Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jesus and Jews

I once called my mother a “Yankee”. I was quickly corrected. Though she was born and raised in upstate New York (and to a southern-by-choice guy as myself, that means a Yankee), she insisted that the Yankees, to her and her upbringing, were Protestants. Living in Northern Virginia, just a few short miles from the Nation’s Capital, I may be considered a Yankee to anyone from Fredericksburg, Virginia to further down south. It’s an elastic term, especially considering that the British call all Americans Yankees. Labels are difficult to pin down at times.

But, it made me think, especially after seeing “The Passion of the Christ”, and particularly the scene where Simone of Cyrene is made to carry the cross. The Roman soldier calls him, in Latin, “Judaeus”, translated as “Jew” in the subtitles. I won’t quibble with the lack of the vocative case in this instance, but that led me to consider the use of the term “Jews” in the Gospel of Saint John.

There are dozens and dozens of articles online that talk about this use of the term “Jews” in this Gospel, and it comes up in quite a few books on the fourth Gospel. Was John (or the “authors” of the fourth Gospel) anti-Semitic? Several possibilities are proposed, and of the articles I read, only one suggested the idea that John was referring not to the Jews as the race of Israelites but to Judeans. As you may know, Israel itself was divided for centuries between the northern Kingdom of Israel which split off from the southern Kingdom of Judah in the late 10th century B.C. after the death of Solomon. That northern kingdom was exiled by the Assyrians in the late 8th century B.C. The little kingdom of Judah was all that was left, to carry on the promise of God to Israel. Yet, this kingdom, too, was exiled to Babylon near the beginning of the 6th century B.C., returning a few decades later with the defeat of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. Calling the people of Israel “Jews” first occurs in the Book of Esther, for they were from the kingdom of Judah. Makes sense.

Over the course of the next 500 years, they would spread out over all of ancient Israel, and beyond, all the way up to the border with Syria. Galilee was the general area towards the north, so the inhabitants of that area came to be known as Galileans. This distinguished them from Judeans, living in the south and around Jerusalem. Saint Luke mentions the sons of Herod the Great as being tetrarchs of various parts of a now divided nation.

Pontius Pilate was the procurator of all of Judea, a general term the Romans used for the entire area. So anyone from that province, to a Roman, was a Judean, or, a Jew. Yet, if you were from Galilee, you might have the reaction my mother had at being called a Yankee; and vice versa, to call a Judean a “Galilean” would have been an insult. Take note of the discussion by the Sanhedrin in John, at the end of chapter 7, when Nicodemus tries to defend Jesus. They reply to him, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.” The ruling class considered them hicks and half-Gentile.

Now, many “scholars” look at the Gospel of John and try to come up with an array of explanations of who is the real author, questioning if the text even gives historical details, and whether or not it was really some sort of an apologetic text to give quasi-historical reasons for the later rupture between the “Jews” and the early Church. On the historical nature of the fourth Gospel, I have other things to say, especially when one compares it to the other Gospels. But for now, I’d like to address the reasons why, in my opinion, there is nothing anti-semitic about the Gospel at all, and indeed, that the use of the term “Jews” shows the Galilean point of view of the author, who I believe certainly was the Apostle John, who was from Galilee.

John draws a distinction in many places between the crowds and the leaders of the people and even the Jews. From a global perspective, they were all “Jews”, even Jesus, in the sense that they were children of Israel. To a guy from the north, the Jews would have been those from Judea, or rather, Judeans. Take note of the passage in chapter 4, where the disciples of John (the Baptist) have a discussion with “a Jew”. Hello? The disciples of John were “Jews” in the larger sense. Why the difference? We’re not sure who this fellow is, but he was probably not a Galilean.

One of the issues, as noted above, that the Jewish leaders had against Jesus was that He was from Nazareth. Even Nathanael has an issue with this, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” And then Jesus, when He sees Nathanael coming, calls him a “true Israelite, there is no guile in him.” After Jesus’ cryptic response to him (to be explained at a later time), Nathanael then is moved to say, “You are the King of Israel!”

