1-3: CCL 40, 1601-1603)).

God’s plan will stand whether or not we do. We must stand as well, even when we want to faint or fall back. Our love must not grow cold nor our strength fail. God has triumphed and Satan has lost. We must choose with whom we will stand.

The evidence of the present age does not seem to show this, but as Scripture reminds us,

Therefore, we do not lose heart … So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-17).

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 Jn 2:16-17).

Here, then, are some final instructions from the Lord this Advent, instructions for us who wait for Him: be faithful; the plan will come to pass. Do not be a foolish rebel, nor one of the at-risk fainthearted. Rather, be part of the faithful remnant. St. Paul says, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27).

The song performed in the clip below is entitled “Lord Help Me to Hold Out.”

The Fire Next Time – A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

The second reading for Sunday Mass speaks to us of “the fire next time” and reminds us of the need to be ready for the coming of the Lord. In this homily I will focus on that reading, in which St. Peter reminds us of the passing that will come for us all one day.

Because Advent is a time to prepare, through prayer and repentance, we do well to heed this sacred teaching and warning. It is echoed by St. John the Baptist, of whom the Gospel today says, A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:2-3).

Note four aspects of the second reading:

I. The PATIENCE that is PURPOSEFUL The text says, Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Though the Lord seems long-delayed in coming (about 2000 years!), the text tells us that this delay is so that as many of us as possible can be saved.

Notice that the text says that God wants us to come to repentance. God’s patience should not be seen as an excuse for presumption, but, rather, a time for repentance. This is no time to be saying, “Later.” It is a time to be serious about repenting and about preparing to meet the Lord.

The Greek word here translated as repentance is μετάνοιαν (metanoian), and refers not just to better behavior but also to a new mind. Our transformation is not merely external, but internal as well. When what we think changes, so does our behavior. When our thinking is conformed to God’s revealed truth, our priorities, feelings, desires, and decisions all begin to change. Conversion and repentance are the result of becoming a changed and transformed human being with a new mind.

II. The PASSING that is PERILOUS The text says, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

In effect, the text says that God’s gonna set this world on fire one of these days. When He comes it will be

Sudden – The text says that the day of the Lord will come like a thief.

This image is quite a consistent with the one Jesus used for the Day of Judgment. However, this image should not be the future for those of us who wait and watch. St. Paul says, But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief … So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thess 5:4,6).

Further, the image of God as a thief is not appropriate for us if we realize that all we have and all we are belongs to Him. For those who are worldly and who claim authority over themselves and their things, God is a thief who comes suddenly and in a hidden way. He overtakes their perceived ownership and possession, putting an end to it. To them, God seems to be a thief, as He “steals” what they consider theirs. They are badly misled.

For those who watch and are prepared (pray God), the Lord comes not to take but to give. He comes to bestow and reward as we inherit His Kingdom.

Shocking – The text speaks of the roaring heavens and of a fire that overwhelms; all will be dissolved by fire.

This image, though shocking, should not alarm us if we are already on fire. At Pentecost, as well as at our individual baptism and confirmation, the Lord lights a fire within us in order to set us on fire, to bring us up to the temperature of glory. For those in the Lord, the “weather” on that day will seem just fine.

The prophet Malachi speaks of the different experiences of the day of the Lord in this way: Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. Notice therefore, that for some the Day is burning with wrathful heat, but for the just, it is a sunny day wherein the sun of righteousness will bring warmth and healing (Mal 4:1-3).

An old spiritual refers to this verse saying, “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no water but the fire next time.” God wants to get us ready by setting us on fire with His love and grace. If God is a Holy Fire, then we must become fire ourselves in order to endure the day of His coming.

ShowingThe text says that all things will be revealed.

It would seem that this fire burns away the masks that many people wear, leaving them to be seen for what they really are. The Lord says, But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matt 12:36). In the Gospel of Luke He says, There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs (Lk 12:2-3).

Even the just may wince at this, for all of us have a past; most would prefer that the past stay in the past. When I have visited “12-Step” meetings, I have sometimes seen people recount what they did when they were drinking. They seem to do so with little shame and much laughter, probably because they are sharing it with others who understand, who have also been set free from the source of the problem. Perhaps, for the just, the “day of disclosing” will be like that.

For those who are unrepentant, though, imagine their embarrassment and fear as their secrets, sins, and past injustices are disclosed to those who are also unforgiving and unmerciful. It’s a bad scene, really.

