Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45]
"My servant will justify many." That was from the prophet Isaiah in our first reading. In our Gospel passage from Mark, Jesus presents himself as that servant of God who justifies the many: the Son of Man who came "to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many."
This thing about justification and being ransomed: I don't know if that really speaks to people in the way that Isaiah and Mark seemed to think it would. Are we relieved, grateful, and deeply moved to change our ways when we hear we have been justified and ransomed? I don't think so, and so the Gospel falls flat. Ransomed from what, we ask? Am I a captive? And as for justified, we imagine God clicking an icon in the tool bar of his Word document and all the lines on the page nicely line up fast against the left and right hand margins; as if all the people in the congregation were instantly equally distributed one end to the other along the pews. What does it mean to be ransomed? What is justification? Who cares?
And yet this idea of justification is probably the central point of the Good News. "The message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's saving action in Christ. The doctrine of justification is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith" (JDDJ 17, 18).
The sons of Zebedee. They were not just James and John. They were the sons of Zebedee who must have really been someone, asking from Jesus even higher status among their friends and neighbors, to be first and greatest, sitting at the right and left of the Messiah. They were not men whose worth and value were in themselves, rooted in their having been created by the hand of God who assessed them good, and very good. Here, I think, is an answer to the questions, Ransomed from what? and Am I a captive? Jesus ransoms us from whatever it was that caused James and John to seek their worth and value in being sons of Zebedee, in having the best place, in being greater than their companions. What is it that causes us to seek our value at the expense of others? What is it that makes us think that the mere fact of my being is not enough, that greatness cannot be found in ourselves but only in the eyes of others?
"The will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him." That was from our first reading. The will of the Lord is that all be saved and come to know the truth. The will of the Lord is the flourishing in peace and justice of all his creation, of all that he assesses as good and very good. It is striking, then, that in the Gospel the sons of Zebedee say to Jesus, "We want you to do what we ask." In other words, not the Lord's will, but ours be done. Is it not whatever discontent it is that makes us prefer our desire for personal status over God's desire for universal harmony that we have to be ransomed from? Is not justification, then, the shifting of the margins of our will and desires to alignment snuggly against the gracious will of God?
"The Son of Man has come to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many." We can ask "what are we ransomed from?" The Gospel of Mark urges us, rather, to notice in Jesus what we are ransomed for: we are ransomed from our selfish and lonely privacy for being people for others. We are ransomed to give our lives in service to others, especially to those who are held captive by loneliness, by poverty, by homelessness, by fear, by illness, those in prisons of iron and concrete and in prisons of addiction and despair.
I believe that Saint John's version of Mark's saying about the Son of Man come to serve and ransom is: "He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end." We are God's own, and it is God's love for us in Jesus that is to the end; that is, God's love reaches the depths of our being and empowers us to attain the end and goal of our existence, which is what justification is: "the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man" as the Catechism says (1989; see Trent, DS 1528).
The love of God in Jesus conforms us actually to God, and aligns us in our very depths by the power of his mercy to the will of God; in short, justification makes our will and God's will one: that all people be saved. It moves us to be like Jesus our "high priest," able to sympathize with the weaknesses of others, to regard them and not ourselves as first and greatest and, as if without sin, to give our life in humble service to the end.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Is 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thes 1:1-5b; Mt 22:15-21]
It is not unusual for a speaker to leave time for questions at the end of a talk or presentation. Even if there is an embarrassed pause, someone will finally chip in with a question. Many times, however, the contribution is a statement, rather than a question. “Don't you think that talk about climate change is exaggerated and a hoax?” The questions often reveal more about the one asking the question than an interest in seeking the opinion of someone else. They are formed by the intentions of the questioner. There are good questions which unearth new directions or uncover what was only implicit or hidden. There are also great questions. The booklet we are using to guide our community discussions says that great questions open areas of ambiguity; they are personal, touching our lived experience; and they evoke a response of accountability or anxiety.
