Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
Questions of economy are so dominant in our society that it is hard not to think of many of our relations in terms of the “market economy.” The market (according to Adam Smith) is ruled by an “invisible hand” which adjusts supply and demand. Modern business and advertising has learned how to create demands and needs that people didn’t know they had before. And they are just the ones to supply for those needs. The products are fashioned to accommodate the needs that are experienced. Maybe the “Field of Dreams” thought it was enough to “build it and they will come.” Most businesses, however, recognize the need to let others know you are there and what you have to offer. We may not overtly market ourselves to others, but much of our relationships hinge on deciding “who is our audience?” and “what do we have to offer?”
The Gospel never seems interested in accommodating its message to an audience. Today’s Gospel is particularly “off-putting.” We are told that good disciples are servants, those who do what they are obliged to do, do what they have been commanded to do. That’s all. No room for personal incentive, initiative, creativity – much less autonomy. Just do what you are told to do. Those with a penchant for conformity and legalism are going to do well. But even so, they just end up as “unprofitable servants.” The disciples seem to have a worthy and legitimate request: “Increase our faith.” This just gets rebuffed by Christ who seems to imply that they don’t have faith the size of a mustard seed.
Christ, like many spiritual masters, will often dish out curt replies, even insults, to shock the listener out of a mistaken logic. He does that here by indicating that faith has nothing to do with “size” or expansion. Faith is a trusting relationship with God, an attention to Him in listening obedience. It is not “standing your ground before God.” It is realizing you have no other ground but God. It is very easy for us to start slipping into a thought-pattern which considers faith as personal virtue, strong ethical habits, religious devotion, inclusion in the community of faith and doctrine with more-or-less regular assent. Those are all effects of faith, of this awareness of being in the hands of God. God is our prime audience, and what we have to offer is our very self.
Our Lord is trying to reground our experience of faith in the reality of God. “The just one, because of his faith, shall live.” This life is the life of God which he shares with us. What then could not be possible? Planting mulberry trees in the sea. In faith, we are in living communion with the God who brings living beings out of nothing. We are trees planted in the sea of God’s love. But it is more than possible for us to keep our roots in the ground of our individual plot. The rash person is contrasted with the person of faith and integrity. The rash person lives on the surface of life, hypersensitive as a skin rash. He is impatient, ready to shift and move as the occasion requires. Ready to repackage himself to meets current demands. It is what Pope Francis has called “practical relativism.” which he says is more dangerous than doctrinal relativism. It has to do with the deepest and inmost decisions that shape their way of life. This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all costs.
The just one is grounded in the life and reality of God. His justice is living with God as the One who hears him, as his “audience.” The spirit he has been given is one of power and love and self-control. In the face of the destruction and violence, of strife and clamorous discord, he lives from a different vision of the world. Thomas Aquinas says the faith is the light by which we see what would otherwise remain in darkness. It is the assurance of things hoped for: based not on wishful thinking but on a deep, personal trust in the presence of God. The vision presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come. Erikson says that the person of integrity has an accrued assurance, learned through experience, of the proclivity and tendency of the world toward order and meaning. The person of faith and integrity roots this assurance in the knowledge of God.
Faith is a realism in which we fully know ourselves and know the world. We know our own limitations, the accumulated welter of mistakes, errors, and complicity with sin. But in faith we know them as better known by God whose pardon frees us. We prayed that God would pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads. We know ourselves as “unprofitable servants” who have been released and redeemed to offer who we are to God in his service. We are “ordinary servants” (as another translation puts it) and find joy and peace in doing what we have been commanded. We live by the justice and justification granted to us by God and have been freed from the impossible burden of trying to establish our own justice.
It is enough to do what we have been obliged to do. We have become servants of God in his world, midwives in helping to bring forth the vision and order he has for his creation. The apparently menial and mundane tasks of plowing, tending sheep, and preparing a meal can also be seen as symbols of all work of cultivation, culture, and cult (the effort to release energy and growth from nature); of tending and caring for what is alive to guard and protect it; of transforming natural goods into nurturance and sustenance for others in the social context of a meal. Perhaps these are also subtle allusions to the Church’s ministry of kerygma, diakonia, and koinonia. In the “ordinary” we realize the extraordinary. God is the audience and we offer all we are as his servants. The great fusion of willingly giving ourselves to “what we have been commanded” overcomes all separation between the task and the doer. We bring the value of who we are to what we do, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. We are servants because we are disciples. And we are disciples because we are servants. This is Jesus answer of how to increase your faith.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:0-11; Mk 10:2-16]
There has recently been a fairly steady stream of books published which deal with “adult spirituality” and “adult religion.” This doesn't mean they have salacious or off-color content. They are addressing the question of religious maturity which does not keep pace with chronological maturity. And also of religious thinking which does not keep pace with changes in society and culture. There is something very appealing about this effort to move beyond outmoded forms of religious thought and expression. It calls for interiorizing one's beliefs, of thinking through issues with a contemporary consciousness, of standing on one's own feet and not being dependent on authority rooted in the past. There can be a privileged position of being able to stand above and apart from what is known.
