No Legions of Angels, But Some Vultures

Last Days of Jesus PBS

Do you think I cannot call upon my Father, and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must come to pass this way? (Matthew 26:53)

We thank God for bringing the Christian people together in church to commemorate all the details of Lord Jesus’ Passion. We praise the Lord for giving us the time and the opportunity to take part in the solemnities of Holy Week, the anniversary of the salvation of the world. And let’s thank each of our guardian angels, too, and all the glorious choirs of angels above, for making our sacred liturgy, here on earth, possible and fruitful.

Now, maybe you found yourself bored one evening this past week, and you did some channel flipping, and wound up watching “The Last Days of Jesus,” on PBS.

We know that weird vultures circle at this time of year, trying to convince us churchgoers that “intelligent people” don’t believe in things like Jesus rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. On PBS, a ‘Bible scholar,’ trying to give us ‘the historical Jesus,’ explained the Passion as a failure. He said, “Jesus expected for God to vindicate him with his legions of angels, and it didn’t happen.”

Now, I like Bible scholars perfectly well. But you have to start by knowing what the Bible says. And we read from St. Matthew’s gospel that Jesus explicitly did not expect legions of angels to save Him from death. Instead, He willingly accepted His Passion, in order to fulfill the Scriptures. What He expected was: to die in agony as the innocent Lamb, offered in sacrifice for all His sinful brother- and sister-human beings.

What the vultures don’t get is: this has nothing to do with naïve vs. critical. We Christians are not some tribe of knuckleheads who don’t know how to read. Faith in the divinity of Christ is the one thing that makes the Scriptures make rational sense. The books make perfect sense to us, because we believe in Him, in Christ, true man and true God. We believe that God died a human death, and rose again. Believing all this doesn’t make us naïve; it makes us consistent; it actually makes us much more reasonable than anyone who proposes to accept one part of the gospels, but not another.

More importantly: our faith in Christ’s divinity hopefully also makes us apostles of God’s love. God, the God we serve, is: Christ crucified, the true God of love.

 

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Dramatic Thomas and Keys in My Pocket

If you’re like me, whenever you walk out the door of the house to go somewhere, you touch the pocket where the keys need to be, to make sure they are there. Ok. Leaving the house. Keys? Check.

caravaggio_incredulity_st_thomas1Now, the Lord Jesus had some pretty splendid and dramatic conversations with people, while He dwelt here on the earth.

Like His colloquy with Pontius Pilate. In that conversation, Christ’s humble and honest statements about His mission exposed Pilate’s utterly craven cynicism.

Or the Lord’s multiple dramatic conversations with St. Peter. In one, Peter expressed the true faith of the believing Church, by saying “You are the Christ.” In another, Peter betrayed the perpetual self-delusion of the members of the Church, by saying, “I will die before I see you suffer.”

Or how about the Lord’s endlessly fascinating conversation with Nicodemus? In that one, Jesus revealed the true origin of enduring life. “You must be born from above.”

So the Lord had some pretty dramatic conversations with people. But I think, on his feastday (tomorrow), we should give St. Thomas the Apostle this kudo: The most dramatic conversations the Lord Jesus had were with him, with Thomas.

In the gospel reading for Thomas’ feastday, we hear the conversation from the eighth day of Easter. Pretty dramatic. “My Lord and my God.” But, in my opinion, Thomas’ conversation with Jesus on Holy Thursday evening was even more dramatic.

‘Do not be troubled. Do not be afraid. Have faith. I am going to the Father’s house. I will prepare a place for you. You know the destination and the way there.’

Thomas: ‘Master! What do you mean? Don’t you know what a bunch of numbskulls we are? You carry on as if we had spiritual insight, as if we had understanding. But you know this ragtag band of blundering pikers too well for that. We know neither your destination nor the way there.’

‘Thomas, please. You do know. You know Me. I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’

car-keysSo: in honor of St. Thomas, our brother bumbler, let’s check our pockets.

Have we got the key to life in our pockets? Am I sure that when I walked out of the house this morning, when I stepped out into this gorgeous world—am I sure that I took my first step at the right-hand side of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Lord and Master of the Church?

Do I have that particular key in my pocket?

God forbid that I would take a single step—that I would say one thing, that I would turn right or left at the stop sign at the end of my street—God forbid that I would walk out the door—without pausing to ask myself this: Am I as sure as I can be that I am following the way, and the truth, and the life? Am I walking towards the destination that He has prepared for me?

If I am not as sure as I can be of that uniquely essential thing, then I need to go back inside the house and find that key. I need to kneel down before my crucifix or my little Madonna. I need to crack open the Scriptures. I need to cut the cord to my t.v. and turn off my smartphone. I need to recite the rosary with my head bowed. I need to focus on Jesus Christ, Who is real and alive, and Who, of all human beings who have ever lived, is the only one who ever really knew what He was doing.

I need the key of life in my pocket. Christ. Walking out of my house without the way, the truth, and the life, is a great deal more dangerous than forgetting my other keys.