More can be said about this whole matter, but much more to the point is the way that the Passion narrative takes its course. Religiously, the Jewish leaders wanted nothing to do with an upstart from Galilee, especially one that “made himself equal to God”, but politically, they needed a reason for Pilate to crucify Him. They condemned Him for blasphemy, but made the case before Pilate by accusing Jesus of wanting to make Himself a King, a crime for which Pilate ought to crucify Him. Jesus is again cryptic in His responses to Pilate, declaring His kingship only after making sure Pilate knew that the Kingdom was not of this world, and therefore no threat to Caesar.

When Pilate finally gives in the demands of the chief priests and the officers (note: John does not call them “Jews”), it is only after they declare, “We have no king but Caesar!” The people did not make this claim; the chief priests did. If the people were “responsible” in any way for the death of Jesus, it was only in the general sense of ALL people being responsible for His death. We might also note that part of the plan of the chief priests was to humiliate Jesus by having Him crucified so that the people in general would no longer be moved by Him. They were, after all, jealous of Jesus, as Saint Luke notes, and the Pharisees decried after the Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.” Only a humiliating death at the hands of the hated Romans would scandalize the people away from any hope that Jesus was the Messiah. The Messiah, after all, was to be a conquering hero (which Palm Sunday seemed to demonstrate), so to be scourged, crowned with thorns and presented in mockery by Pilate was too much for the crowds to handle.

The final nail in the coffin, pardon the pun, was the actual crucifixion and the title placed above the head of Jesus on the cross. It shows the absolute cruelty of Pilate and his mockery of the people he was burdened with ruling: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Now, let’s look at this more carefully. Pilate must have been aware of the bumpkin image of those from Galilee, and had firsthand knowledge of the haughty personalities of the Judeans, especially the chief priests and elders. So in placing this title above the head of Jesus, in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, was a reminder to all of the scorn with which Pilate looked upon his subjects. A Nazarene being called a king of the Judeans? The insult was complete. But so was redemption. “It is accomplished.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unknown Saints

As the celebrations of Easter have ended for most, we have now entered into the even longer Easter season. Regretfully, many people view Easter as the end of something, when in fact it is the beginning, of the season and of eternal life for mankind. The world is totally different now that Christ is risen. It is good to put oneself into the shoes of the apostles, who were so disillusioned by the death of Jesus that they went into hiding, fearful for their lives. Even after seeing the Risen Christ, they still struggled to grasp what it all meant. Simon Peter even considered going back to fishing. It took Jesus 40 days of various appearances to convince them that all was well, and all was new. And not until the coming of Holy Spirit were they able to do something about their mission. I suppose that each of us goes through this cycle to varying degrees. Faith, after all, is about what is not seen, and we live in a world governed by sight, and sound and feelings. That’s not a bad thing, but it can be difficult to cling to the invisible when so much nonsense surrounds us and we are barraged by words and images on a constant basis.

It’s not fair, then, to be hard on the apostles for their actions following the resurrection. For all of their pre-passion bravado, and their awareness of the predictions of Jesus about the rejection and death He was to endure, they were still horrified by the actual reality. I suppose a soldier who is prepared for war goes through something similar when the bullets begin to fly, his friends are killed and he must engage the enemy himself. I literally cannot imagine what that must be like.

One man in the gospels, though, stands out in my mind as a truly brave individual, and I do not even know his name. He was a strong supporter and believer in Jesus before the events of Holy Week took place, and he maintained his faith and courage into the first Easter season. He was not an apostle, nor an apparently prominent member of the early Church, but he was a man of faith and courage, and I cannot wait to meet him and get his take on those events.

He is the man who owned the house where the Lord held the Last Supper. It was his home that Jesus honored with His presence for the institution of the Eucharist, the bestowal of priestly honor upon the apostles by that same act, and it was in his home that the Lord first appeared to the apostles to give them His gift of peace. To his home the apostles fled to meet in hiding while they pondered the events of the death of Jesus. And finally, it was in his home that the Holy Spirit descended upon the newborn Church at Pentecost, 50 days later.

He must have known Jesus during the earthly ministry, for he had the room already prepared for the band of thirteen men who came there in secret to celebrate the Passover. Judas did not know this man, or did not realize his importance, or else he would have arranged for the chief priests to arrest Jesus there. You should note the way that Jesus pointed out this man’s house. Jesus knew Judas was looking for a time and a place to hand Him over, so He kept this house’s location and the owner’s name hidden from everyone, including the rest of the apostles. “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” The Lord had arranged things beforehand, it seems, and wanted the peace and security of anonymity so that He could complete His final instructions undisturbed by Judas’ treachery.

