Advertisements
  • Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Talei on Ask a Priest
    Stacy A Hawkins on Ask a Priest
    Adam Chahine on Ask a Priest
    Mary on Ask a Priest
    Talei on Ask a Priest

The Real Meaning of Power

151699366594120136

The world is so very wrong about power.  From swords and spears to guns and bombs, the world has always been wrong.  Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and more recently Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, Stalin, and Mao— the names change and the kingdoms rise and fall but they all measured power in terms of violence and intimidation.  However, power is ultimately not measured by blood that is stolen but by blood that is freely surrendered.  Real power is eternal.  Genuine authority and power is not taken by the military arms of short-lived empires but by an eternal kingdom that is inaugurated with a naked and vulnerable child in the straw of a manger.  The great I AM becomes one of us to save us.  No longer the apparition of a bush on fire, he is a human-boy-child with all the fire of God’s love within him.  The LIGHT OF THE WORLD comes to dispel the darkness.  Finite power can destroy, divide, wound and kill.  Infinite power can create, atone, heal and resurrect.  While secular history is filled with kings willing to allow their subjects to die for their ambitions of dominion; sacred or salvation history gives us a king who both makes his subjects members of his royal household and then lays down his life on their behalf.

There are no self-made men.  We imagine that we are substantial and strong.  But in truth, we are next to nothing.  We emerge from nothingness and are utterly dependent.  Most are born and die and the world takes little notice.  However, the Child of Bethlehem is of another sort.  He resembles us but he is the eternal Word.  Before anything was created, he was with God and was God.  He is existence or being itself.  He is the eternal entering into the ephemeral.  He is a sublime innocence that like a blanket will put to sleep and cover all the sins of the world.  What he will accomplish in a few moments in time will have eternal consequences.  All who would approach the divine Child must become children themselves.

We read in Matthew 18:1-5: “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed [him] in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’”

Do we really appreciate the full importance of this direction from Christ?  We must reflect the innocence of the Christ Child.

My father shocked me with a question after my confirmation.  He asked me, “Do you understand the full meaning and consequences of your confirmation?” I asked what he meant.  He responded, “Confirmation means that you can now go to hell.”  I did a double-take… what did he mean?  No one before or since had described the sacrament in this way to me.  As was common years ago, the sacrament was described in terms of maturity in our holy religion, of becoming an adult fully initiated into the faith of the Church.  He said children can only commit little venial sins.  Adults are the ones who can commit mortal sins.  Most priest-confessors would probably agree.  Adults are guilty of far greater transgressions than failing to take out the trash, stealing a cookie or pulling a sibling’s ponytail.  All of us must return to the innocence of childhood if we want a place in Christ’s kingdom.  I suppose that is why our Lord spoke about faith and regeneration as being “born again.”  The old man or woman must be put aside for the new child born in Christ’s likeness.  While we might be adults in years, we must become spiritual children.  Paradise is populated entirely by children.

If we grow old in the world, maybe souls grow younger in purgatory— perfected by the fire of God’s grace?  Nothing of cynicism or sin can enter through the gate of heaven.  Any who would cling to earthly power would similarly be barred. The path to paradise is strewn with earthly weapons rendered as harmless and worldly treasures subtracted of any and all value.  Like a child entering this world, we must enter the next naked except for the wedding garment of the Lamb.

 

Advertisements

[71] Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This homily will not be preached Sunday as it will be replaced by the message for the Cardinal’s Appeal…

151666742263228944

Readings: 1 Deuteronomy 18:15-20 / Psalm 95 / 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 / Mark 1:21-28

Moses tells his people that prophets like him will be taken from their number and will lead them.  If we are to properly understand what he is saying, then we must look to the prior verses not included here against false worship and divination.  We read: “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead” (verses 10-11). Moses is emphasizing several important points:

  • They must not corrupt their faith with the worship of other or false gods.
  • They do not have to look outside of themselves as the chosen people for prophets (God speaks to them through their own).
  • They trust the providence of God and do not seek forbidden knowledge.

Echoing the commandments, any violation of these points is condemned as an abomination before the Lord.  Fearful of any direct confrontation with almighty God, the people will be guided by the Lord through his intermediaries.