This morning's Gospel contains three questions: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax?” “Why do you test me?” and “Whose image and inscription are on the coin?” The first question is very legitimate and of concern for all those who experienced the tension of having to pay to the powers of occupation for the benefit of living on the land which was God's own. There was a raw tension between accommodating to the Empire or resisting it. The realities of political, social, and religious life were not separated into distinct domains as they so often are for us. But this was only a surface concern for the question posed by the disciples of the Pharisees. The intention of the question was not to open themselves to practical wisdom about living in a complex world. Their intention was “to entrap Jesus in his speech.” They were using words to cover their real meaning and intention. A simple and not uncommon perversity: words separated from their real function. Words are meant to be the creative expression of our interiority, the means of communion and bonding ourselves within our culture. They are the expressions of the image we share with God who spoke in the first chapters of Genesis: “And God said, let there be light…let the waters be gathered … let us make humankind in our own image.” Real speech is sacred, bearing the heart and image of the speaker. The opponents of Jesus used words as tools, as weapons, as means of manipulation, as things and commodities separable from the real intentions of the speakers. Jesus recognized their malice in their intensions, a malice and evil greater than any which could be wrought by the imperial power of Caesar. They appealed to the Law, not as the living will of God, but as a text ready to ferret out deviancy and non-compliance. The Law and Gospel here have become words susceptible to self-serving interpretations, no longer expressions of the interiority of God, no longer forms in which the intentions of God can meet and form the intentions of human persons. The Gospel, the Law, has come in “words only”, not “in power and the Holy Spirit and conviction.” Hypocrisy separates the word from the Spirit.
“Why do you test me?” Why do you enter into conversation with me which avoids a personal encounter, with joining in a quest for truth and wisdom which has the power to transform and lead into a new view of what is possible? Testing implies an inequality, a superiority of one over the other, a capacity to stand in judgment. It seeks to provoke, not to evoke a commitment or sense of trust. Self-justification is the criterion of what is allowed. Ambiguity and the humility of listening would draw both partners in conversation to a level of mutuality. What is already known and possessed establishes the limits of this exchange. Our very approach to God in prayer, in liturgy, in the events of our lives can bear the marks of this wanting to test God, of looking for signs to warrant and justify our risking the security we cling to. It is more reasonable to stand apart, to distance ourselves from complicated and ambiguous and even threatening demands which the questions of others can present to us. Rather than saying, with Erik Erikson,“I am who I love”, we more readily say, “I am who I fear.”
Before Jesus asks “Whose image and whose inscription are on the coin?”, he first says: “Show me the coin of tribute.” We are first told to dig into our pockets, to dig into the pockets of our souls to show to whom we belong. This precedes any choice about our accommodation or resistance, our allocation of resources and preferences. The coin is a convenient means of exchange, even as words are means of exchange. Whose image can be seen in the exchanges we make? The same coin can be a means of a free gift or become a means of subjection. “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.” Whose image is shown in our lives and actions and words? Maybe this question is for us a great question, leading us into insecurity and ambiguity, touching us personally, and evoking accountability or anxiety. Unknowingly, the disciples of the Pharisees speak the truth when they describe Jesus as “an honest man and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.” Unknowingly, they describe the image which shows itself in the life of Jesus and the image we are meant to show in our lives. It is to know the power and the Holy Spirit and the conviction which inscribe that image on our hearts, which create that identity we have from belonging to God.
In his novel, My Argument With the Gestapo, Merton has the character say: “If you want to identify me, don't ask me where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair. But ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for what I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. The better answer he has, the more of a person he is.” Our identity and image reveal themselves in the choices we make and the intention of our hearts' desire.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45]
About a year ago, our community took up the task of carrying out a very deliberate transition process with the understanding that, if we are to elect a new abbot next summer, then there are going to be some changes around here, and we need to prepare ourselves for these changes that are coming. Some in the community are inclined to view the transition process as Dom Augustine's idea, our Father Immediate. Others believe that “transition” is an idea introduced by the Transition Committee who were appointed by Dom Augustine. At various points during the past year, monks have asked: “Why do we need to do a transition process? We had a good visitation. The community is at peace. Things are o.k.” And maybe the most important question: “What exactly are we supposed to be transitioning to?”