Among many people who get involved in the Church, there is as much of a temptation to think of being part of the “in-crowd” as anywhere else or in any other organization. This is not to be harsh or judgmental of any given person wanting to help out even in public ways with what happens in the Church, but closeness to the “inner circle” of the Church’s official ministry does not guarantee sanctity any more than it guaranteed it for the apostles or other prominent disciples of the Lord while on earth. After all, many disciples left Jesus after hearing about the Eucharist for the first time. They found this saying hard to bear, as Saint John notes.

Holiness is gained not through physical closeness to Christ anymore than being in a garden makes one a plant. The soldiers and chief priests were in His presence, as were Pilate and Herod, and it didn’t give them any advantage. In fact it made things worse for them, in the long run. And being known for great works in the name of the Church does not give a free pass to holiness, for many worked miracles in the name of Christ but may find themselves being told, “I never knew you,” when decision time comes.

The man in whose home the Last Supper, the first appearance of the Risen Christ to His apostles and Pentecost took place was indeed known to Christ even if unknown to us. He may have been the father of Saint Mark, but we do not know for sure, and we will probably not know until judgment day, but this man, along with a host of unknowns throughout history will have places of honor in the Kingdom above others found more prominent to the world.

The three keys are to believe in Christ, to become His true friend, and to open one’s house to Him when He knocks on the door. We not know the day or hour, but we can know for certain that it will happen. Hopefully, we will have a place for Him, furnished and ready.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kill and Eat

     I have to thank my good friend Father Gee for introducing me to the wonderful world of smoking meat in a real smoker. It was about ten years ago when we set up a brand new smoker, conditioned it, and thus began a marvelous odyssey into carefully crafting a delicious meal of smoked pulled pork and beef brisket. What really made it for me, though, was reading through the books of Exodus and Leviticus, specifically the texts that refer to the multitude of sacrifices that were offered by the people at God’s command. I distinctly remember reading through these passages and having vivid awareness not only of the intense detail that accompanied the worship of Israel but even of the aromas that must have surrounded the Tent of Meeting. I had an actual thought that this was a marvelous barbecue (without the pork, of course, but more on that later!). The priests were, of course, only male, so it also reminded me of a group of guys sitting around a charcoal fire with loads of meat roasting over it.
Food has always been a part of human history. From Genesis to the book of Revelations, food is interwoven not only into ordinary life, but even at great moments of God’s interaction with those whom He called. After telling the newly created first man to be fruitful and multiply, God then points out the food he is to eat. The fall of Adam and Eve was based upon a violation of God’s command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The human race fell by eating wrongly, in disobedience. Sacrifices and covenants from then on were intimately tied to eating: Noah ate of the fruits of the earth upon leaving the Ark; Abraham was blessed with a child after offering the food of hospitality to the three visitors (God in disguise?); I already mentioned the sacrifices that attended upon the great Sinai covenant; fast forwarding to the New Testament, Jesus often ate with those with whom He shared the Gospel, from Simon the Leper, to Levi, to Lazarus, Mary and Martha. He then brought the old Covenant to fulfillment at the Last Supper, when He gave His very Body and Blood as the food and drink, the Sacrifice of His very Self.

The dietary laws of the Jewish people became a point of contention in the early Church as the Gospel spread to Gentiles, who did not have religious qualms about eating certain foods. Saint Peter learned that he should not discriminate against non-Jews when it came to preaching the Gospel from a vision of a huge sheet filled with all sorts of animals, reptiles and birds, and a voice that told him to “kill and eat”. Peter replied, “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” The Lord replied, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” It took three times for Peter to get the point. The message of the Gospel? What one eats has nothing to do with salvation; it is “what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.”

And the book of Revelation, following upon the imagery given by Jesus, describes heaven as a huge wedding banquet. In heaven, we will feast upon food provided for us by God Himself, who will have us “sit down at table” and be served, if we served Him on earth.