This pattern is still pursued today in the Christian community.  The new People of God or the Church is called by God and given shepherds who govern and speak in Christ’s name, empowered to extend the ministry or work of Jesus.  The Mass is our great worship where the sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented in an unbloody manner at our altars.  The bishops in union with the Pope constitute the authentic teaching authority of the Church.  We are anointed at baptism into a nation of prophets.  It is that commission that makes us missionary disciples.  Outside the Catholic community, there is no guarantee to any message proclaimed and no assured efficacy to divine mysteries or sacraments.  Catholic Christians, like their Hebrew counterparts of long ago, are warned to steer clear of false worship and the occult.

True religion signifies the end of magic.  Judaism (a natural religion) and Catholic Christianity (a supernatural religion) are both instigated by the same one true God.  We are forbidden to engage in voodoo, oriental mysticism, new age religion, naturalist religion, and conventional witchcraft or Satanism.  Divination of the future is interpreted as a distrust of God’s will for us.  Black magic or spells is condemned because one invokes the demonic spirits.  Similarly necromancy is condemned; an important admonishment when there is a new fascination with ghost hunting.  Christians are warned to avoid Quiji boards, tarot cards, palm readers, and séances.  All of it violates the first commandment of the Decalogue.

The Canaanites worshipped Molech, a false deity judged by the fathers of the Church as a bloodthirsty demon.  Indeed, sometimes his name is still mentioned in Christian circles in regard to the sins of abortion and infanticide. Molech demanded child sacrifice.  Heated with fire, the idol was a bronze statue into which the victims were thrown. The pagans believed that favors and special protection could be merited by such sacrifices.  Might the abortion of millions of children constitute the return of the demon Molech’s reign?  Just another name for Satan, it may be that the devil hides his thirst for human blood behind the semantics employed to disguise the true nature of abortion.  Consciences are numbed to the terrible truth that we are murdering our children.  There is no pro-Choice or pro-abortion Christianity.  Such opposition to the Gospel of Life is not only immoral but renounces the Christ and the God of Abraham.  It assumes the mantle of idolatry. The responsorial psalm also speaks of the need to replace rebellion with fidelity and idolatry with right worship.  Our minds must be opened and our hearts softened to the truth. We are admonished, “Harden not your hearts as at Mariah….” God’s people of old turned away as faithless, fearful and selfish. People today are also tempted away from true faith.  They are afraid to take responsibility for their actions, even parenthood.  They give preeminence to their own wants, even over the needs of others, as with the dignity of persons and the sanctity of life.

The second reading mentions some of the fears or anxieties that can afflict us. While they should be an occasion for heightened fidelity, the opposite is what often occurs.  People forget the goodness that God has shown them. Others get angry or doubt when God does not answer their prayers as they would like.  They wrongly postulate prayer as a demand instead of as a humble request.  It is just such a situation that led people of old astray.  St. Paul urges that believers should be “free of anxieties,” as the concerns of the world might distract us from the Lord and from his service.

The Gospel chronicles our Lord’s visit to the synagogue in Capernaum. He encounters someone possessed by a demon.  Jesus immediately rebukes him, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The “unclean spirit” makes a loud cry and leaves.  The onlookers are amazed both at his power and that he speaks with authority.  As prophets, we can invoke this same authority and power in casting out the demon that secretly devours the lives of our children in abortion.  As prophets, we can proclaim that Jesus is Lord and invite others into the Catholic community of faith.  We are summoned to speak the truth about justice and charity to an oppressive and selfish world.

  • Do we place confidence in the Lord who calls us to take up our crosses and to follow him?
  • Are we prophets— faithful, courageous and strong in proclaiming the truth?
  • Have we been the voice for the voiceless, especially the marginalized and the unborn?
  • Do we avoid the occult and any “false gods” that would compromise our witness?
  • How have we sought to bring the light of Christ against the darkness or demonic in the world?