Glory, I guess, is the short answer to that question. We need to do a transition process, because we are called to be glorified in union with Jesus Christ seated at God's right hand. You and I, brothers, were not created to be o.k. In glory, people don't say to each other: “Things are o.k.” But you hear the monks say that a lot, and that means, there is still a transition process we need to do.
Our Catholic tradition teaches that God who willed our existence, willed for us an end, He created us with an end in view. The end God created us for is that we should be divinized; that we should become like God. God wishes that his glory might shine out in us and be shared between us in a resurrected life that will make this life seem like a poor imitation by comparison. We are created for glory and, deep inside, we know that. We speak of many desires, brothers and sisters, but we are in truth driven by one desire: that God's glory might be ours.
This passion is what drives every choice and action we take in life. This mammoth desire is not given us to enjoy, but to obey. We were made by God with an end in view; with a ceaseless yearning to attain our end and we must obey this desire. In this hunger of ours; this hunger for glory, God has inscribed in us a rule of conduct
To guide us through life, the rule our Catholic tradition calls “The Natural Law”.
Sadly, though we are creatures who desire only God, our judgments can be very bad concerning how to attain what we want, and so we turn all sorts of lesser things into objects of desire. We say: “Things are o.k. the way they are.” Based on those very bad judgments we make some very bad decisions and make a general mess of things.
Which is what is in danger of happening in this morning's gospel.
The disciples assail Jesus one day: and ask: “Give us whatever we ask you!” Listen to these words that arise from the deepest longing of the human heart. It turns out, what the disciples want is to be seated beside Jesus, one at his left and one at his right. They want a share of God's glory. But Jesus already knows that, and so he doesn't say: “Shame on you. Look at you guys, asking for a share in God's glory. Oh brother!” He doesn't say that, because this desire for glory is natural to them and to us. It is inscribed in our nature as human beings. The disciples are asking for the right thing. The problem, as Jesus says, is in their judgment. They don't actually know what they're asking for. That's the problem.
The disciples want to share in God's glory, but this is not attained by simply standing up and walking over to a chair at God's right hand and seating yourself in it. The disciples don't understand that to attain what they want, to be glorified with God's own glory they must die. “Can you be baptized with my baptism?” Jesus asks them.
What they're asking Jesus to give them is baptism into misunderstanding, persecution, suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead. Do the disciples know what they're asking for?
How many of us know what we are asking for? Did Dom Augustine know what he was asking for when he exhorted the community to undertake a transition process? When monks ask the transition committee: “What are we transitioning to?” Do they know what they are asking for? I think the true response to the question: “What are we looking for?” is glory. What we are asking of God and of this transition process is glory. The glory God made us for; that Glory attained through union with Jesus Christ in sacrifice, death, and resurrection. Brothers, we are called to die that we may renew and enliven the transition process we began the day we were born into this world: our transition toward death and resurrection, that we may be born again in glory.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45]
One very snowy and blustery night in 1983, I found myself at a theater in mid-town Manhattan, watching the movie Ghandi. Ghandi has always been a hero of mine and I had rushed out to see the movie starring Ben Kingsley which had just been released, and which everyone was talking about. In the course of watching that nearly three hour epic about the life of Mahatma Ghandi, I became so intensely absorbed; so forgetful of myself and everything around me, I completely forgot, that only a few days earlier, I had been diagnosed with cancer. Stepping out of the theater on to the street at about 10:30 at night; feeling the cold air and snow lash my face, I remembered. I remembered I was twenty six years old and I had cancer. I was, that night, a young man possessed by a young man’s passion to seize life and live it to the full, and as I felt that icy wind on my face, there came to me the sickening realization—that I might be dead before I was thirty. Maybe it was the intensely moving film I had just watched. Maybe it was the sting of the cold and the snow. Maybe it was just a young man’s will to live raging against a doctor’s death sentence—but something rose up inside me at that moment; a visceral, unholy rage, that shot skyward; straight up to God. I believed God had betrayed me or at least, fallen asleep at the wheel, and I imagined, at that moment, that I had grabbed God by the collar of his robe and was shaking him; violently trying to shake some sense into God; this God who didn’t know how to be God; this incompetent, stupid God; my rage finally erupting in a cry; a prayer of two words—shouted into God’s face: “Use me!” What I meant was: “You stupid God! I’m 26 years old—do something with my life! I want my life to contribute something! I have talents! I want to live! You gave me life! Use me!”