III. The PRESCRIPTION that is PROCLAIMED The text says, Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire … Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

The text asks us to consider what sort of persons we ought to be.

In a word, the answer is “fiery.” God has lit a fire within us to purify and refine us. Hence, on that day when the Lord will judge by fire, we will pass through. Although some final purifications (purgation) may take place, because the fire has been kindled in us and has already been fanned into a flame, we will be purified, not destroyed.

St. Paul describes the just as going through the purgatorial fire that leads to purification rather than destruction in Hell: If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor 3:12-15).

So the prescription for us is to let God set us afire now so as to purify us, making us more holy and devout. The fire of His Holy Spirit is the only thing that can truly prepare us; it will permit us to endure the day of His coming and be spared the “wrath to come” (cf 1 Thess 1:10; Matt 3:7; Romans 5:9; 1 Thess 5:9), when God will judge the world and everything in it by fire.

IV. The PERFECTION that is PROMISED The text says, But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This text presents the possibility that the created world will not so much be destroyed as purified by God’s fiery judgment. While it may also signify a total destruction of all that now exists and a replacement of it by new heavens and a new earth, some argue that it means that the created world will instead be renewed rather than destroyed and replaced. This view is supported by other passages (e.g., Isaiah 11 and Romans 8). For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:20-21).

Whatever the answer to the debate, the bottom line is that the new (or renewed) world will be a Heaven wedded to earth; the full righteousness of God will be manifest. Further, we will be without spot or blemish; we will be at peace. Yes, God’s gonna set this world on fire one of these days, Hallelujah! God’s fire purifies that which is holy and burns away all else. God will restore all things in Christ!

 

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 an indirect reference to this in the first reading for Tuesday of the 22nd 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!

If You Know The End Of The Story, There’s A Lot You Can Disregard – As Seen On TV

Usually we don’t like to know the end of the story. When someone blurts out the ending it’s called a “spoiler.” What fun is it to read a whodunit when you already know who done it?

When it comes to the faith, though, not only should we know the end of the story, but we must never forget it and must base our very lives upon it. As we look about the world, it is easy to get discouraged and think that evil is winning. Yet Scripture plainly states that Satan’s plans are going nowhere, that Jesus has already won the victory. Mysteriously, the Lord allows Satan a little time to sift through the ruins of his former kingdom. Do not be deceived—Satan has lost and so have all who are allied with him.

Some lines from Psalms come to mind:

Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there. But the poor will inherit the earth, will delight in great prosperity. But my Lord laughs at the wicked, because he sees that their day is coming. Wait eagerly for the LORD, and keep his way; He will raise you up to inherit the earth; you will see when the wicked are cut off. I have seen a ruthless scoundrel, spreading out like a green cedar. When I passed by again, he was gone; though I searched, he could not be found. mark the upright; Because there is a future for a man of peace. Sinners will be destroyed together; the future of the wicked will be cut off (Psalm 37).

Spoiler alert! Yes, dear brethren, I checked. I went to the end of the story and, sure enough, Jesus wins! There it is, right at the end of the Bible. This is a spoiler you need to know, because you have to choose which team you’ll be on and it’s nice to know ahead of time whose team has already won. It’s like going to today’s horserace armed with tomorrow’s newspaper. You’d be a fool to bet on any horse other than the winning one. Well, you have tomorrow’s paper, and here’s what it says:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. They invaded the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire (Rev 20:7–15).

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:1–8).

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.” “Behold, I am coming soon.” Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book. … The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all (Rev 22:6–7; 20-21).

Keep this in mind; keep it always on your mind. The result of this victory is obtained in the paradox of the cross. Jesus destroyed death by dying and tells us that to save our life we must lose it to this world. Whatever your struggles and setbacks, do not be dismayed. Love and humility have already overcome hatred and pride. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that. The Lord allows opportunities for the light of truth to shine in the error of darkness, for love to endure in the face of hatred, and for humility to put pride to shame.

Until the last day when the trumpet shall sound, the drama carries on. But see what the end shall be. You already know the end of the story; make sure that you serve in the Lord’s army and wield the weapons of light, love, and humility.

I know this video is going to seem strange after such a serious reflection, but what could be more humble than a pig “spoiling” the movie for the entering patrons? If you listen to his advice, though, he’s basically saying what I just did: “Don’t waste your time on losers. Don’t waste your time going down a path of wrong ideas or theories. Don’t get all worked up about characters and things that don’t matter—here’s what’s really going on in the movie.”

