Bittersweetness about Vatican II

VaticanII

Everyone remembers the image of Pope John’s smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church’s history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the signs of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.

(Sept. 3, 2000. Homily of Pope John Paul II, when he declared his predecessor John XXIII to be among the Blessed.)

Today we solemnly remember St. John XXIII at the altar. We do not do so on the anniversary of his death, even though mostly we keep saints’ memorials on their death days. Nor do we remember John XXIII on the anniversary of his becoming pope, which we often do—when it comes to pope-saints. We keep the Memorial of St. John XXIII on the anniversary of… the opening ofVatican II.

Remember how we kept a “Year of Faith” to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II? I gave a three-month series of homilies on the Council documents.

John XXIII Vatican IIMy basic thesis about Vatican II: The original Apostles went out into a confused, semi-organized pagan world, to proclaim the Gospel and communicate the grace of Christ. We face a fundamentally similar task. The Fathers of Vatican II recognized this, with stunningly clear insight.

Now, little did any of us know how much morale-crushing filth still lay hidden under the hierarchy’s rug—back in the fall of 2012, when we celebrated fifty years since Vatican II, on October 11. Pope Benedict actually resigned during the vaunted Year of Faith. His abdication, and its chaotic aftermath, have served to pull back the curtain on the catastrophic misgovernment of the Church—a nightmare we still find ourselves living through.

So we find it almost impossible to reconnect spiritually with the hopefulness of October 11, 1962. With the hopefulness of St. John XXIII, as he smiled upon the bishops gathered from the four corners of the earth. Gathered at the Vatican, to find a way to give the modern world the Gospel.

Almost impossible. To recover that hopefulness. After the hierarchy has managed to pile betrayal upon betrayal.

But not completely impossible. Because the actual teachings of Vatican II still shimmer with beauty and truth. Yes, the Fathers did forget that original sin affects everyone, including bishops and popes. Original sin actually seems to affect bishops and popes more than anyone else. The Church used to know that perfectly well. But at Vatican II, they experienced amnesia about that particular fact, with dire consequences for us.

But: Even with all the body blows we have suffered, I still think we can hold to my Vatican II thesis. The original Apostles went out into a confused, semi-organized pagan world, to proclaim the Gospel and communicate the grace of Christ. We Catholics of 2019 have basically the same task in front of us.

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Hobbits, Small and Big

earthsun

Lord, increase our faith! (Luke 17:5) [Spanish]

The Christian faith defies definition. Our faith is something mysterious, since it involves: our finite minds somehow touching, somehow knowing the infinite God. Holding the Christian faith means receiving a gift from heaven. And co-operating with it, mentally.

We express our faith in the… Creed. We believe in God Almighty, Creator of all, Lord and Giver of life. We believe that He made everything out of nothing.

Why does earth orbit the sun–the third planet out, in this particular little solar system–with Venus our neighbor inward, and Mars one planet out? Because of physics and gravity? Well, yes…except then you have to ask: Why then is there a sun and an earth and a Venus and a Mars, and physics and gravity? Because of the Big Bang? Maybe. But if there was a Big Bang, then you have to ask: Why then was there a Big Bang? Our faith gives us a certain answer: Because God wills.

The infinite Power has an infinite Will, which wills that the universe exist, and that we exist, exactly as things stand, right now. If He willed otherwise, things would be otherwise.

Let’s ask ourselves this: Is our faith in this infinite, omnipotent God a comfort to us? Or is it terrifying?

Maybe it’s a comfort?  God governs everything with His inexorable power. So we can let go of our delusions of grandeur. We can accept that, in the great sway of the divine government, we are very small. Like little hobbits occupying an obscure corner of the cosmos, living on earth for a brief moment in the grand scheme of years. Our little pilgrim lives will pass away as swiftly as they came.

God is big. We are small. God can move mulberry trees at will; we are small enough to fit under a mulberry tree. So we can shed our Messiah complexes and enjoy our dinners in peace. May God’s will be done. Knowing the future is above my pay-grade.

But wait: This is a little terrifying, too—the greatness of God, and the littleness of us carbon life forms on the third rock from the sun. I mean: Do we matter? We believe in the awesome infinite God, Who has laid out the heavens and the stars. We ourselves huddle here like so many little specks of life on a little planet. Do we matter?  Our smallness can just about overwhelm us.