I was 26 years old that night, and it has been almost exactly 26 years since I sent up to God that prayer for deliverance from cancer. God heard my prayer. God used me.God spared me for a life in which I would be entirely used in the service of God’s church; not as a busy priest, who keeps certain work hours, but as a monk, whose service to the church is a life consecrated to God at every moment of every hour; of every day and every night of his life, until he dies forgotten by the world; possessing nothing; and all used up. My prayer, was heard by God. God gave me what I prayed for; gave me the very thing—gave me just exactly what I asked Him for, and I lost everything else. Brothers and sisters, be careful what you pray for.
In this morning’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples are praying to him. They are asking Jesus, to be seated, one at his left and one at his right when he comes into his glory. Jesus says in response: “My very dear brothers, do you know what you are asking for?”
How many of us, when we pray to God really know what we’re asking for? When I felt my heart and my soul melt in the white heat of a primal scream thrown up to God, and I shouted at God: “Use me!” Did I realize what I was asking for? Did I understand that I was saying to God: “I want to live in a manner that is going to require of me the radical loss of control of my entire life; a life surrendered to God for my brothers and sisters and for the church, in a Trappist monastery?” Did I realize what I was asking God for?
How often do we say to God: “Bless me!” and never think of the trials we might be calling down upon ourselves in that prayer? When we say: “God—bless me!” Do we think about the price a person must pay for being truly blessed? Do we reflect upon what blessing and a blessed life actually costs a person—what it cost Jesus?
We monks have been taught for generations to pray for “final perseverance“; that we may persevere in the monastery until death. Very often, what a monk making this prayer is actually asking for is the serenity, the simplicity of heart, the childlike trust and confidence that characterize the death of a faithful monk. But a peaceful death is not perseverance, it is the reward of perseverance. When you pray for the gift of perseverance, you are praying for trials, for frustration, loneliness, betrayals, endless disappointments, and for the grace to endure them with faith and love again and again, and again, until these many trials finally break you, and you die and are raised up again—a new creation.
If we pray for God to bless us—and if what we are really asking for is days of tranquility and joy continuing in unbroken bliss until we reach the beatific vision—then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, bitterness and even resentment toward God. If, on the other hand, we pray for blessing knowing that true blessing means having our person and our whole life conformed to Christ who suffered, died, and rose again from the dead, then, even the experience of suffering will confirm and deepen our joy, we will learn to be grateful for everything; to see everything as a gift from God, the gift of each moment, even moments of suffering, opening up to reveal the most precious gift of God’s image being fashioned inside us, the source of perfect, unassailable, and everlasting happiness.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8]
The widow presented to us by Jesus in this morning’s gospel parable, is what we call in America a “success story“. There is, actually, something distinctively American about this widow’s story; her victory being the type Americans tend to value most: She won the day against all odds by sheer hutzpa and determination. Jesus relates how this humble widow prevailed upon a powerful, unsympathetic judge to secure her rights, and with such force of will that she seems actually to have intimidated the judge into settling the case in her favor. Wow! Bravo! Who was this woman? Who was this widow Jesus is talking about? Alas, it’s only a story; a parable. The widow is a fictional character. Even so, there were women like her in Palestine in Jesus’ time, and the widow in the parable was certainly modeled after these.
Would you like to know who this widow was? Widows, in Jesus time, were very close to the bottom of the social ladder. As a woman, in first century Palestine, your happiness, your security; any prospect of material prosperity; basically your entire future all depended upon the man you married. Marriage to a husband was the sole source of any status a woman enjoyed in the ancient world. This widow, then, we may surmise, was a woman who over the course of many years grew accustomed to her entire sense of self being derived from someone elseher husband. Losing her husband, she not only lost her status in society, her material and psycho- logical security, any chance at material prosperity and a secure future; she had, very possibly, lost a clear sense of who she was.