The subjection of religious thinking to the epistemology and thought processes of contemporary culture has its own problems. Is substituting one culture for another up-to-date one really a path to truth? Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si' has pointed out a problem with this: The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should. Power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom since its only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from with utility or security. But human being are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.
A culture which promotes diverse forms of experimentation and exploration simply because “they can be done” finds the concepts of “setting limits” and “self-restraint” outmoded inhibitions to the process of discovery and conquest. The logic of what Pope Francis calls the “paradigm of technocracy” begins to regulate thought processes in all areas of human thought. In consequence, what is called “adult” behavior or spirituality really looks more like adolescent behavior, behavior in which a young person experiments with various possibilities before discovering a real identity. The young and adolescent need to test the limits of what is possible. A mature identity takes form when a person accepts responsibility for the consequences of behavior, learns from good and bad experiences, is “led to salvation through suffering.” The Pope's comments echo an observation of Erik Erikson that a maturing person can exercise “self-restraint without the loss of self-esteem.”
The Pharisees asked their question to “test” Jesus. “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” One way of asking a question is to test the limits, to test what is possible. How far can I go? How much can I do without injury? When do the unwanted repercussions come into play? When do external prohibitions become enforced? How aggressive can I be and get away with it? The second way of asking a question is to be open to the challenge and possibilities revealed in an answer. Is what I plan on doing in accord with the laws and orientation of nature? (This is assenting to the fact that “nature” is not a blank slate which can be written on as one chooses.) What are the connections with other relevant levels of reality, with other persons? Rather than standing “above and apart” from our relationships and responsibilities, we are embedded in them. What is lawful is what promote and deepens those relationships. What is lawful articulates bonds and limits of the community in which we live. What is lawful articulates the operative presence of God's will guiding the personal and common good of those “children being brought to glory.” It is a revelation of their common origin. Human beings are not completely autonomous. The law protects what is vulnerable and what is difficult, what our inclinations and instincts tend to resist. It educates us, reminds us of responsibilities that can slip from consciousness. It can raise us to act from our noblest choices and values, rather than let us slide into that lassitude where the “heart acts against itself.”
What is our response when we encounter the limits of our being and abilities? Do we become frustrated, depressed? Do we hold back and withdraw? The limits of our being, often underlined by what is or is not lawful, can also become points of recognition of our need for others, of our need for help (and maybe even for salvation). We are born as children of need and of trust. (Whoever does not accept the kingdom like a child will not enter it.) It is our nature “not to be alone.” We are created as beings who live and thrive in relationships. I need you to be who I am. The other person awakens this consciousness. Every person bears this potential enrichment if we do not shut him or her off by indifference or hostility. Sebastian Moore has said that desire is not an emptiness, but a “fullness needing relationship.” Our limits reflect our need to be met, to be coupled with others.
Those celebrations of commitment, whether they are marriage vows or religious vows, are public by nature. We are not saying: I can really do this, I have the strength of will to make this happen. This is public so that I can exhibit my bravado and we will have a big party later. These commitments are made because they pass beyond the limits of personal competency or strength. I need you to be who I am. We become one flesh. I will no longer be the same person—alone, isolated, above or detached. Those making commitments need one another and the community. The community needs those whose love is strong enough to make that love visible and real within it. It is no matter of indifference whether that love of God, “for whom and through whom all things exist,” becomes incarnate in a marriage. The family exists to teach love. It is where we learn to love in a way which does not hold back, does not qualify or condition its gift. It is an intensive and continuous relationship which calls for a mutual presence of being for one another. One psychologist has said that “a marriage only works if one opens oneself to exactly that which he would never ask for otherwise. Only through rubbing oneself sore and losing oneself is one able to learn about oneself, about God, and about the world.” The holiness of God becomes manifest in this love. Holiness is the love and trust that bind those who pass beyond the limits of self-contained well-being and know the grace that brings them beyond death to life. And the two shall become one flesh. All have one origin; he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Gen. 2: 18-24; Heb. 2: 9-11; Mk. 10: 2-16]
During times of difficulty it is not unusual to think back on a time when life was going smoother and wish we could recapture it. While there is a danger of getting lost in denial and daydreams, most of us are realistic enough to know we can’t change history and go back into the past. The best we can do is to accept a situation we are unhappy with and try to make the best of it.