[68] Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Jonah 3:1-5, 10 / Psalm 25 / 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 / Mark 1:14-20

151639485336432204

Jonah has barely begun his cry of prophetic warning when the people of Nineveh repent and all of them “great and small put on sackcloth.”  Why is there such an immediate reaction? It may be that they had heard the prior story of the prophet Jonah.  The reputation of Nineveh as a wicked city is so severe, that Jonah seeks to flee his divine summons.  Trying to flee by sea, God brings forth a great storm and acknowledging his fault, Jonah has the sailors throw him into the sea.  What we learn here is that the failure of Jonah to be the prophet he has been called to be will result in the death or destruction of others.  He will be held accountable.  Jonah calls upon the Lord and he is swallowed by a great fish.  Later, he is spat upon the shore to continue the mission given him.  Jesus would speak about this as the one sign given in his own regard.  The water symbolizes death and the big fish represents the tomb.  Just as the sea and fish could not destroy Jonah, so too would the sea and the tomb not be able to contain Jesus.  God shows his power.  The people of Nineveh, either out of fear or love of the Lord, would change their ways.  Similarly, after Christ’s victory over death, the apostles would go out to the nations and many would come to repent and to believe.

We are told that the citizens of Nineveh put on sackcloth.  Sackcloth and ashes were signs of humiliation and repentance.  As a coarse material made from goat’s hair, sackcloth was uncomfortable to wear.  Symbolizing desolation or dying to self, many Christian believers would later employ it as a tool for penance.  We would have to die to our old ways and life so as to be reborn and to live for Christ.  Here in the story of Jonah, sackcloth and ashes served as a public sign of repentance before God.  We were told that they even went to the extreme of placing sackcloth on their animals.  They hoped that God might look down upon them, and seeing this incredible expression of contrition and remorse, grant them mercy from the impending judgment.  Of course, God can read our hearts and would not be fooled.  The outward sign rendered by the people of Nineveh worked because the external sackcloth and ashes signified an inward change or disposition.  They were truly sorry for their sins.  We read: “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” Similarly, we as Christians should know that as long as there is breath in our bodies, there is no sin that God cannot forgive.  All that is required is a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment.

The psalm brings to this theme of repentance and mercy another important component— the change of one’s life.  We read: “Teach me your ways, O Lord. Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way.” Left to ourselves and we do not really know how to be good.  God gives us guidance by his commands.  Without God we would be uncertain as to right and wrong.  Strip the commandments about honoring God from the Decalogue and the remaining laws would become capricious.  If there is no God and judgment, then why follow the rules?  If there is no life beyond the grave, then why sacrifice for others? Love of God for some and fear of God for others is what marks the path between virtue and vice. The second reading emphasizes the shortness of life and thus infers the gravity of the coming judgment.  This world is “passing away,” now is the appointed time.

The Gospel reading has Jesus taking up the cry of John the Baptizer, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The message of Jonah is now extended to the whole world.  Our Lord calls the apostles to himself because they will be his voice to the nations.  Simon, Andrew, James and John are summoned.  They all immediately leave their nets and our Lord tells them that they will be made into “fishers of men.”  Jonah is thrown into the sea, not simply as bait for a big fish but that the citizens of Nineveh would repent and believe.  Our Lord would make himself the bait in his paschal mystery to draw all men and women to himself.  The apostle Paul would literally speak about the resurrection of Christ as “the hook” of Christianity.  The center of the Christian kerygma is the person of Jesus.  He is the kingdom of God breaking into our world.  The calling of the apostles as “fishers of men” is often associated with the need for priestly vocations.  However, every one of us has been called in baptism as a “missionary disciple.”  Evangelism is not solely the responsibility of bishops, priests, deacons and a few Catholic lay evangelists.  It is an obligation for all who claim to be Christian.  Given this as the situation, the following points are essential:

  • We need a living personal and communal relationship with Jesus.
  • We need a faith informed by Scripture and the teaching Church.
  • We need an apostolate of service that expresses genuine charity for others.
  • We need to be regularly nurtured and healed by the sacraments.
  • We need prayer for spiritual life just as breathing gives physical life.

Why is all this essential?  While almighty God can use broken instruments and even wicked people, to bring about his providence; the truth is that he rarely does so. It is hard to impossible to give what you do not have.  If you do not know where to throw the net or if there is no bait for the hook, it is doubtful that you will catch anything.  The fisherman or –woman, who never makes a catch, may also go hungry.  The faith like love is only real when it is shared or given away.  We must possess Christ if we would give him to others.  We may all be sinners, but when the wounded are contrite, God can bring his healing to us and to all whom we meet.