Maybe you know someone like this: Maybe you know a woman who for many years was completely dependent upon her husbands’ job, status, strengths, and competencies, and who finds herself one day without him; and besides being suddenly susceptible to depression, financial difficulties, and legal troubles, finds herself deeply disoriented; unsure how to make a life for herself; unsure how to be a self without her husband. She is the widow Jesus is talking about in this morning’s gospel. Maybe you know someone like this.
Or maybeyou know someone like this. A man has for years and years enjoyed robust good health; has always been strong, bursting with energy and stamina for the hardest work, and who being always strong and healthy, presented himself to the world with a certain confidence, but who one day had an accident which left him permanently disabled, maybe even confined to a wheel chair. Finding his self-worth and sense of self in robust good health, he was married to his physical strengthand is no more. This man too is a “widow“.
You may know someone who for many years was a talented and respected officer in a large company; a brilliant organizer who earned the trust and respect of her co-workers and who always seemed to be three steps ahead of everyone around her, but who lost her job one day when the company was bought out, and who is now just trying to pay the bills working as a traveling salesman which she hates, and who, worst of all, isn’t sure who she is anymore. Grounding her sense of self in her job, she was married to her joband is no more. This woman also is a widow.
Perhaps you know a man who is raising a couple of teenagers. For years he enjoyed the respect and admiration of his children who genuinely revered and looked up to him as their father, and who now, can’t seem to formulate a single sentence which his children don’t think is silly and outdated. So long as this man enjoyed the respect and deference of his children, he had a sense of who he was. He was married to his role as a respected father – and is no more. This one too is a widow.
Or maybe you know someone who is just getting older; who is not as young and healthy, intelligent or competent as they were thirty years ago; who used to be mentally quick and engaging and so made his way in the world with a certain self confidence, and whose confidence is failing now because he tends to stumble over words and get confused in the middle of conversations – do you know someone like that? He is also a “widow.”
We wanted to know who the widow is Jesus is talking about, and I’m wondering if at this point the thought may have occurred to you: the widowis you. Maybeyou are a widow. If, in fact, you think there may be cause for believing you yourself are a widow, I would suggest you take heed of Jesus’ advice to widows offered in this morning’s gospel: you need to prayyou need to start praying right now, and keep praying, and don’t stop praying. Actually, Jesus’ teaching to widows is very clear: you need to pray unceasingly, which I’m afraid might mean giving up sleep, because you’re going to be praying all day and all night. That may sound demanding but, after all, your situation is extremely serious. The life of a widow is a hard life.
Then again, you may be a widow who needs a little sleep once in a while. If so, you will need to discover a way to pray and sleep at the same time. The example of Moses, in this morning’s first reading may be of some help to you here. The Israelites were victorious in battle so long as Moses arms were raised toward God in prayer. When he couldn’t hold them up any longer, he had two of his friends stand on either side of him and hold his arms up for him. You are a widow bereft; and charged by Jesus to pray unceasinglybut you need some sleep. Fortunately, you are a member along with many other members of the one body of Christ made visible in the church, and if you should find you no longer have any strength left to pray, your brothers and sisters in Christ will pray for you. The Carthusians rise at midnight to pray, and about the time they are going to bed, the Cistercians are getting up to begin their prayer Vigil. And so, poor widow, you may go to bed; and get some sleep and know that Christ’s members joined to you as one body are praying for you while you sleep.