It’s not bad advice for life, either. If you know the end of the story, there’s a lot you can disregard along the way. You’ll know where to set your focus. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the truth of His Gospel.

Bookends: How the First and Last Books of the Bible Fit Together

blog.11.16.15Today’s post shows some contrasts and fulfillments between the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the last book, Revelation. There is a kind of “bookend” quality to those books wherein things are announced or initiated in Genesis and then fulfilled or finished in Revelation.

Consider the following two lists. I pray that you will appreciate the parallels and paradoxes presented in them, especially during the months of November and December, when we consider the four last things and the culmination of history in Christ Jesus.

  1. The Devil’s doom is announced in Genesis (3:15). It is carried out in Revelation (12 and 20).
  2. Satan is not evident in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither is Satan present or even mentioned in the last two chapters of Revelation.
  3. Genesis is the seedbed of all theology and cosmology. Revelation is the culmination of all theology and cosmology. (N.B. Cosmology is the study of the origin and development of the universe.)
  4. The First Adam is established on earth in Genesis (2:4ff). The Second Adam is established in glory in Revelation (19).
  5. The night, the darkness, and the sea are created in Genesis (1:1ff). In Revelation there is no more night, no more sea (21:1 and 21:23).
  6. A bride is presented to Adam in Genesis (2:18-24). A bride (the Church) is presented to Christ in Revelation (19:6-8; 21:9-11).
  7. There is the tree of life in the garden of paradise (Genesis 2:8) and the tree of life in God’s new creation (Revelation 22:2).
  8. Sin begins in Genesis and brings death and curse (3:7) In Revelation sin has been put down and death is no more. There is no sighing, dying, crying, moaning, groaning, or pain. The former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4-5).
  9. Satan appears for the first time in Genesis (3:1ff). Satan appears for the last time in Revelation (20:7-10).
  10. Satan utters the first lie (you shall not die) in Genesis (3:4). In Revelation Heaven is a city into which no liar can enter (21:8).
  11. Man is driven from God’s face in Genesis (3:23-24). Man beholds God’s face in glory in Revelation (21:23ff and 22:4).
  12. Genesis begins with a wedding. Revelation ends with a wedding.

Particularly as we prepare for the Feast of Christ the King this coming Sunday, notice the following contrasts between the Lord’s First Coming and His Second Coming:

  1. In His First Coming there is a crucifixion. In His Second Coming there is a coronation.
  2. In His First Coming He hangs from the cross as a judged criminal. In His Second Coming He is enthroned for judgment.
  3. In His First Coming He endures the shame of the cross. In His Second Coming He shines forth in splendor.
  4. In His First Coming He comes to redeem. In His Second Coming He reigns in glory.
  5. In His First Coming He is the suffering servant. In His Second Coming He is the splendid sovereign.
  6. In His First Coming He is the justifier. In His Second Coming He is judge.
  7. In His First Coming He is our redeemer. In His Second Coming He is our ruler.

The Bible has many books and forms a kind of library. But at the center, unifying all the books, is Jesus Christ, Lord of History. He is the Alpha and the Omega. All times and seasons belong to Him.

The video below shows the singing of the hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” at Westminster Abbey a few years ago. The second verse of the hymn is,

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,

Rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.

No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,

But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

And the last verse is,

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,

Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.

All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;

Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

https://youtu.be/3kPkjghup8E

His Wrath is Not Turned Back, His Hand is Still Outstretched! Pondering the Wrath of God as a Work of Revelation

blog.8.24When reading Scripture that mentions the wrath of God, most think of His wrath in human terms. But we must be clear that God does not get angry the way we do. Further, our God is not moody: pleasant and patient one moment and then angry and punishing the next. No, God does not suffer from mood swings or throw tantrums. God is love; stably, serenely, and consistently so.

So then what is God’s wrath? I have written on this topic in greater depth here: What is the Wrath of God? However for this post, allow me to summarize by saying that God’s wrath is His “passion” to set things right. His wrath is His work to root out sin and injustice and bring forth holiness and righteousness.

Another thing to note about God’s wrath is that the anger is really more in us than in God. The wrath of God is our experience of the total incompatibility of our unrepentant sin before the holiness of God. It is like fire and water: they do not mix. And one can hear the wrathful conflict when fire and water come together. So the sinner in the presence of the all holy God is going to experience a conflict. It is not so much that God is angry as that the sinner is incapable of enduring His glory, so bright and awesome. It is like wax before the fire.