These connections are not minor. God is trying to tell us so many things about human life in these texts. Human life is good, indeed very good, for He created us. Food keeps us alive, and life is good. Having a family meal and providing food and hospitality to guests are sacred events. Why God prohibited certain foods is a matter of debate. Pork has been associated with disease, especially when not cooked enough. I’m not sure why shellfish are prohibited by Jewish law, but that was so as well. With the words of Christ to guide us, and the experience of the early Church, we learn that God no longer has a problem with certain foods and no longer bans them. Perhaps His goal was to provide a unique culture to His people, including dietary laws, to keep them separate from the surrounding cultures. Once universal salvation was preached and accomplished by Jesus, such a separation was no longer required. From a personal point of view, I’m very grateful that food is no longer an issue for salvation, since I love smoked pork, clams on the half shell, and sautéed shrimp. Who am I kidding? I love just about every food, and have overcome my childhood aversion to mushrooms, especially after my first experience with veal marsala, smothered in mushrooms.

What strikes me as strange, of course, is the modern day return to dietary restrictions. From government dictates to the latest dietary fad to self-help gurus, we hear constantly about the harmful effects of various foods. Saint Paul had something to say about such restrictions, as he counseled Saint Timothy to beware of those who forbid certain foods which should be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3). Anyone who knows me knows I am not exactly the model of physical perfection. I happen to love food and a wide variety thereof. But the new dogma is disturbing for a variety of reasons. There is a sense of superiority coming from those who espouse such restrictions. Have you ever had someone frown at your choice of a certain kind of food because it was not “healthy”? Over eating is unhealthy. A big mac once in awhile won’t affect your salvation or your personal worth (even though I’m not a fan of big macs for other reasons). Being temperate is virtuous; being abstemious thinking it makes one a better person is unchristian.

So that being said, I have seasoned my smoker and am ready to start the madness. It’s huge, and ready for a pile of pork shoulders and brisket, and maybe some ribs and a smoked chicken along the way. Anyone who lives near me may receive a call about a large helping of freshly smoked pulled pork. With all sincere respect to the legitimate dietary restrictions of others, especially the Jewish people, I will be honoring my fathers in the faith by tending the fire, creating a pleasing fragrance, and giving thanks to God Who provides food in abundance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My God, My God, Why?

Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

The beginning of the 22nd psalm begins in desolation and suffering. This is the prayer that was on the mind and lips of Jesus as He struggled to breathe upon the cross. There is no doubt that the soul of Christ felt the full brunt of pain that accompanies crucifixion. His body was racked with pain; he deeply felt more than we can know the emotional trauma of rejection, betrayal and abandonment. How can anyone begin to understand this depth of awful and horrid loneliness? Believing that Jesus is the true Son of God, we wonder at the chasm of darkness that enveloped His soul in those three hours on the cross and the previous days’ multitude of suffering. Jesus is one of us, a real man, who knew frustration, annoyance and every other true human emotion. Though every human being has his or her own type of suffering in particular, the full range of sufferings can be found in the passion of the Lord, including desolation and loneliness.

To grasp this is crucial to identifying with Jesus, and knowing and believing that He understands, intellectually and emotionally, what we go through. “Tempted in every way we are, yet without sin.” In this moment, His human mind and heart were deep in the valley of darkness as is the case with a large portion of humanity. Is there anyone who has not experienced some semblance of darkness from time to time? Perhaps.

But how do we reconcile this with His divine nature? And, joined to that conundrum, how could we who are “merely” human identify with the consolation that was also His during those final hours?

It is important to remember something about knowledge and how we come to know anything. Generally, we gain knowledge by experiencing the world through our senses. Our minds learn how to put that information together, and, by the power of reason, we make sense of what we receive. Learning is a combination between our mind’s ability to make judgments (this is so, this is not so) and remembering past knowledge, now applied to the present. Over time we make more connections, and with our imagination, we can even push the limits of past experiences into things that are new. Take the example of Thomas Edison, who put together the power of electricity, charcoal and a glass jar to make the first light bulb. He had attempted about 10,000 times to make a light bulb, and had learned, as he put it, 10,000 ways what NOT to do. After so many failures, he took one of his power naps, and had an enlightening insight, pardon the pun. He remembered that wood, when burned while deprived of oxygen, did not flame up, but slowly burned and gradually turned into charcoal. Applying this principle to his experiment, he sucked the air out of a glass jar, inserted the electric wire, and turned on the power. The filament began to glow without flaming up, and the light bulb came into being. The world would never be the same. The power of the mind to associate, collate and create is tremendous, and is available to all of us.

