Quinquagesima

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

Brothers and sisters, we are about to begin our annual climb up to the high point of the year.

Don’t tell me about Oscar night. Don’t tell me about Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t tell me about Memorial Day, or the Fourth, or Halloween, or even Thanksgiving.

These annual days are enjoyable, sure enough. I am not begrudging anyone their March Madness.

But most of our special occasions come and go. We could wipe them off the calendar and replace them with something else. In Korea, they fly kites when the first full moon of the year appears, and they dance at the eighth full moon. Maybe we would call that odd, but they probably think it’s a little weird to fill out NCAA tournament brackets religiously at the vernal equinox.

My point is: the yearly things come and go. But there is one day of the year which towers over all the others like Mt. McKinley over the Alaskan tundra. There is one day that makes all the rest of the days worth living. It is the Jerusalem of days. All time marches up to it. Every year on earth has 365 days, or 366. But heaven has just this one day. It is precisely seven weeks from today. With me? (Easter, you numbskulls.)

Here is a question: How do we get to heaven? Big question. You want the short answer? There is a short answer. We get to heaven by way of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the way to heaven. But if we were listening to the gospel reading carefully, we realize that we have to be a little more precise. We heard the Lord predict, “Many will say to me, ‘Did we not prophesy in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’”

So we have to be a little more precise. The way to heaven is the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ, we can forget it. We can fill out our brackets, pop our firecrackers, and cook our turkeys every year until the cows come home, but it will all end in only thing: Death. We won’t fly any kites or dance with the Koreans any more.

So what is the solid rock on which we can build our spiritual houses? When the winds of time blow and the flood of death comes, what will keep us from collapse? The Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.

Okay. Sounds good. But, my God, how do I do that? How do I build my soul on the foundation of Easter Sunday? I don’t have the foggiest idea how to do that.

Friends, do not worry. It has already been done. I have a Cadbury Crème Egg right here for the person who can tell me how it is that our souls are built on the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.

Yes! Holy Baptism. We have been baptized into Christ’s crucifixion. We have been cleansed of sin and reborn as saints. When our parents carried us to church, they carried us to Jerusalem; they carried us to the eternal Easter Sunday.

So maybe this is a way we can look at Lent. Our Holy Baptism into the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ is the decisive fact of our lives. I might be tall; you might be short. You might be a good cook; I might be a bad one. You might have an American car; I might have a Japanese car. All that is immaterial compared to the fundamental fact that we are baptized into the Passover of Christ.

The Holy Day of Easter is the day when we renew our baptismal promises. We renounce Satan and choose the triune God. The Lord gives us the forty days of Lent to prepare ourselves to do this.

He Himself took forty days in the desert to go down to the foundations of His soul, where everything rested on the infinite love of the Father.

He gives us forty days to go down to the basements of our souls and check the foundations. They were settled on the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ back when we were babes in the font. But with time, we may have allowed some erosion to occur. I think I may have sandbagged the foundations of my soul with comforts that do not come from heaven.

If I am going to stand up on Easter Sunday and solemnly declare before God and man that I reject Satan and choose the Holy Trinity—if I am going to renew my promises to God honestly and in truth—then I am going to have to spend some time alone down in the dark basement of my soul these next seven weeks. The time has come to shore up the foundation.

THE Tournament

I despise the term “March Madness.”* It is imprecise.

You can have the NCAA tournament. You can have it.

Take it. Do your office pool. Throw a few bucks in the kitty. Take a lot of wild guesses. Give it your best shot.

The Big East tournament is where the real action is. Big Apple. Mid-town. Basketball nirvana.

Click HERE for the bracket. Go Georgetown!

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* “I hate the phrase, like I hate hell, all euphemisms, and Duke.”

“Playing in the N.I.T. is not an embarrassment.”

–Seth Greenberg, coah of Virginia Tech.
nit-logo-328No one is surprised that the Georgetown Hoyas are nowhere to be found in the NCAA brackets.

It is interesting to note that the Hoyas actually beat three of the top twelve seeds in the NCAA tournament (UConn, Memphis, and Syracuse).

On the other hand, three Big East teams that handily defeated Georgetown were not even invited to the N.I.T. (St. John’s, Seton Hall, Cincinnati).

If I were a St. John’s fan, I would be incensed that the Hoyas are in the N.I.T. and the Red Storm are not. After all, St. John’s beat Georgetown twice in eight days, and that was six days ago.

I searched St. John’s fan-blogs to find the justifiable rage. But the ragtag lot of Red Storm fans are resigned to their fate. Their team is going to the College Basketball Invitational.

tybalt-cardAt the N.I.T., the following could happen, and it would make life livable again:

The Hoyas beat Baylor, then Virginia Teach, then another team, then Davidson, then Notre Dame!

This dream scenario involves delightful re-matches.* It is also highly improbable.

(* Notre Dame beat us on New Year’s Eve. Davidson knocked us out of the NCAA tournament last Easter. Also, a Georgetown-Virginia Tech game would be great.)

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt has an excellent short speech. Benvolio protests that he has drawn his sword only to keep the peace, and the truculent Prince of Cats replies:

What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.
1.1.67-68

Well, let me say that I hate the phrase “March Madness.”

The phrase is a crass neologism. It is imprecise. It is inaccurate.

I hate the phrase, like I hate hell, all euphemisms, and Duke.

Baylor almost won the Big 12 Championship
Baylor almost won the Big 12 Championship