In this post I would like explore how God’s wrath is also a work of revelation. St. Paul says, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). And so St. Paul speaks of God’s wrath as being revealed, as being a work of revelation. As such, it exposes our injustice, error, and sin.

A recent text we read in the Liturgy of the Hours (from Isaiah Ch. 9) also develops God’s wrath as a kind of light of revelation, as a hand pointing out our iniquity. Within the longer passage below there is this refrain: For all this, his wrath is not turned back, and his hand is still outstretched! For indeed, God’s wrath casts a light on our wrongs and his outstretched hand points to them, revealing them and executing their results. Let’s consider Isaiah’s treatment of the revelatory wrath of God.

The Lord has sent word against Jacob,
it falls upon Israel;
And all the people know it,
Ephraim and those who dwell in Samaria,
those who say in arrogance and pride of heart,
“Bricks have fallen,
but we will build with cut stone;
Sycamores are felled,
but we will replace them with cedars.”
But the Lord raises up their foes against them
and stirs up their enemies to action:
Aram on the east and the Philistines on the west
devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
and his hand is still outstretched!
(Is 9:8-12)

And thus we see that the wrath of God reveals in Israel a bold, prideful resistance to His warnings. “Bricks have fallen … [and] sycamores have been felled.” These were warnings from God that neither natural nor man-made structures can stand; they crumble under the weight of sin and injustice. Yet instead of heeding the warning, the people doubled-down on their sins, arrogantly thinking that they could replace what God had established with designs of their own.

For us today a similar pattern is evident, as our families crumble and we twist nature. But even seeing the darkness and deep confusion we have ushered in, we still do not seek God’s light again. Rather, our culture “doubles down” and arrogantly asserts that we can redefine marriage, family, sexuality, and even the nature of things themselves. We sweep aside the “bricks and sycamores” that God has established, thinking that we can do better with the stone and cedars of our imagining.

Having instructed Israel through His law and warned her to no avail, God handed Israel over to her enemies, just as today we are being handed over to the enemies of our rebellion: STDs, depopulation, divorce, cohabitation, sexual confusion of a colossal nature, the tragic loss of our children through abortion, the decline of our children (lack of discipline, lack of proper psychological formation) due to broken families—the list could go on and on.

When the text says that God “handed them over,” it means that He let them have their own way and allowed them to suffer the consequences. As would any loving father, God seeks first to teach and warn His children. Next, He resorts to punishments that seek to draw us back from the full impact of our sin. But if all these fail, He finally hands us over to our own designs.

When we experience wrath, we experience the total incompatibility of our sinful stance with the glory for which we were made. There comes on us, collectively and individually, a burning indignation toward God and any who represent Him or remind us of the truth for which we were made. We project our anger on God. But God is not angry. Rather, He has a passion, a will to set things right. His justice and love are one reality.

How is the wrath of God a work of revelation? It shows us the full consequences of our sinful rejection of God and His plan for us. The fact is, we grow weak and become easy prey for our enemies, both literal and figurative. For Ancient Israel this meant Aram and the Philistines. For us in the decaying, once-Christian West it means we become too weak to resist enemies like lust and greed. We can no longer make commitments and keep them; we have little self-control. These enemies devour our strength, cloud our minds, and erode our progress.

This wrathful condition is a revelation from God, showing us what we are when we reject His favor, His mercy, and His call to truth. As a work of revelation, there is always the hoped-for response: repentance. But, sadly, the text continues in this way:

The people do not turn to him who struck them,
nor seek the Lord of hosts
.

And so the wrath continues, revealing to us in ever-deeper and darker tones the full depths of our condition, of our sad state. Sin grows; the young especially suffer from the sins of parents and elders. If we do not want grace, we will not have it; if we do not seek His mercy and grace, we will be increasingly without them. We cannot endure God’s holiness and justice apart from grace and mercy, and so we experience His holiness as wrath. This reveals to us our grave condition.

Time does not permit further commentary on the text below (from Isaiah). But as you read it, is there not a sobering sense that what is described is all too familiar? Is not this wrathful recitation a revelation?

The leaders of this people mislead them
and those to be led are engulfed.
For this reason, the Lord does not spare their young men,
and their orphans and widows he does not pity;
They are wholly profaned and sinful,
and every mouth gives vent to folly.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched!