Let’s go back to our original question. What is the faith that we pray the Lord will increase in us? The holy Catholic faith. Which believes in God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things, the visible and the invisible. And our faith also believes in–part two of the Creed–Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

Do we matter? Well, the infinite God, Who cracks mulberry trees in half at will, by thunderbolts and hurricane winds—He made Himself one of us. He became incarnate and walked the earth.

And we have to seek precision here. God did not ‘incarnate’ Himself in the form of some fleeting vision. He didn’t even just send an angel. The holy Incarnation has no ephemeral aspects. He took our human nature to Himself in such a way that He Personally became one of these little semi-hairy creatures, who take up a tiny patch of territory on this little, remote planet, for a fleeting period of time, punctuated by daily dinners.

elanorgamgeeGod is a man. From the first Annunciation Day forward, He always will be a man. And that is His most awesomely powerful act of all. He saves us sinners and gives us eternal life. He makes us His intimate friends, His kith and kin: the eternal Son’s brothers and sisters, the eternal Father’s beloved children. For God to become man, while remaining pure God—that involves the kind of omnipotence that makes thunderstorms and hurricanes look like so many little splashings in a bird bath, by comparison.

After all, the universe really only appears to dwarf us human beings with its vastness. Yes: we get tired just walking from one end of a Walmart to another. But, in fact, every single individual human soul extends to a greater space than the entire universe of stars and planets, supernovas and galaxies. We can conceive and envision and number all the elements of the universe. The very huge cosmos, in which we find ourselves so small—this universe is, in fact, something of which we can conceive, something about which we can have a clear idea, as we gaze at the night sky. Which means that our minds are bigger than it is. Not in feet and inches. But in total spiritual comprehension. Each of our minds is bigger than the entire universe.

God did not unite Himself Personally with a supernova, or even with the Milky Way galaxy. He united Himself with us little goofballs right here. To give us His eternal friendship. That He did that is more awesome than anything.

We pray that our faith in that unfathomable mystery, the mystery of the eternal Son of the eternal Father becoming man–we pray that our faith in that awesome mystery will always increase.

Charity and “Saved”

The evangelical law of charity. Love God above all things, with everything you have. And love your neighbor as yourself, for God’s sake.

council_of_trentAt the Ecumenical Council of Trent, they discussed the relationship between faith and charity.

We believe in God. We believe in God’s Christ. We believe in the Redemption of the human race. We believe in divine love and mercy.

The Christian faith comes to us as a pure gift from above. Salvation comes as a pure gift from heaven. Our response to that gift: Belief. And grateful love.

But that doesn’t mean that we are, right now, “saved.” We have a pilgrimage to make as Christians in this fallen world, to get to the heavenly kingdom. A difficult pilgrimage. Harder than walking from London to Venice, like St. Rose of Lima’s contemporary, and William Shakespeare’s friend, Thomas Coryat did, in 1608. (In 1612, he walked from Turkey to India.) We know we cannot rely on our own strength to persevere to the end of the Christian pilgrimage. So we rely on God’s grace. We hope in God.

By hoping in God, we can live in His love. We can love with His love, and thereby fulfill the evangelical law—a task which human nature, left to itself, cannot accomplish. We neither presume on God’s mercy, nor despair of it. We persevere in faith and divine love by hoping in God’s mercy.

Faith, hope, and love. The greatest is love, to be sure. In heaven, faith and love will be no more; it will be all love. But here below: all three, inextricably intertwined. The human soul in the state of grace believes in God, hopes in God’s grace, and loves God and neighbor by God’s grace.

Thomas Coryat
inveterate pilgrim, Thomas Coryat

“Understand” the Mystery of Faith

Representation_of_the_Sower's_parableJesus Christ is Himself the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, and the Bread of heaven.

He unites us and gives us the hope of genuine communion with God and among ourselves.

In the Person of Jesus Christ, we encounter the divine Love, the very inner-mystery of God.

The Lord says: He who has ears ought to hear this. Which means pretty much everybody. Ought to hear that Jesus lives, that He makes everything right with His infinite rightness, that in His Church we find mercy and love and heaven.

The Lord says: Receive this Word of God, and understand it. That’s the seed that falls on good soil.

Understand it? What does He mean? Since, in fact, we receive the Word of God with faith. We neither see nor know the tri-une and incarnate God. So how can we possibly understand Him?