  • Are the five elements here realized in your life?
  • Can you list any people who are believers because of how God has used you?
  • As a sign of Jonah, how have you died so as to rise in the Lord?
  • Have you promoted or supported vocations to the priesthood?

The Gift of Christ in Holy Communion

151647482936907000

The sacrament of the Eucharist is neglected because many fail to fathom its mysterious depths and meaning.  Even parents allow their children to be spiritually malnourished.  Too many stay away.  Too many no longer believe.

Fortunately, there are some parents mindful of their duty.  They believe and extend what they believe to their children.  The greatest gift they will ever give will be their saving faith in the Eucharist.  Theirs is not a transitory love but a love that embraces the Cross and eternity.

What happens in Holy Communion?    We receive the one who is the Holy of Holies.  God comes to us that we might be made more authentically human.  Indeed, that which is human is divinized and made more than it was before.  Christ grants an apportionment in his living presence that we might have a share in his resurrected life and become flesh-and-blood tabernacles to the divine presence and the grace that perdures.  The Eucharist both directs our attention to worshipping almighty God and invites the sacrament to transgress into the dark and thick boundaries of our inner life.

While we accept the sacrament in time, it touches eternity.  What we have done, we have done.  Harsh words can never be taken back.  Uncharitable acts can never be rescinded.  Much in the way of our history is irreparable.  We cling in conscience to the mercy that God promises and extends.  We can be saved, but not because we are good (left to ourselves) but because God is good.  Memory that sorely needs to be healed and often torments, transports us to those first recollections of kneeling at the altar rail.  We see in the mind’s eye the child we once were, receiving with faith and incalculable innocence, the Blessed Sacrament.  Where did time go? How could we be so foolish? Why did we listen to bad companions?  When did concupiscence get the upper hand and make us slaves to the flesh, inner contradictions to our very selves? Eyes have seen what they should not have seen.  Can these eyes still look with adoration upon the upraised host?  Hands have corrupted us by signs and deeds; how can we still extend them to Christ or to a neighbor in the sign of peace? Lips have exchanged veracity for deception; can they yet proclaim the truth that Jesus is Lord?  Our bodies have embraced lust and deadly sins; can they once again manifest tenderness and real love?

We need medicine from heaven.  We require the real food or rations from the Promised Shore.  Any particular Holy Communion is every Holy Communion— Sunday after Sunday, on weekdays, on holy days, at funerals, at weddings, etc.  There is an eternal dimension to Holy Communion—the hundreds, the thousands, the tens of thousands of receptions.  While the fallen away and spiritually starving can count on their fingers how many times they have taken Holy Communion; those who go to Mass daily might receive over 25,000 times in a lifetime.  Their response to the minister’s words, “The body of Christ,” becomes an eternal AMEN.  It is their yes to the self-donation and surrender of God’s Son.  It is their acceptance of divine mercy.  It is the password for entry into the eternal banquet of heaven.  Akin to vows, we become engaged actors in the marriage of the Lamb.  Always it is the one Christ who suffers and dies once and for all.  It is the risen Christ, body and soul, humanity and divinity.

The eternal now of God simultaneously targets the elderly man from his wheelchair cradling the sacrament in his hand and finds him still as a young child receiving the Eucharistic Christ on the tongue at the altar rail.  Everything that Jesus is encounters everything that we are and all that we will become. The mind’s eye recalls good parents kneeling beside us as we prayed and took Holy Communion.  They made possible that day and all the days since.  They showed us the way by word and example.  We know in faith that they have exchanged their pew for a chair at the banquet table of heaven. We remember them, we pray for them and desire to go where they have gone. They directly see the divine mystery that we know behind sacred signs.

Unity in the Divine Child

151638944140765637

There was a popular movement in psychology advanced a few years ago for people to come into contact or to know their “inner child.” All sorts of self-help books were published that promoted this Jungian archetype.  But I would like to suggest a spiritual dynamic to the hidden child in all of us.  When we recalled our earliest experiences, there was a profound innocence and trust.  Most parents protected their children from the dark side of life and from evil.  That time of innocence resonated with the holiness and perfection of God.  It was easy to believe.  We trusted our parents and felt safe.