On a universal scale, that is also the human condition, at least in part. In love and generosity God brought creation into existence. He saw that it was good and he blessed it. He created man and woman in harmony and gave them stewardship over creation. However, sin introduced disorder and discord into God’s good creation. Human beings became alienated from God and from each other, and creation became recalcitrant to human stewardship. We may think with nostalgia about what Paradise must have been like, but we cannot go back in history. The gates of Paradise have been closed to us.
However, we are not left with only sober resignation to support us. We have hope. Jesus became one with us and has canceled out our alienation from God and offers us reconciliation with God and with each other. In humility he became less than the angels and took on our alienation from God in order to restore us to friendship with God. He accepted suffering and death and in his resurrection opened the way to glory for us. We cannot go back to Paradise, but in and through Jesus Christ we can go forward to share in his resurrection and glory.
Our way to glory is Christ’s way of humility and suffering. Those are not popular concepts in our society, but I doubt that there has been any time in history when following Christ has been easy and the actual doing of it popular. Our first step is to overcome our pride and imitate the receptivity and trust of a child. No matter how knowledgeable and competent we may be in the affairs of this world, when it comes to understanding God’s intentions for creation we are all children, and in order to cooperate with God’s intentions we need to admit it. Suffering is and always has been a scandal; especially the suffering of those whose suffering seems out of proportion to anything they have done, while the dishonest and unscrupulous often seem to do well. We can only accept in faith that if it was fitting that God’s own Son to be made perfect through suffering, it is fitting for us also. We can only trust Jesus’ revelation that God is a Father who loves us and wants our happiness, and follow in the way that Jesus our leader in the faith has opened up for us.
Jesus has left us his words and example in the scriptures. He is still present with us in the sacraments. He has poured his Spirit into our hearts to empower us and intercede for us. If we desire true glory and true happiness, it is up to us to answer his call to follow him.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16]
Nowadays we do not so much ask the question, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” In developed countries, like the USA, and in European countries, including the previously staunch Catholic France, Italy and Ireland, divorce has become a normal legal matter in the social life of the people. The first time that this issue on divorce surfaced in the open for these countries, there were major media battles where various religions and cause-oriented groups with political orientations aired their concerns and defenses. With legislation settling the issue, people are so used to it that it is a matter of peacefully coexisting with it, while still protecting their beliefs with zeal and dignity.
After the divorce issue now comes the concern on same-sex marriage. Some courts approve of it from the viewpoint of human freedom and equal rights. Legislative bodies are still feeling their way into what their constituents want and how they feel about it. Surely it means an encroachment on economic boundaries of married couples and their heirs. Just like the other issues, some politicians take it up for various reasons, not to mention their electoral agendum and possibly, personal orientation too. But moral rights group will never be silenced in opposing its legislative approval. The questions that arise in such instance are: “After this, when even abortion is approved, what next?” “When will man learn to know and respect his bounds without having to wait for divine or natural reproofs?” “When will we realize that life though given to man must be lived in alignment with a higher divine plan?” We may know some answers, but not many are willing to know and follow them.
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” the Pharisees asked Jesus. In the Jewish life, this question was no longer asked, for divorce was already a given legislation. However, evidently, they wanted to test a threatening upcoming rabbi. They could always pin him down to his fall. In response, as a good rabbi, Jesus poses a dialectic question in terms of what Moses commanded. The Lawgiver allowed it, as noted in the book of Deuteronomy, . A man simply had to write a note of divorce to the wife because he was displeased at her, and that’s it, the marriage was over. In our present context, the divorce procedure is more painstaking and costly. However, for those with economic means, the “irreconcilable differences” reason suffices for them to be out of the marital bond. There is the Mosaic Lawand with it, Jesus himself should be wary and silenced.
But no, Jesus will not simply give in. The divorce was granted by Moses to the people”because of the hardness of hearts”. A law then does not simply favor certain actions; it also manifests stubbornness of the people, especially if it does not accord with the divine law. It concedes but does not necessarily indicate a basis for exemplary goodness and moral perfection. The Pharisees asked for it, and he tells them the mind of God, which goes above what the Law allows.
Without having to go around telling everybody how deficient the Mosaic law was, Jesus returns to the original plan of God on the marriage of man and woman. How about the proposed marriage of man and man, or woman and woman? That is not being asked because it is naturally presumed that God created the partnership between Adam and Eve, and not Steve. To insist on it, would that not manifest a double hardness or more petrifaction of the hearts? God does not send lightning left and right to make his will known, but nature itself backfires. God cannot be silenced in one way or the other. Even the stones cry out for the divine plan.