Short answer: We cannot and do not understand God during this pilgrimage. But that’s not the ‘understanding’ of which the Lord speaks.

He means: Understand everything else by the light of the truth in which we believe. Start with Christ. By the light of His divine truth, understand everything else.

We believe in Him. So we don’t give up on loving each other, no matter how impossible it might seem to do that. We believe in Christ. So we untiringly seek the truth in every situation, even the apparently hopelessly complicated ones. We believe in Jesus. So we hope for good things to come, even when everything seems hopeless.

The country and the Church only seem to be confused and divided beyond repair. They are not, in fact. Because Jesus reigns. By cleaving to Him, we will be able to help make things better.

That’s the spiritual gift of understanding. We understand: what may seem hopeless is not, in fact, hopeless. What may seem to contradict our faith in God, does not, in fact, contradict it.

It just gives us a chance to believe better, hope more deeply, and love more generously.

Jacob’s “Awesome” Life

Jacob’s Dream
José de Ribera “Jacob’s Dream at Bethel”

As we read at Holy Mass today, young Jacob made his way northeast to find a wife from among his own kin. On the way, he dreamt of the ladder or staircase between heaven and earth. The Lord promised Jacob many descendants. He promised the land to Jacob’s descendants. And He promised to accompany Jacob always.

Sounds pretty awesome. Then Jacob went on to live his awesome life, in which…

He worked seven years indentured servitude for the privilege of marrying the woman with whom he had fallen in love, only to have his father-in-law pull a fast one on him. Jacob then had to work a second seven-year term. After that, and six more years hard labor for good measure, Jacob’s father-in-law tried to cheat Jacob out of any profit for his twenty years of work.

Then Jacob returned to the land of his brother Esau, who Jacob rightly feared would try to kill him.

Then a neighbor raped one of Jacob’s daughters. Jacob’s sons took revenge by slaughtering all the men among the rapists’ kin. So Jacob, fearing a reprisal, once again had flee for his life.

Jacob had a favorite son. Right. Joseph. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Jacob never laid eyes on his most-beloved son again, until shortly before his own death.

Pretty awesome life. If by ‘awesome,’ we mean: fearful, toilsome, painful, and relentlessly difficult.

Jacob’s dream of the stairway to heaven foreshadowed Jesus’ revelation about Himself. That angels would ascend and descend on the Son of Man.

We could make no sense whatsoever out of Jacob’s endless travails as God’s “blessing,” if we didn’t know about the Passion of the Christ. But, like Jacob His ancestor, Jesus’ suffered bitterly in this world. The most innocent and pure human pilgrim ever to walk the earth suffered the most.

So Scripture teaches us, so that we can learn early, what life will teach us in the end anyway: Our hope for lasting happiness lies not in this world, but in the next.

Some Clear Ideas about God’s Kingdom

Christ & Pilate

Let’s see who can identify the participants in the following exchange.

“Then you are a king?”

“You say I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”

Who asked, ‘Then you are a king?’ Right. Pontius Pilate.

And Who came into the world to bear witness to the truth? Correct. The King.

When did this conversation take place? Correct. Good Friday. Right before the scourging and crucifixion.

At last Sunday’s Mass, at the beginning of the gospel, we read: “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” He determined to journey to Jerusalem in order to offer Himself for us on the cross. He determined to journey to Jerusalem to reveal His Kingship—on the cross. He had explained it earlier: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all mankind to Myself.” Christ crucified reigns over the universe as the divine King.

xt-king

At this Sunday’s Mass, we read: Lord Jesus commands us to declare to the world, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

We might feel embarrassed to do this. To declare the coming of God’s Kingdom, in the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord. To declare that He gathers His people around His holy altar. That His kingdom comes through the divine love that He communicates to the human race through the Mass and all the sacraments. We might hesitate to number ourselves among Jesus’ missionaries.

Maybe that’s because we don’t have a clear idea what the phrase “Kingdom of God” means? To be sure, the Kingdom of God transcends all human understanding. We put our faith in the divine mystery of the Kingdom, and we pray every day that it will come. At the same time, we have some crystal-clear ideas about the kingdom, too.

1. The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. To the little ones. To childlike, pure hearts.

God had consecrated His people Israel through His ancient alliance with them, liberating them from slavery in Egypt. He Himself reigned over them. Then they asked for a human king. The prophet Samuel gave them King David.