For wickedness burns like fire,
devouring brier and thorn;
It kindles the forest thickets,
which go up in columns of smoke.
At the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land quakes,
and the people are like fuel for fire;
No man spares his brother,
each devours the flesh of his neighbor.
Though they hack on the right, they are hungry;
though they eat on the left, they are not filled.
Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh;
together they turn on Judah.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched!

Woe to those who enact unjust statutes
and who write oppressive decrees,
Depriving the needy of judgment
and robbing my people’s poor of their rights,
Making widows their plunder,
and orphans their prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
when ruin comes from afar?
To whom will you flee for help?
Where will you leave your wealth,
Lest it sink beneath the captive
or fall beneath the slain?
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched
!

Yes, as the text asks, what will we do on the day of full judgment? Even when we are in our worst state, God allows His wrath (our experience of His holy justice) to be a revelation to us, in the hope that before our final judgment we will finally call on Him. For on that day, the door of possible change will close and our condition will be final and forever fixed.

Woe to us that God’s wrath must be our revelation, his wrath is not turned back, his hand is still outstretched. Better for us to repent and allow His beautiful truth and mercy to be our light, our revelation. Have mercy on us, Lord. Give us added graces to repent!

"Alas, Alas for the Great City!" An Urgent Plea for Prayer at the New Year!

123014We are very close to the new year, 2015 AD. And most of us at the new year have it in mind to pray for the future year not only for ourselves, but also for our family, country, and culture. With that in mind, there is something of an admonition to us all that I would share from Scripture. For while we look to the new year with hope, we do well to soberly assess the warnings of God that are seemingly more applicable than ever. Above all we must pray so as to avoid the otherwise necessary chastisements of God and the inevitability of ruin at our own hand if we do not soon repent.

We have good reason to have concern for what we have come to call Western culture.  Our last century was nothing less than a blood bath of world wars, cold wars, killing fields, mass starvations, abortion, and euthanasia. It is conservatively estimated that 100 million were put to death for ideological purposes (e.g., in Hitler’s camps, Stalin’s mass starvations, Pol Pot’s killing fields, Mao’s camps, Rwanda’s genocide, the Balkan genocides). Add to this the war dead and the victims of abortion and the number easily reaches 200 million.

In the middle of that period in the West, we threw in many social revolutions: the sexual revolution, the revolution against authority, the widespread use of hallucinogenic drugs, radical feminism, abortion on demand, contraception, and no-fault divorce. The solitary boast of the tainted 1960s was the civil rights movement, largely granted to it by the 1950s.

It is no surprise then that Americans, still reeling from these selfish and egotistical revolutions, find that most baby boomers are now in various combinations of drug rehab, AA, SA, Overeaters Anonymous, or even jail. Add to this situation vast amounts of psychotherapy, psychotropic drugs, and a self-esteem-driven culture with endless distractions to keep the revolutionaries and their children sane. Then throw in large amounts of antibiotics to treat the sexually transmitted diseases … would someone please call in the exorcist?

We have sown the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind. Enter now the desperate confusion of the “rainbow,” a once beautiful sign of hope that now only bespeaks sexual confusion of a colossal degree. And let no heterosexual gloat until he ponders rampant fornication, easy divorce, abortion, and the disgraceful lack of self-control that has helped usher in the sex-is-just-about-pleasure-and-means-whatever-I-say-it-means culture. Confusion, from top to bottom!

So here we are in 2015. And if we have any sense and any faith at all, we need to fall on our knees and pray for miraculous conversion. I love this country and Western culture. I do not think anything finer has ever graced this globe. But we have become collectively corrupted. Our freedom has become licentiousness; our sense of human dignity has been debased; our comforts have made us lazy and inimical to the Cross and to discipline.

And thus we do well to heed God’s warnings of old to other cultures that had become similarly corrupted.

A little over a week ago, as we wrapped up Advent, Isaiah uttered a warning to a pompous and self-secure empire (Babylon) that its might and power, its wealth and poise, were soon to come to an end. Of special mention was the scorn that God had for Babylon’s arrogant presumption that she would never fall or suffer loss and that her power would be forever. And yet too often this same arrogance besets us today. Listen to what God says to ancient Babylon at the zenith of her power:

Come down, sit in the dust, O virgin daughter Babylon; Sit on the ground, dethroned, O daughter of the Chaldeans. No longer shall you be called dainty and delicate. I will take vengeance, I will yield to no entreaty … Go into darkness and sit in silence, No longer shall you be called sovereign mistress of kingdoms …

Now hear this, voluptuous one, enthroned securely, Saying to yourself, “I, and no one else! I shall never be a widow, or suffer the loss of my children”—Both these things shall come to you suddenly, in a single day: Complete bereavement and widowhood shall come upon you For your many sorceries and the great number of your spells; Because you felt secure in your wickedness, and said, “No one sees me.”

Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, And you said to yourself, “I, and no one else!” But upon you shall come evil you will not know how to predict; Disaster shall befall you which you cannot allay. Suddenly there shall come upon you ruin which you will not expect (Isaiah 47: 1-15 selected).

Be soberly attentive, dear reader, and pray. For it is hard to read words like these and not see how they apply precisely to an age like ours! And before you exultantly say, “Bring it on!” please consider how instantly different our lives would be. Are you really ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle!

What was (is) Babylon? At one level, it is an historical nation-state at the time of the ancient Jews. There were others: Egypt, Assyria, Medo-Persia, and later Greece and Rome. But all these powers, though real historical places, also symbolized the world and all its glories arrayed against God and His kingdom.

  1. Egypt with its power, its fleshpots, and its leeks and onions was something the ancient Jews were always pining after. Abram ran there during a drought instead of trusting God to sustain him in the Holy Land. When Moses led the people out, they were always looking back, forgetting the slavery and remembering the fleshpots. They loved the world and trusted it more than God.
  2. In their fear against invaders, the Jews were ever succumbing to the temptation to make alliances with Assyria and Egypt (i.e., with the world and its power). “Trusting God is too risky. Let’s trust in Egypt or Assyria. Let’s trust in the world to come through for us.”
  3. In Babylonian exile, the Jews left, singing that they would never forget Jerusalem. But after 8o years in Babylon (a symbol of the world and its empires) most had no interest in returning to the Promised Land (a symbol of Heaven) when they were allowed to do so. They preferred Babylon and its hanging gardens to God’s kingdom. Only a small number returned. “Why should I go back to Israel? I have a pretty nice little jewelry shop I run here in Babylon on the corner of Tigris and Euphrates Avenues …”

And thus places like Babylon, Egypt, Sodom, Assyria, and later Greece and Rome, were not just city-states; they were symbols of the world arrayed against God and vying for that place in our heart that belongs to Him. The prophets often accused Jerusalem herself of having become Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.

But no kingdom of this world can or will stand. In the age of the Church, and even prior to that in the Old Testament period of the Church, kingdoms came and went. Nations rose and fell. Empires emerged and collapsed. Where is Nimrod now? Where is Pharaoh Necho? Where are Cyrus the Persian, Alexander the Great, Caesar Nero, Napoleon, Stalin, and Chairman Mao?

But what of us? All those ancient kingdoms fell not merely because their time was up, but because of sin and the collapse that pride and sin bring. And as for us, how can a nation or culture stand that is increasingly permeated by pride, godlessness, corruption, fornication, abortion, sexual confusion, families in crisis, lack of sexual self-control, gluttony, drug use, alcoholism, rampant pornography, and ridicule of authority, tradition, and faith?

Consider a similar passage from the Book of Revelation (Chapter 18) warning the faithful about “Babylon.” (By 90 AD Babylon was actually long gone. Thus “Babylon” here is a symbol for the world and its tendency to fall into corruption.) John was saying that the “Great City” (Jerusalem – the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified – Rev 11:8) had become Babylon. And he develops this theme in Revelation 18. Sadly, by 70 AD, having been given 40 years to repent, Jerusalem was sacked, burned, and utterly destroyed just as this prophecy had warned.

Have America and the West become like Babylon? Does the chilling judgment that came on Jerusalem and many other ancient cultures now apply to us? It would seem so unless repentance comes quickly. Hear and heed the warning given to ancient Jerusalem (which had become like Babylon) on this eve of the new year. Babylon is

I. Dominated by Demons – The text says,  After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  It has become a dwelling place of demons,  a haunt of every foul spirit,  a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion,  and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,  and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,  “Come out of her, my people,  lest you take part in her sins,  lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven,  and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her as she herself has rendered,  and repay her double for her deeds;  mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed (Rev 18:1-6).