From Jesus’ response to the query on divorce, three things are affirmed for our moral edification: The first insight we get is that we need to return to the source. God originally intended as part of his creation the marriage of a man and a woman. Simply put, God took a rib from the side of man and created the woman. From the creation story itself, there are incompatible partners, and these are excluded from the divine mind on marriage. The animal creatures did not prove to be suitable partners for man. Man can name them but not mate with them. From his side, God took only one rib and built up the woman. He did not take many ribs (which means, not many women to the weakening of man) which would serve as spikes or thorns to his side. Much less, he did not create another man out the rib, but a woman. At last, man can cry out for he senses that she is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” . He felt the resonance of existence with her as she was finally the partner meant by God for a completion of the meaning of life. “It is not good for man to be alone,” says the Lord. With the creation of woman, the phenomenon of man and woman on earth is the attainment of the purpose of God’s works. “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” . He could now rest, as man should, with man serving as creation’s mouthpiece in praising and worshipping God and as God’s spokesman on the divine goodness before all creation. The partnership of man and woman culminates the creative works of God. The dominion granted them over creation should manifest God’s lordship and accompaniment with all.
Secondly, from Jesus’ ruling, a woman has equality of status with man. He cites a case of a woman filing divorce too. However, doing so still indicates an anomalous situation. Man and woman are equal in dignity before God. They may assume complementary roles but they equal before God.
Thirdly, the phenomenon of divorce may indicate the difficulty of living one’s life with a partner “till death do us part.” Nonetheless, when God wanted the marriage of man and woman to be one and indissoluble, he commits himself as an unseen partner in the covenant. In our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, God’s Son himself assumes a life of suffering in consecration of self in order to be one with us, even to the point of experiencing death. He thus provides the strength and the grace for the couple to live their covenantal life in the Lord. They have a mission to fulfill, namely, to manifest by their life and love the deep love of God for all of us. By living through difficulties with perseverance and love, they inspire others to do the same in whatever state of life they are in.
Our anxiety could be that while we struggle to live dedicated lives, those around us do not. We don’t go around putting our weight around, just as Jesus simply lived and ministered to the people. Should questions arise, he respondedsuch as the one on divorce. We may encounter more questions in our days, and we respond both in words and examples. Like Jesus, we always return to the Source as our guide. In living a life closely in touch with God, it prepares us to return to God, our Source of life. The eternal fellowship or union we long for is a kind of marriage when the Bridegroom finally comes to meet us. Marriage partners know and realize that beyond their life of union, there is a great yearning for eternity which only the union with God can fulfill.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43]
A not uncommon reaction when someone is paid a complement is to minimize his or her contribution, if not completely deny the substance of the complement. Like so many areas of life this reaction is not simply right or wrong. Falling into pride is an ever present danger for all of us, and pride can appear in a variety of subtle guises. Nevertheless it is false humility to deny the talents God has given us. We should truthfully acknowledge our talents, but we should acknowledge them as gifts we have received from God. We have received the whole of our lives from God and we have received what talents we have as stewards to use in God’s service.
This morning’s gospel parable in a stark and even exaggerated way brings out the two principle temptations of stewardship. The tenant farmers were not content to share in the vineyard’s bounty; they wanted to claim everything for themselves. Secondly, they were oblivious to the fact that they were accountable to the owner of the vineyard.
There is a legitimate satisfaction that comes from doing a job well, and not to use the talents God has given us to the best of our ability would be irresponsible and ungrateful. Yet, when we have performed well, and especially if we receive the attention and complements of others; it is difficult not to react as though the accomplishment was our own doing.It is part of the mystery of God’s love that he freely chooses to include our efforts in accomplishing his plan for the salvation of the world. In gratitude and true humility we should acknowledge that God has supported us in all that we do, and then we can rejoice in the satisfaction of being faithful stewards. When the Corinthians tried to drive a wedge of competitiveness between Paul and Apollos, Paul reminded them that he planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but it is God who gives the growth. I find that a convenient summary of the attitude we should have as stewards.
In an age of exaggerated individualism it is difficult not to think and behave as though we are accountable only to ourselves and our own ideas of what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Yet, as members of the body of Christ we are accountable to Christ our head and also to each other as members of the one body. I suspect that part of our reluctance to acknowledge our accountability is the anxiety that the realization of who we are accountable to provokes. Yes, we will give an account to God of how we have used the talents and opportunities that he has given us, but God does not ask us to do the impossible. If God calls us to a task, he will provide what we need to accomplish the task. It is up to us to follow St. Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians and make known our needs to God and, trusting in God’s care for us, allow his peace to reign in our hearts. I think a true understanding of our mutual accountability rather than increase our anxiety will increase our compassion for each other and our readiness to forgive each others’ mistakes and shortcomings.