David had great military successes, but he did not reign over God’s people by killing Goliath or conquering the city of Jerusalem. David still had to hear the prophet Nathan accusing him of his grievous sins. King David only reigned in peace after he acknowledged his sins with a contrite heart.

Which brings us to clear idea #2 about the Kingdom of God:

2. It belongs to repentant sinners. It is not a reign of self-satisfied pride, but of humble trust in God’s mercy.

confessionalLord Jesus, when He walked the earth, worked signs to demonstrate the coming of the Kingdom of God. These signs included dramatic exorcisms. Jesus freed some poor souls from the power of Satan.

Now, what is Satan’s most distinctive quality? Isn’t it his mercilessness? Satan has no pity. Seminarian Jack Shanahan gave us a talk last weekend about the Pro-Life Movement. One thought that ran through my mind as Jack spoke: The Satanic mercilessness of abortion. It leaves behind not only death, but also crushing despair and desperate interior emptiness.

The Kingdom of God involves the opposite. Restoration for the sinner. The tender friendship of heaven. A fresh start.

Which brings us to clear idea #3, which itself has a Part One and a Part Two.

3. The Kingdom of God comes through the grace of Holy Baptism.

The human race, made in God’s image and likeness, has enormous grandeur. Yet, left to ourselves, we have no divine kingdom, but rather a kingdom of dust. A kingdom of blind folly, with huge dumps full of obsolete cell phones with dead batteries. Ultimately, unredeemed man inherits only the kingdom of death.

God has redeemed us from death through His cross. We share in that grace through Holy Baptism.

And Holy Baptism has a Part Two. “Second Baptism,” which we can receive again and again. The Kingdom of God stands open to those who enter… which door? It’s a humble little door, with a window because of child-protection policies, but which opens into a chamber with the greatest confidential secrecy available on earth.

Christ gave St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom of God. Any priest has the power to turn the key, and unlock the pearly gate. All it takes is: a humble confession, a promise to do the imposed penance, and an act of contrition.

Maybe, when we get right down to it, we find ourselves embarrassed to declare the coming of God’s Kingdom because: We ourselves still need to go to confession? Still need to sort everything out in our own consciences, come clean, and commit to a scrupulous observance of all ten of the commandments?

Ok. No problem. That’s the work we’re here to do together. The whole point of the Church: to try to get ourselves straightened out. So that we can find the true joy and interior peace that bait the hook, when we go out into the world, fishing for souls.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. One thing that sentence certainly means: The busier Father gets in the confessional, the more truly evangelical and welcoming our parishes become.

Sound Eye

Jeopardy Teen Psalm 23

The first five words of the 23rd Psalm.

A clue in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, during yesterday evening’s match. Some of the most intelligent, well-educated young people in the land, competing.

None of them knew the first five words of the 23rd Psalm. None of them even rang in on the buzzer. Shrugged shoulders and silence.

…From today’s gospel at Holy Mass, part of the Sermon on the Mount: Where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. God. The Lord. Our shepherd. Nothing shall I want, in that pasture, the eternal Kingdom of God.

The gospel continues: The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. The Greek literally reads, “If your eye be single.” But here ‘single’ evidently means ‘unified, whole.’ Because the next phrase contrasts ‘single’ with ‘bad.’

What does this mean? Certainly the Lord speaks not simply of our material eyes, since they are, by nature, double.

The light of an upright conscience, the interior eye, by which we perceive God. What is an upright conscience? What isn’t it? It’s not magic. Conscience = reasoning soberly, starting from a sound first principle, when it comes to making decisions, or recognizing the rightness or wrongness of decisions I have made.

And the sound first principle is: The Lord is my shepherd.

Dew of Heavenly Truth

Mare and foal

Come, Holy Spirit! On our dryness pour your dew. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus died on the cross. On the third day, He rose again. He remained on earth for forty days. He ascended into heaven. Our Lady and the Apostles prayed. Then Christ poured out the Holy Spirit.

Sunday we conclude the Easter season, which is the same thing as springtime. We Christians celebrate spring by celebrating the Lord Jesus’ Easter mysteries, over the course of fifty days.

The sequence of events that we remember every Easter season—it teaches us why the Lord Jesus became man and conquered human death. He did not do it for His own sake. After all, before He became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, He already enjoyed undying life. From all eternity, He is true God from true God—one eternal God with the Father.