Brothers and sisters, we are all widows. Each and every one of us found happiness on a day, and when that day passed; and the sun set and night fell, we found ourselves bereft and disoriented. We have all been married to a happiness that passed away, and it seems to me, the real message of today’s scripture readings, if I may be permitted to read a little between the lines, is simply that you and I, widows in this world of uncertainty, need each other. You and I desperately need each other and, by God’s grace, have been given to each other in a blessed communion about to be celebrated at the eucharistic table; this blessed communion which is the church of Jesus Christ.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Hos 6:3-6; Rom 4:18-25; Mt 22:15-21]
If a wolf is prowling outside your door will you open it? If you see a hungry lion on your path, will you continue walking that way? If a poisonous viper is snaking toward the place you are standing, will you stay there? I hope not. But if the wolf is in sheep’s clothing, if the lion is crouched in hiding, and if the viper is coming up behind you, your danger is not apparent. Today’s Gospel on paying taxes to Caesar is also a story about the dangerous struggle between good and evil. Jesus said, “Beware of those who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The wolf, the lion and the viper are images that Jesus used to describe our struggle with evil. How can we know when we are in danger?
First, we are in danger when we act with duplicity. Deception opens the door to a wolf, for the devil is the father of lies. The Pharisees plotted to deceive Jesus, to entrap him in his speech. To catch him off guard they do not come to Jesus themselves. Instead, they send their disciples under pretence of seeking truth, like young wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their duplicity is increased by joining forces with their enemies, the Herodians, who support Roman rule and taxation. To trap Jesus the disciples of the Pharisees praise him for his truthfulness and his disregard of anyone’s opinion about him. They hope Jesus will speak against paying Roman taxes in front of the Herodians and be put in prison. Their question puts him in danger. But Jesus sees their own danger. He replies, “You hypocrites, why put me to the test?” Their words were smooth and kind, but malice was in their hearts. His words were harsh and painful, to warn them that they were in more danger from their own duplicity than from the Romans. By acting with deception they opened the door of their hearts to a greater enemy, a wolf who is the devil, the father of lies, who wants to enslave them forever and ever.
Second, we are in danger when we reject the help of a teacher who shows us where Satan crouches like a hungry lion seeking someone to devour. Jesus is our Teacher. He shows us the way of God in truth. When Jesus was about ten years old, Judas the Galilean led a revolt against Roman taxation. His rebellion was crushed, but the spirit motivating it intensified among the people. It was a hot question for the next sixty years: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Since the time of Moses, the only law the people of Israel accepted was God’s law, as written in the Scriptures and Commentaries. They did not acknowledge any other authority. But Jesus teaches: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” We are citizens of two cities, a heavenly Jerusalem and an earthly Jerusalem. We have obligations to both. The people marveled at the teaching of Jesus but they rejected it. Thirty-five years later they fought a Great War against the Roman army, another rebellion against giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and they were defeated. The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. By rejecting a teacher of the truth, the Pharisees chose to walk along a dangerous path that seemed good to them, but led to destruction. Jesus continues to show us the way to God by his guiding presence in the tradition and teaching of the Church. With the help of a teacher to guide our consciences we will avoid the paths which lead to Satan and our own destruction.
Third, we are in danger of eternal death from the viper’s poison when we lose the image of God impressed on the coin of our hearts. St Augustine writes that we are God’s money. We fell away like coins from the treasury of God. The image of God stamped upon us was rubbed out by our fall. Christ came to restore our lost likeness to God. He is the coin of infinite value, the perfect image of God. By uniting us with himself Christ impresses upon us his own likeness. We become altogether new creatures, true icons of God, members of his household. Washing away our sins by Baptism, Reconciliation, and the other sacraments, Christ can overcome the dangerous poison of that ancient serpent who attacked Adam and Eve, and everyone after them. Satan’s venomous bite is poisonous; but Christ’s body and blood is healing.
How then can we avoid danger in our personal struggles between good and evil? First, by acting with sincerity and truth. Second, by following the teaching of Christ in the Scriptures and in the Church. And third, by union with Christ in the sacraments where he stamps the image of God on the coin of our hearts, making us partakers of the divine nature.
In this Eucharist we celebrate our citizenship in the heavenly city, where the wolf, lion, and viper lie down with a lamb, a calf, and a little child, because in our heavenly homeland there will be no more danger, no more evil. Let us rejoice that we are about to receive the body and blood of Christ who is our greatest protection against all that could harm our life with God.