But God is beyond the senses. He is beyond thought. We can see evidence of Him in creation, and extrapolate His existence from the things that are sensed, but we cannot penetrate the heavens, as it were, and see Him face to face, as He truly is. Reason brings us to the brink and then, strain as it might, cannot make the jump. It is not that He is dark in Himself, but, as the eyes of the owl are blinded by the sun, therefore he only comes out at night, so our eyes are blind to the full brilliance of the Divine essence. Faith, then, is the ability we have, as spiritual beings, to cross that line. Faith comes by hearing. The Word gives us knowledge where sight and the other senses fail. In an ordinary life, faith can be easy. It can come with consolations and support and other forms of help that make a life of faith even enjoyable.

But what happens when we are stripped of those consolations and supports? Indeed, in the tradition of the spiritual life, the soul who seeks to grow in faith must first voluntarily strip itself from such consolations, and start on the path of mature faith. God of course helps us on this path, and His word teaches us things we would not otherwise think about. Sometimes this can be quite simple and even enjoyable, as the mind has “Ah ha!” moments, and rejoices in new knowledge. Other times, such knowledge comes at a price, through an event or series of events that put us to the test.

When someone begins to be deeply imbued with faith, there comes a point where ordinary knowledge and images just are not enough. We can even reach the heights of Everest and still we do not penetrate the heavens. God then takes over, as it were, and strips us of even extraordinary principles of insight. God is so beyond the mind’s ability to grasp Him that only grace and the very presence of the Holy Spirit are able to supply what the ordinary human does not have.

In the case of Jesus, there was no imperfection from which He had to be purged, no sin which darkened His mind, and so His human understanding was always aware of His divine nature, and the face of His Heavenly Father. That Jesus was truly human is shown in His frustrations with the apostles and other people in general. He KNEW what He knew, and when the ignorant and the sinfully willful would not see things as He did, it brought about the emotional repugnance He showed, as in the case of His statement after the Transfiguration, “How much longer must I be with you?”

In the case of the cross, Jesus felt all the pains of that torment, including that deep down sorrow of being abandoned, rejected and betrayed, and, more than all of that, the horror of all the sins of the world which He took upon Himself. He felt guilty for what He had not done. He allowed the darkness of sin and error and hate to envelop His soul and His heart. Yet all the while, He was still, at the “peak” of His human mind, still in contact with the Divine essence and all the joy that accompanies that. He not only bridged the gap between sinful humanity and divine holiness; He was that bridge. This is why the very ground in which the cross was planted began to shake and tremble. The most perfect being was being shaken to His core. It truly felt like abandonment for Him. Sin, after all, is stupid, and Jesus is Wisdom incarnate. The contrast could not be starker. Always in control of His environment, at the proper time He released His soul into the hands of the Father, breaking apart, as it were, His perfect constitution, to be restored in glory at the resurrection.

But what about us who are not perfect, and may not reach those heights of spiritual perfection that many saints tasted and enjoyed throughout their lives, or at least at the end of a long struggle? This is where living faith comes in. We may not ever have sufferings like unto the sufferings of Christ, but we still do, sometimes horribly. Our friends and family may not leave and betray us did many of Jesus’ friends and relations, but we experience moments of such things. There are some who never have a sick day in their lives, but everyone has experienced some form of frustration and setback. How can we maintain sanity in the midst of the crazy and the horrible? Faith is that link that makes us like unto Christ, even to the point of having peace in the midst of suffering. But it is not a faith of feeling good or of seeing things clearly. It must be a faith of surrender and, more importantly, love, that Jesus went through this for us, that He died for each of us individually, and that the condemnation He took upon Himself makes up for our own lack and selfishness. We may cry out, in moments of suffering, My God, My God, why? WHY? And that is okay, as long as we repeat with Him Who died and rose for us, “Into Thy hands, I commit my spirit.”

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Lord's call

“He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.”

Many times in the Gospels, Jesus calls to various individuals to follow Him. The most famous, of course, being the apostles themselves. The urgency of His call was such that Peter and Andrew, James and John left their former lives immediately and followed Him. We should note that while the evangelists are making the point of how dramatic is the call of Christ, these men, and others, were disciples of Jesus for almost two years before He gave them this definitive call. As the Gospel of John describes the history of the early ministry of Jesus, there was about a two year gap between the baptism of Jesus and His passion, death and resurrection. Two Passover celebrations took place before the one during which He was put to death. And during that time, these first disciples-made-apostles spent time with the Lord, and even followed Him about, before He called them to leave everything for His final year of preaching, teaching and proclaiming the “year of favor from the Lord.”