While we may not fully maintain our innocence, we should never forget that God is our heavenly Father and that we will always be his children.  What the world strips away, God can restore.  I suspect our yearning and pursuit for holiness is also a remembrance of what we were.  When an infant is baptized, the minister of the sacrament will speak of the child as a young saint in our homes.  Our life and discipleship seeks a recovery of this spiritual trust and perfection.  As Christians, we remember the Christ Child in the manger.  God enters the human family as weak and vulnerable and yet there is something powerful about the child. What will this child become?  What shall he do? How will he change the world?  Everything that God assumes in Jesus Christ takes on an eternal dimension.  God is the everlasting child.  Our restoration into the likeness of grace signals a profound unity with the divine child.  Jesus speaks about this mystery as being “born again.”

Our Lord tells us that to follow him we must become like little children.  All the sacraments, not just baptism, make this possible.  When the old man in sin enters the confessional box, a child with his conscience made clean exits to offer his penance.  The body grows old but the soul is made ever-new.  The burden of the world is cast aside.  Of course, God’s mercy does not leave a vacuum but rather fills with grace what was once possessed by iniquity.

The little-known but courageous figure of Shimei cursed and threw stones at King David, shouting, “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel! … And now look at you: you suffer ruin because you are a man of blood.” Faulted for the blood of Saul, David’s rule was now challenged by his son.  David stayed the hand of his henchman, ready to kill the courageous and vocal critic.  He acknowledged the possible judgment of God upon him. (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14)

Like David, we are all men and women of blood.  Our innocence is spoiled by our sins.  We look upon the crucifix and must acknowledge that we have blood on our hands.  We are the murderers of Christ.  We are all guilty.  Our maturity in years does not necessarily mean that we have grown in the Lord.

I recall a frustrating teacher in school who told his pupils that they all began as “A” students with 100%.  However, with every test and assignment, the points began to be subtracted.  It was only with extra-credit assignments that lost ground might be regained.  When it comes to our heavenly report card, it is only by divine mercy and grace that we might be restored to an earlier purity and perfection.

Darkness & Light

151629497947268592

We find it much easier to appreciate Lent than Easter.  We might get glimpses of Easter but for many it requires an exercise of the imagination where we negate the things of darkness so as to envision the light.  Critics might contend that this is a rather backward way of dealing with things.  Usually it is harder to see in the dark than in the light.  Lent is the season that commemorates the struggle that all mortal creatures must endure.  We know all too well the jagged edge of existence: suffering, betrayal, loss, sadness, sickness, pain, grieving and death.  Many might suppose that these elements epitomize that which is most real.  The cynic or pessimist thus might categorize contentment, belonging, comfort, happiness, fidelity, peace and life as either fleeting or as aberrational to human existence.  Those who deny the Easter mystery might abandon themselves either to despair or to a libertine search for pleasure, making no distinction between the joys that comes with the acquisition of a real or an apparent good.  Of course, they would also be quick to mention the price that one pays to be happy or to anesthetize from pain.  Alcohol brings the hangover and drugs a case of withdrawal.  Sex results in pregnancy and sometimes in venereal diseases.  Gambling brings a thrill but often empties bank accounts.  Sloth weakens muscles and often incurs in homelessness. Gluttony brings to the fore the full ramifications of gravity.  What we do not know and what many disbelieve is the prospect of eternal life, joy, reunion, and contentment.  Those who reject the resurrection necessarily repudiate heaven.  They might reject hell but if life be hard they might accept the existence of more of the same.  Easter requires us to look beyond what we know.  Heavenly happiness is usually reckoned as an extrapolation from transitory pleasure to something lasting and complete.

There is a peculiar commonality between children and the elderly.  The child may be gullible but often easily trusts that there is a world unseen from which God calls us and out of which he sends his angels to watch over us.  We must be cautious that children will be able to distinguish the matters that are real and those which are fanciful like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  The elderly may be discouraged but there is still a profound turning toward the divine mystery.  They are aware that there are more days behind them than before them.  Time in this world is running out and urgency strips away the distractions that many pursue.  They prepare for the world to come and desire to experience the unseen realities that were first presented to them as children.  Is there an ageless guardian angel still by their side?  Will God give back all that the world and evil men have taken away?  Trusting that God is a loving Father, many begin to yearn for the beatific vision and the reunion on the other side of the grave.