And as ancient Jerusalem was said to have the abomination of desolation (Mat 24:15), so too has our age embraced and even celebrated many abominations: abortion, fornication, homosexual acts, and the greed that becomes injustice to the poor. Scripture speaks of four sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance: murder (Gn 4:10), homosexual acts (acts of sodomy)  (Gn 18:20-21), oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23), and defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4). There are also sins against the Holy Spirit, sins that harden a soul by rejecting the Holy Spirit. Six sins are in this category: despair, presumption, envy, obstinacy in sin, final impenitence, and deliberate resistance to the known truth.

Welcome to America after the social revolution. Pre-revolution America (prior to 1968) was no paradise, but there was more of a sense of basic right and wrong. Now everything is up for debate, and what used to slink around in back alleys now parades down Main Street in broad daylight.

To all this demonic influence, celebration of depravity, and excessive passion comes the plea, “Come out of here, my people!” Otherwise we will share in Babylon’s punishment. Make no compromises with this modern age, which has become the dwelling place of demons. Celebrating its secularism, our age, in rejecting God, has delivered itself to the machination of demons and all sort of human foolishness.

Stay sober, my friends, and see this age for what it is becoming: the dwelling place of demons, the haunt of every foul spirit, impure passion, and wanton desire. Have custody of your eyes and guard your heart!

II. Defiant in Depravity –   As she glorified herself and played the wanton,  so give her a like measure of torment and mourning.  Since in her heart she says, ‘A queen I sit,  I am no widow, mourning I shall never see’  (Rev 18:7).  

Yes, no matter how high the body count rises from abortion, from the broken lives of children raised without fathers, from exposure to pornography, from the celebration of greed and whatever is base or decadent—the modern West is too drunk to notice the harm she inflicts on herself. 70 million abortions, more than half of children raised in fatherless homes and in chaos … never mind all that! We are liberated. We will do as we please. We will not be told what to do!

And thus defiance and even the celebration of what is wicked and cries to heaven for vengeance continues apace. Despite all sorts statistics that say we are in real trouble, most go on calling “good” or “no big deal” what God calls sin. But God will not be mocked and ultimately we cannot avoid the consequences of our increasing depravity. At some point, God will have to end it if we do not repent.

Sadly, our defiance makes it seem unlikely that we will repent.

III. Destined for Destruction So shall her plagues come in a single day,  pestilence and mourning and famine,  and she shall be burned with fire;  for mighty is the Lord God who judges her … Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!  In one hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more; and the sound of harpers and minstrels, of flute players and trumpeters, shall be heard in thee no more; and a craftsman of any craft shall be found in thee no more; and the sound of the millstone shall be heard in thee no more; and the light of a lamp shall shine in thee no more;  and the voice of bridegroom and bride  shall be heard in thee no more;  for thy merchants were the great men of the earth,  and all nations were deceived by thy sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,  and of all who have been slain on earth” (Rev 18:8, 19-24).

Jerusalem, the great city, the holy city, was utterly destroyed. 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the conflagration. Jerusalem was burned, and when the Romans were finished, not one stone was left on another. Jesus had warned of this day in the Mt. Olivet discourses  (Mark 13Matthew 24Luke 21) and had wept over Jerusalem: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate (Matt 23:37-38).

And what of us? Will we repent? Or will we be defiant and destined for destruction? Pray for America. Pray for the West. Pray for our culture, which still has great goodness but has succumbed to much corruption.

IV. Depressing in Desolation – And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon!  In one hour has thy judgment come.” And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. “The fruit for which thy soul longed has gone from thee, and all thy dainties and thy splendor are lost to thee, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! In one hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out,  “Alas, alas, for the great city” (Rev 18:9-19).

Here’s the bottom line: Satan sails a sinking ship. Nothing of this world can stand except on the firm foundation of Christ and His Church. Too many Christians are in a compromised state with a sinful world. Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb 13:15-16).

In this new year, pray for our Western world as never before. We have brought great gifts to the world through our marriage with Christ. But now, acting like an angry divorcée, we have forsaken Him and turned to great wickedness. But God still seeks us and wants to renew His covenant with us.

Pray. And before you exultantly say, “Bring on the destruction!” please consider that this is no “made-for-TV movie.” Think about how instantly different our lives would be! Please consider the bloodshed and loss of life. Again, would you be ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle! It doesn’t have to end in destruction. Jerusalem could have repented, and we still can.

The Church will survive. God’s will shall prevail. But what of our beloved country and the West? That is up to us.

So pray at this dawn of the new year. Pray a lot. Only then will it be a “Happy New Year!”

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!