So Christ did not need to rise from the dead for His own sake. Rather, He rose from the dead for us. He rose from the dead to be the first-fruits of our resurrection.

So: two fundamental, unseen facts of life. 1. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Apostles saw Him, and we believe the testimony the Apostles left behind. 2. We believe that, in the end, we will rise again, too, like Christ rose again.

El Greco PentecostUnseen truths of faith. We believe the fundamental facts of our lives; we do not see them. We believe in the final consummation of the world, the coming of Christ the Judge, eternal glory for the just, and eternal damnation for the unjust.

And we live by our faith in this as-yet-unseen future.  What we do see, however—what we see when springtime comes every year—it gives us a sign of the unseen consummation to come. The springtime we see gives us a sign of the eternity we do not yet see.

Let me explain. Every spring, the earth brings forth new life. What was dead rises again. What had gone down into the soil as a seed emerges as a living flower. The unseen power of nature brings about an annual resurrection of everything that is green and fragrant. The fauna, too, are renewed. Chicks hatch. Horses foal. All the species of the animal kingdom get resurrected by nature’s power.

Now, if we are going to try and understand Pentecost, we have to ask ourselves: What is the great secret ingredient of the annual resurrection of Mother Nature, of the earth? What makes spring spring?

The answer is, of course: Water. Water makes the springtime resurrection of nature’s life occur. The sky pours water onto the soil, and the moistening dew wakes the sleeping power of life. Water revives the earth.

Everybody with me so far? Now of course we are greater than all the plants. We are greater than all the animals. God made the other creatures for us. The other creatures sustain us; we cannot do without them. But they live small and fleeting lives, compared to ours.

We human beings need more than the water of the annual spring rains. Because God does not cultivate us nor breed us just for annual regeneration. We are not little creatures that cycle through simple annual routines in order to provide food for higher creatures. Tomato plants go through an annual cycle so that we can eat them. Worms go through an annual cycle so that we can bait fish hooks with them.

Holy Spirit dove sunWe, however, are not food for any other creature. No—we are the ultimate fruit of the earth. We are the reason why the earth exists. God cultivates us to bear our fruit once and for all. Our springtime is the eternal day, when everything is fulfilled, time is complete, the devil is altogether subdued, and eternal glory fills the earth. The fruit of the human race will be ripe when the new Jerusalem descends like a bride from heaven, and God is all-in-all.

To come out of the earth and flower on that day, we need water of an altogether different kind than the plants and animals need. Nature has her annual resurrection by water every spring. But for our eternal resurrection, we need the dew of truth. We live by the water of life which flows from the Heart of Christ in heaven. We are watered not just by H20 water, but by the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the day of life-giving rain for Christian souls. So we pray.  Lord, rain down your holy dew on us! We are the seeds you have sewn in Your garden.  Turn on Your garden hose, and water us down with Your heavenly spiritual gifts—until the gullies and rivulets in our souls are gushing with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. We want puddles and puddles of Your dew in our hearts. Rain down Your grace on us, O God. Send Your Spirit.

fishing1

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PS. The Interfaith Council of Martinsville-Henry County invited me, along with other Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian leaders, to speak at a meeting on Sunday afternoon: The American Heritage of Religious Freedom: Are There Limits to Free Speech Regarding Other Faith Traditions?

I collected information from the Catechism, and from the documents of Vatican II, to prepare a little talk. If you’re interested, please come–3pm Sunday at the Islamic Center, 17125 Al Philpott Hwy, Martinsville.

Or you can read my notes by clicking HERE.

Universal Mission, Grassroots Apostolate

El Greco St Peter keys

God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles, too. (Acts 11:18)

That message penetrated the minds of the first Christians during the lifetime of the original Apostles. The Messiah had come not just for the kosher-keeping Jews, but for everyone.

Apparently, St. Peter had as hard a head about this as he did about everything. A voice from heaven declared, regarding non-kosher foods: “Get up, Peter. Slaughter, and eat.” “Certainly not, sir. Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”

You would think that a voice from heaven making this point once would suffice. But, as we read, in St. Peter’s case, it required three repetitions. Just like how he denied Christ three times, and then professed his love for Christ three times, after Jesus rose from the dead.