 

The Sacred Encounter

151619993427506274

I am troubled that our young people have an intensely truncated sense of history and reality.  They cannot imagine a world without digital phones, tablets, home computers, widescreen HD televisions, video game consoles, and the internet.  Despite tremendous access to information, their focus has narrowed and there is an almost pejorative view of the past and the historical elements of our culture and values.  Current sports figures, musical performers and media actors are idolized while true heroes are neglected or forgotten.  Figures that tout atheism will point to science as the enlightenment of the future while lamenting religion as the superstition of the past.

Given this as the problem we face with secular history and a deficient assessment of Western culture, the situation is no better when it comes to salvation history and our encounter with Christ in Scripture.  A history book or biography tells us about someone.  The Bible actually introduces us to someone.  There is an important difference but the difficulty is the same— few are opening the books.  I use the image of a book, but the issue remains even if we are talking about a lecture or the proclamation of the Word from a pulpit.  Many of our brothers and sisters are becoming comfortable with a truncated view of history and the meaning of life within our society.  They are getting their religious views from authorities fascinated by scandal but not with any dimension of sacred truth.  Those who excuse themselves from the pews and who gather dust on their bibles, have little to nothing by way of a living relationship with the Lord.

What do such people say about Jesus?  Some even question whether he existed or not.  Others suspect that he was a nice man who was wrongly put to death.  They view the sepulcher as the end of the story.  The dead stay dead.  The rest is the stuff of fairytales.  Certain secular humanists will laud Jesus as one who wanted to make a difference for the oppressed and the poor.  They define him as a well-meaning social worker or community activist.  However, if they were to look closely at Jesus, their verdict would have to change.  He told people to love their enemies and to forgive those who hurt them..  He claimed the power to forgive sins.  His assertions would even including making himself out as God.  If these non-believing critics were honest, then their assessment would be that Jesus was either a stark raving madman or and outright liar.  They have left themselves no middle ground.  The believer holds out another possibility— that Jesus is as he claims— the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Men are born, live and die.  Every biography seeks to fill in the bits in-between.  But this pattern is broken with Jesus.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The story of Jesus begins before he is conceived in the womb and the Word became flesh.  He would be born and soon thereafter heralded by shepherds, magi and angels.  He would live as other men had lived.  However, one day he would put the quiet life behind him and engage in three years of provocative and supernatural ministry.  He would be embraced by some and rejected by others.  He would reach out to the weak, vulnerable and denigrated.  He would forgive sins and heal bodies.  He would be betrayed, tortured and murdered.  He would die but he would refuse to stay dead.  He promises his friends a share in his victory and life.  He promises to send the Holy Spirit and that he will never abandon us.

Jesus keeps his promises.  We are not orphaned.  He comes to us in his proclaimed Word and in the administration of the sacraments.  Indeed, he is present as the mystical body of the Church.  Other historical figures come and go.  But Jesus still makes possible a real and saving encounter.  His disciples do not know Jesus as a figure locked in past history.  Rather, Jesus is really present and maintains a spiritual relationship or friendship with his own.  There are no aging bones or blackened ashes of Christ.  There are no relics as we have from the saints.  Jesus has awakened from his sleep and calls out to us.  His message is still that of love.  Indeed, if his resurrection were not real then love would be a lie and life a mere taunting respite from endless death.  We look upon crosses in our churches and appreciate that this mystery of redemption has changed all human history, sacred and secular.  Jesus dies once-and-for-all and never again, and yet this mystery holds us in suspension at Calvary where we also offer ourselves.  We come to the cross or its great sacramental exemplar the altar and we bend the knee.  While the spiritually blind are oblivious to its meaning, we know the truth.  This is the watershed event for all time.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  Flowering horizons come not merely with computers, telescopes and mathematics, but with ancient parables, heartfelt prayer and a man who was so much more on a dead tree.