Our parable this Sunday has one very significant difference. A difference involving the owner. Last time, we saw the vineyard owner jog up and down the road to the town square, and back to the vineyard–not once, not twice, but six times. In the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, on the other hand, the owner decided to go on…a journey. Where? Far away.
Once and for all, in the times of the Roman Empire and Pontius Pilate, the Savior gave Himself over for us. He submitted Himself to the power of evil men and died a horrible death. That one, single springtime–two millennia ago–saw more grace flow down from heaven than the world could ever use up.
But every year we renew the time—the Holy Hour of our Redemption—because Christ has willed that we do so.
We hear in today’s gospel reading how He commanded that the place be prepared for the celebration of the Passover. And at every Mass we hear how he commanded us to celebrate these rites in His memory.
On the one hand, it all happened once and for all, two millennia ago. On the other, we keep a yearly observance in order to sanctify our times. Because the One Who made the sacrifice is Christ, and the One Who renews it is Christ, the ‘once and for all,’ and the ‘every year’ do not contradict each other.
When we remember Jesus Christ, and what He did during Holy Week, it is not like conjuring up someone gone, reminiscing as if we were at an Irish wake. To the contrary: Jesus Christ is not dead. He is a million times more alive than we are. When we remember Him by fulfilling His commandments, He acts on us. He connects us with His eternal, undying life.
The once-and-for-all sacrifice of our Redemption is the sacrifice of the divine Son to the divine Father: It is the triune life of God. It has no end. The Hour of our Redemption is always right now. By commanding us to keep Holy Week, Jesus wakes us up again every year to this fact. The Hour of our Redemption unfolded in the world 2,000 years ago and has not run out yet. It doesn’t tick away like the minutes on a clock. Rather, it lifts every moment of time up to itself, until the Lord comes again and the Age of Grace becomes the Age of Glory.
So let’s prepare the place: our church, our schedules, ourselves—for a good Confession this week, if at all possible. Let’s prepare our hearts to accompany the Savior through the events of our Redemption. Let’s live the rest of this week in the thick of the real news: Jesus Christ has gone up to Jerusalem to keep the feast.
Lift up your heads. Your redemption is at hand. (Luke 21:28)
Why do we keep the season of Advent? To prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate Christmas.
How do we prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate Christmas? Try to pray more. Make a good Confession. Go to Father Mark’s Advent talks with Vespers and Benediction on Sunday afternoons. Yes. But there’s more.
Who celebrated Christmas in the right way, the way we want to imitate? Saints Zechariah and Elizabeth, St. Joseph, Our Lady, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. In other words, we want to celebrate Christmas like the poor, faithful people of ancient Israel who longed for redemption.
A massive spiritual problem we face: “Christmas” obviously is a household word. Everybody spends December thinking about Christmas. But there can be a big difference between thinking about Christmas and longing for redemption.
What spiritual goal do we strive after for the next 2 ½ weeks?
Seems to me that we want to focus, as best we can, on the experiences of the heroes of the original Holy Week—primarily, of course, our Lord Himself.
To do this, we have to lay hold of the truth about the Person of Christ. Heresies only lead us away from what really happened in Jerusalem.
Last week someone mentioned the heresy that we could probably call the NCAA Champion of all heresies. The ancient error that made Christianity meaningless in the name of making it more respectable. Right: Arianism.
We have been baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Our hope for eternal life rests on the divinity of the Son. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not simply a matter of unjust government crushing an innocent citizen—though it was that. It was not just a matter of the noblest man who ever lived dying peacefully for the highest imaginable ideals—though it was that, too. If it were only these things, then the death of Christ would be beautiful and admirable, but it could offer no enduring hope. His death would simply be the most painful of all the human tragedies that make up our history.
The Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.
Arius regarded this statement as clear evidence that Jesus is not equal to the Father. But, with these words, the Lord does not indicate that at all.
We do not understand the mystery of the tri-unity of God. But we do know what the Son has revealed to us. The Father begets the Son by giving Him everything—the infinity of divinity. The Holy Spirit proceeds by the Son giving it back.
The Son does only what the Father does, but this does not make the Son any less divine, since what the divine Father does is: give everything to the Son.
The Trinity is not the Trinity because of us. The Trinity has been and always will be. We are what we are because the Trinity has willed it so.
Jesus died on the cross as the Son of God made man. By His obedient death, Christ gave to the Father the infinite divine love—as a man, on our behalf. From this single act of infinite love, all our hope springs. Any hope we had would be altogether shaky if it rested on any other foundation. But as it is, our hope is certain, because it rests on God.
Very few people relish the prospect of death. Yet the time will come for us all.
As we know from the beginning of the Bible, death comes for us because we descend from Adam and Eve, the original sinners. The Creator made us to live; the Devil tricked us into choosing to die.
Death, then, naturally does not appeal to us. It attacks us like an enemy, thwarting our greatest good, which is to live.
But: This is a case where it pays for us to listen to the Lord when He says: “Love your enemies.”
Death looms like an enemy. But we can learn to love this enemy. We can make this enemy a friend.
Christ did not want to die. The prospect repelled Him utterly. But He took up the cross with serene hands, because His death opened the way to paradise for all the sinful children of Adam. Christ made death His friend, so that He could use death to conquer the real enemy, Satan.
We can do the same.
Our dead loved ones lie not in the hands of an enemy, but in the embrace of this friend. By praying for those we love, we stay closer to them than any other means of communication could possibly allow us to be.
It would be great if we could meet our dead loved ones this month, give them a hug, and then relax and enjoy some Thanksgiving football. But when we pray for them at the altar, we come even closer, because we lift their souls up to toward heaven with our prayers.
