Archive for March 19th, 2018


What Should We Do About Jesus?

There’s an ominous tone that starts to bubble up in the liturgical readings of the last days of Lent.  It begins to surface as the gospels shift from an almost exclusive focus on the teaching and ministry of Jesus.  Slowly the curtain opens to reveal the anxiety that grips the religious elite of Jerusalem.  That anxiety then morphs into paranoia and finally into panic, as they wonder what in the world to do about Jesus.

Like many others, I take some little comfort in thinking that evil is identifiable and that we can point our fingers at it.  In my own mind the evil is in the officials standing in the shadows, worried.  That image remains a comfort to me until the awful truth dawns on me.  I could very well be standing there alongside them once in a while.  The fact of the matter is, along with them I too sometimes wonder what I’m supposed to do about Jesus.

8985B3D8-DF16-4E76-BCC0-2255DB78502EEvery time I try to take consolation in the thought that the bad guys in the gospel story were the religious authorities, I need to pinch myself.  The reality of it is, Jesus had no quibble with authority in and of itself.  What did irritate him to no end were those who used religion in order to control other people.  Jesus was absolutely consistent in his condemnation of those who would use the spiritual as leverage over others.

I shudder when I realize that I’ve probably done that myself.  Each time I point out the sins of others in light of my own stellar behavior, then I’ve done it.  Each time I dismiss the good intentions of others, I’ve done it.  Each time I exalt myself at the expense of others, then I’ve done it.  Those are all times when I quietly slip over to join the religious leaders in their collective self-satisfaction.

Like the religious leaders in the gospel, I too sometimes wonder about Jesus.  In my case, however, I wonder what he might be asking of me.  I’m challenged as I try to figure out how well or how poorly I’m following in his steps.

Thankfully there’s something in the story of Lent and Holy Week that is ironically reassuring.  For one thing, in my doubts and in my struggles, I’m in surprisingly good company.  After all, I stand in the company of the brightest religious minds in Jerusalem, who felt threatened by Jesus.  I’m also in the company of Peter, who denied Jesus three times.  And certainly least of it but not the last of it, I’m in the company of the disciples, who all ran away when the chips were down.

Together with them I sometimes wonder what I will do about Jesus.  Then I recall the second reassurance we take from the gospel story.  We may wonder what we should do about Jesus.  But thankfully, Jesus never wonders for a second about what he will do with the likes of us.


+On March 16th I presided at the abbey Mass.  Today’s post is an expanded version of the sermon that I delivered that day.

+On March 17th I spoke on The Saint John’s Bible to ninety students from St. Olaf College, who spent the day with us at Saint John’s.

+On March 18th I presided at Vespers in the abbey church.

+Last week I wrote about difficulties with my iPad, and my frustration at the Apple Store in Naples, FL.  On Thursday I resolved them with a visit to the Apple Store in Minneapolis.  In addition to the problems that I could list, the analyst found something that truly surprised him, and he traded my old iPad for a brand new one.  He then sent my old one to the Apple labs for an autopsy.  I shed no tears as I said goodbye.

+This was the week for one other challenge.  My office at Saint John’s had sent a box to me while I was in Florida, which was intended to be given as a gift of appreciation to someone.  It was scheduled to arrive in Naples on Monday.  On Tuesday I drove forty-five minutes to pick it up, only to discover that it had not arrived.  Worse still, a search of the US Post Office tracking number turned up nothing — it was nowhere.  On Friday, however, the box turned up in New Jersey.  No explanation was forthcoming as to why it chose to go there.

+This week I finished Candice Millard’s book entitled Hero of the Empire (Doubleday, 2016).  In it she details the exploits of Winston Churchill’s escapades in the Boer War in South Africa at the end of the 19th century.  It’s a great read, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys history as well as adventure.

+In the liturgical calendar for Benedictines there is a trifecta of feasts that have always provided a mid-Lenten time-out in the monastic horarium and table.  On March 17th we enjoy the feast of Saint Patrick.  On March 19th we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph.  And on March 21 we commemorate Saint Benedict.  The stained glass in today’s post are windows from the Great Hall at Saint John’s, built in 1879 as the abbey church.


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