That being said, there were others who were called by the Lord. Many followed Him; some others did not. Some started to follow Him, but left Him when He announced the Eucharist, calling Himself the “Bread of Life” to be eaten for eternal life. “Leave the dead to bury their dead” is one of the most intense warnings Jesus gives to a would-be disciple, who seemingly only wanted to bury his deceased father.

Yet, there was one man who wanted to follow Jesus, but was refused in his request, the man possessed by a Legion of demons, in the land of the Gerasenes. This area, also called the Gadarenes, was on the east bank of the river Jordan, and was partially Hebrew and partially gentile. We know that gentiles lived there because there were swineherds, something that the Jews would not even think of possessing.

This man lived among the tombs, and was often chained because of his violent outbursts, caused, we learn, by having been possessed by a Legion of demons. Not your ordinary exorcism, as we see that Jesus Himself seemingly had a difficulty freeing the man from possession. In your every day exorcism, a simple word from Jesus would free a person so possessed. This devil was not wont to go. In the Church’s exorcism rite, part of the ritual directs the priest to ask for the name of the demon within a person. Once the name is given, the exorcism usually becomes effective shortly thereafter. To “name” someone means to have a certain power or authority over someone, or at least gives access to that person. Knowing the “Name” of God gives us access to Him. Once the demon announces his name, Jesus completes the exorcism. Surprisingly, once the name is given, the demon makes a request of the Lord, to be sent into the pigs, and Jesus gives him permission to leave. Thus we see that Jesus was in control of the situation the whole time.

Once the demons enter the pigs, they are sent into a frenzy, and the whole herd rushes over a cliff and drowns in the sea, causing quite a bit of consternation for the swineherders and the townspeople. Finding the recently possessed man free of his sufferings, they demand that Jesus leave them. The un-named man wants to go with Jesus, but the Lord refuses, and tells him to go and tell everyone “how much the Lord has done for [you], and how he had had mercy on [you]. And he went away and began to proclaim how much Jesus had done for him.” This previously twisted and tortured soul becomes the means by which the Lord makes His name known among the gentiles, and he makes a pre-gospel preparation of these people for the full preaching that would take place after the ascension of Jesus.

For some reason, I have always identified with this fellow. To be clear, I have no thought that I’ve ever been possessed. But one would have to say that there was a legion of troubles, from which only the Divine Voice could deliver me. Without getting into details, the Lord did for me what he did for the man of the Gerasenes. I understand the reasons why the Lord did not immediately drive out the legion of demons at once. When someone has been living with demons, of whatever kind, he becomes used to them. I suppose it is like any habit, good or bad. Bad habits, as they say, are easy to learn, but hard to live with, and can be very hard to break. Good habits are hard to develop, but easy to live with.

When I used to read this passage, back in the days of vocational discernment, it would often cause me to pause, and wonder. My intuition at the time moved me to question my motive, or the Lord’s call. There were and are still remnants of the old self. Complete conversions into living saints are rare, such as what occurred in the soul of Saint Paul. For most of us, there is a gradual transformation from darkness to light, from sin to holiness. Indeed, it often takes a life-time of work and prayer and solid devotion. As in the case of the Garasene demonic, the Lord may not want such a person to take on the difficult burdens of apostleship. The Lord’s denial is for the sake of the person, and not from a lack of desire on His part to transform that person. After all, Jesus knew this man would be a prophet in his own right amongst his own people.

When I wrote to His Holiness requesting a dispensation, I mentioned, among other things, this passage from the Gospels. Ordination and apostleship build upon nature. As one friend commented, one might call it “Discernment: The right vocation, but the wrong person.” Of course, argument can be made that once ordination happens, the call is affirmed by the Church, and must be valid. Experience, though, can trump the best of theological reasonings and arguments. Perhaps the book could be written outlining my experience, but most is very private. Suffice it to say, better decisions could have been made, by me and others, as in anyone’s life. My hope is that the success of the now-freed demonic was not entirely unique. Who knows how he came to be possessed, and what part he played in it. The Lord loved him enough to free him and make of him a vehicle of the Gospel.