There will plenty of time for relaxing when, please God, we make it to heaven by way of our friend, death. In the meantime, our job is to pray.
[BONUS: Click HERE if you would like to read a catechesis on the Four Last Things.]
Let us imagine ourselves to be Jewish converts to Christianity, living at the time of the Apostles. We find ourselves confronted with a difficult question.
The ancient law of our forefathers demanded a life of rigorous honesty, piety, justice, and self-discipline.
In fact, the Law of Moses demanded such intense religion and morality that generation after generation of Jews found it impossible to comply with the Law.
Then the long-expected Messiah came–and it was the God of Moses Himself, made man. He offered the perfect sacrifice which atones for all the countless sins of the past, and He mercifully reconciles us with the Creator—in spite of our hopeless unworthiness. Our religion now follows Christ Himself; He has established the definitive covenant.
But: Christ does not immediately transport us to heaven and eternal life. His Church baptizes us into His mystery, but we still live here on earth, confronted with the same temptations and evil that we faced before Christ came.
Here, then, we find the difficult question: What kind of behavior does God expect of us now?
He came to save those who were not able to follow the moral law which He had previously laid down. His Precious Blood washes away all sin. No human being could ever commit a sin which God will not forgive. This is gospel truth.
Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Can I now have my cake and eat it, too? Can I act immorally, indulge myself, play fast and loose? God will forgive, so does it matter?
This would be the distorted, funhouse-mirror image of the Gospel. Can we be surprised that, in certain corners of the ancient world, a lot of new Christians went ahead and embraced it?
St. Jude dedicated his apostolate to combating this error. Being redeemed by Christ and having our sins forgiven calls us to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, not a lower one.
Christ did not reveal an indulgent God Who doesn’t care about our sins. Rather, He revealed God’s zealous love. We meet this love not with selfishness, but with selfless love in return. God patiently forgives. We love Him back not by continuing to try His patience, but by being patient and forgiving ourselves.
The heretics taught that Christ’s cross meant that we could forget about the Law. Christ’s cross does mean that we can forget about the Law, like someone walking on the sidewalk can forget about the speed limit.
Going 85 miles an hour doesn’t stop being dangerous and illegal. Neither does impiety, profanity, malice, lust, greed, sloth, vengeful anger, or envy. They all still violate God’s law, and are punishable with a kind of justice that we definitely do not want to have to face.
But if we live for God, we may find ourselves distracted from deadly sins by things like praying and taking care of our neighbors.
“Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood… It will shed for you and for all.”
Sounds familiar, right?
Starting in a month:
Take this all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood…It will be poured out for you and for many.
If you asked Albert Pujols, ‘Do you own just one first-baseman’s glove?’ he would probably answer, ‘No. I have a few of them.’ By which he would mean: More than one.
Just like if you asked me, ‘Did you ever see the original Star Wars?’ I would say, ‘Yeah. I have seen it a few times.’ Meaning more than once and less than 55 times.
If you asked Imelda Marcos if she owned a few pairs of shoes, she would say, “Oh, many, many.”
I promise that this will be the last time I discuss the revised translation of the Missal. At least for a few days. But: We will soon encounter this change in the words of consecration, and it may prove a bit of a stunner.
Christ is one. He saves many. From one married couple of First Parents came many sinners. In the Body of Christ, one Head gathers many members to Himself: one Savior, many saved.
Everybody knows that we priests consecrate the Host and the Chalice with the words of Christ, which He spoke at the Last Supper.
When He spoke them the first time, He probably used a language called Aramaic, which was the common tongue of the Holy Land then.
When the Apostles first celebrated Mass, as the Lord had commanded them to do, in the various corners of the world to which they had journeyed, they used the common languages of the different countries, including both Greek and Latin.
In Latin, when the priest consecrates the Chalice, he says that the Blood of the new and eternal covenant is shed “for you and pro multis.”
Christ, the new Adam, the firstborn of the new creation, died not for Himself, but pro multis, for a lot more than one, “for many.”
‘For all’ will become ‘for many.’ The Blood poured out for many.
This does not mean that the Church now officially teaches that Christ died for fewer people than we used to teach that He died for. The Lord wills that all be saved. Almighty God offers the gift of salvation to all, no exceptions.
But not all accept it. Some—indeed, many—act as if a loose affiliation with God will suffice. “We ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets…My grandmother said the Rosary every day…My uncle is studying in the deacon program…I’m a die-hard Notre Dame fan…”
Evildoers, I never knew ye.
He invites all. He poured out His blood for many. He died for us. We owe Him everything.
…In five weeks, we will start working the famous pew-cards with the revised translation of our Mass prayers. When we do, we will discover some different words in our beloved Nicene Creed.
The first question is: Why do we recite the Creed at Mass? Any thoughts?
Right. Because this is what we believe about God Almighty. We Catholics believe specific things.
Whenever I encounter someone who says something like “Who needs organized religion?” or “Don’t we all pray to the same god anyway?” or “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual,” I experience two simultaneous reactions.
1. Thank God, I intend first and foremost to sympathize, to extend a friendly hand, to put the best possible interpretation on the other person’s point of view. After all, God indeed does transcend all the words we use to focus our minds on Him.
2. Meanwhile, though, whenever I hear such vague shibboleths about religion, I cannot help but think to myself: “Gosh. Do you have a thought in your head? How can you be satisfied with nonsensical flim-flam about God? Shouldn’t you take yourself a little more seriously?”
Step One involves private discussion. A teenage girl pulls her sister aside at school and says, “Listen, I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends. But you are wearing my shirt, and you never asked me if you could. You should have asked me.”
Quiet. Private. A beautiful example of kind, loving fraternal correction. Assuming the accusation is true.