Anyway: We have a universal mission. God has revealed His love in Christ, and the message is meant for everyone. Every Christian must serve the apostolate, and our apostolate must, by God’s grace, reach everyone.

What do we have to do? Stay close to Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and the Scriptures. Love God and our neighbors. Hold the faith with clear consciences. Communicate the Gospel as best we can.

We can do these things, peacefully, until we die. God has a long-term plan for the future of His Church, which we don’t need to know. We just need to serve the grassroots apostolate of Christian love right here and now.

Good Shepherd: Priest, Prophet, King

goodshepherdMy sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus shepherds us. We talked about this two weeks ago.

Shepherds guide sheep, care for them, protect them, provide for them. Sheep cannot live without their shepherd. So the image of the shepherd and his sheep offers us an excellent metaphor for our relationship with Christ—a metaphor so excellent that He Himself employed it.

But we need to expand the metaphor in order to grasp its significance fully. Christ is the shepherd of our souls. And He shepherds us by being our priest, our prophet, and our king.

1. Our priest. We need a relationship with God Almighty, the mysterious, the awesome, the one omnipotent truth and beauty. Jesus shepherds us in that relationship.

On the cross, Christ acted as a priest, offering Himself to the Father, in order to reconcile all of creation with her Creator. All of us share in Christ’s priesthood when we offer ourselves to the Father along with the Body and Blood of Christ crucified. In the Holy Mass, Jesus joins our offering of ourselves to God with His offering of Himself to God.

Without Christ as our priest, we would not know how to offer ourselves honestly and well. We would have no real hope that any offering we made of ourselves would actually please the Father.

But when Christ our Good Shepherd unites our offering of ourselves with His offering of Himself—which is precisely what happens at Mass—then we can rest in the peace of knowing that God does accept the sacrifice.

He smiles on it. It pleases Him. Our sacrifice of ourselves to God does bring about peace and friendship; it harmonizes us with heaven. Because we share in the priesthood of our Good Shepherd and High Priest, Jesus of Nazareth.

Christ Good Shepherd

2. Our prophet. We need to know the truth. We need insight into the great mystery of life. We need to understand somehow why we exist and what we should do. We need to know what ultimate goal we can seek.

Our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ reveals all this to us. We have a Father in heaven Who loves everything that He made. He wills our growth, our fruitfulness, our ultimate happiness. He united Himself to us personally, so as to share His life with us. He has made us His adopted children and has prepared a heavenly inheritance for us. He forgives repentant sinners. He rewards self-sacrificing love.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. The Good News. The world does not know Him, but we know Him. And He has entrusted to us the message of God’s undying love.

He has given us ‘the key of knowledge,’ so to speak. Jesus Christ makes human life make sense. Jesus alone has spoken to the human race the truth about itself. With Him as our teacher and source of heavenly information, we can deal with anything. Without Him, we inevitably destroy ourselves, one way or the other.

Leo_Great3. Our king. Here’s a quote from Pope St. Leo the Great: What indeed is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God?

Jesus used the cross as His altar, as we remembered earlier. But He also used the cross as His throne. From the cross, He reigned over all things.

Now, worldly selfishness cannot conceive of the cross as a throne. But worldly selfishness has no true peace or happiness, either.

The true king does not subjugate us by coercion, by flattery, or by indulgence. He subjugates honest and free souls solely by the power of the truth. He sees all and knows all. He governs all things in accord with the loving plan of Providence.

On the cross, Christ revealed the greatest sovereignty. A human soul so self-possessed that nothing could detach it from God. No threat of violence, no recrimination, no false promise of passing comfort or fame could move the kingly soul from its true love.

The devil wants to subjugate us by dishonestly promising us all kinds of benefits—benefits that quickly turn into shackles. Christ liberates us from this by freely giving us the freedom to trust in our heavenly Father for everything. And to live only to please Him. Christ gave us this kingly gift from His cross.

Christ is the shepherd-king of the humble sheep who live for God and only God. Christ’s people quietly lead unremarkable lives of little, unnoticed kinknesses—all the while enjoying a kind of serenity and joyful hope that all the gold in Fort Knox could never give.

Our shepherd-priest. Our shepherd-prophet. Our shepherd-king. We follow Him to the altar to give ourselves to the Father. We heed His teachings, live by them, and share them with love. We follow Him gladly to the throne of the cross, because we know: That is where our King reigns over the whole universe.