We can rightfully rejoice in the gifts that God has given us, but only if we follow the example of Jesus who came not to do his own will, but the will of God who sent him.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-14; Lk 17:5-10]
I wonder if you realize, the gospel you just heard proclaimed is actually a bedtime story. A bed-time story is a story with a happy ending told by a mature person to reassure a frightened child as darkness approaches. We today are, in many ways, frightened children, who live in a world vulnerable to random acts of terror; a world where age-old certainties, human and religious, are being questioned if not actually dispensed with … Darkness is approachingit is frightening, and most of us would do anything to meet that sage or prophet who, possessed of a more mature, inspired vision of life, could sit us down and reassure us with a good bed-time story.
When we were very small, we had no trouble at all finding someone to tell us a bed-time story. Mom, or Dad, or uncle Frank, or that girl next door who baby-satit seemed just about anybody big enough to wear a size ten shoe could come up with a decent bed-time story at our request, and they did reassure us, because they were big, and because we believed and trusted they knew so much more than we did. And so we, who are now adults, also know that, with a certain ease and confidence, we can, even on short notice, come up with a story to engage and reassure a little child before he goes to bed. And note this: we are not intimidated by the fact that the child will often interrupt the story to ask us questions because, almost always, the questions he asks are rather silly questions: “Mom, why didn’t Cinderella call 911 and let somebody know her stepmother was being mean to her?” “Mom, how could Jack climb so high up on the beanstalk and not run out of oxygen?” The questions are important, because they are the child’s questions. The answers are not important. What do you say to the child who asks: “Why didn’t Cinderella call 911?” It doesn’t matter. You can tell the child whatever you like: “Her family was poor and couldn’t afford a telephone.” “The handsome prince was fending off an invasion of the city And, uh…the phone lines were down.” You can give the stupidest answer and the child will receive it gratefully and say nothing more, because, though he has many questions, the deepest need and desire of a child is to hear you tell him the story. Now, if as the story teller, you are such a misguided boob that you begin to say to the child: “Well now, you must understand: Cinderella couldn’t use the telephone because she lived during the late Medieval period before telephones were invented which, of course, only appeared in the late 19th century and were invented, you might be interested to know, by a man named Alexander Graham Bell,” and then provide a brief history of Bell Telephone Company. You’ve put the child to sleep! And you put him to sleep without having ever addressed his anxiety about the approaching darkness. Nowit’s too late. He has entered the darkness. When the child was awake, he was listening; really listening to you. Now he’s asleep, and you never got around to telling him that Cinderella went to a ball; that she met a prince; that of all the beautiful ladies at the ball, the prince fell in love with her, and asked her to marry him, and made her his queen, and she was fabulously rich and happy for the rest of her life! The child heard none of this, and now sleeps heavily; his head full of sad and colorless dreams.
I wonder if this insight isn’t lost in a lot of contemporary pastoral practice. Christian preachers, and teachers, are taught these days that every question put to us by an unbeliever is of the utmost importance; must be taken absolutely seriously, and must receive an answer recognized as objectively valid by the unbeliever. The problem with this approach is that, in our efforts to come up with the “right answer” to the questions of unbelievers, we never get around to telling them the story; the incredible story of our redemption by Jesus Christ! But telling the story of how we were saved is so much more important than finding the right answer to contemporary questions like: “Why didn’t Cinderella call 911.”
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this tree: ‘Be uprooted!’ and it would be uprooted!” Proclaim this gospel today, and what response do you get? “Does Jesus mean thatin a literal sense?” people want to know. Were these Jesus’ words at allor a post-resurrection reflection on the mystery of the ‘Christ event’ by his disciples?” Might this be an example of the literary device called “hyperbole?” “What literary genre is represented here?” “Is this a piece of historical writing? A parable? A wisdom saying?” These are the questions people ask today. They are important questions. The answers are, perhaps, not the most important thing. So what do you say in response to such questions? Try this: Tell them: “This gospel passage actually represents a literary genre introduced in the 8th century B.C. by the prophetBlarney!” And when, having said this, you notice everyone has become very quiet, take the opportunity to tell them this story: Once, a man came to our world who was God’s only Son. One day he stood looking thoughtfully at a great and very ancient oak tree, and the tree was death, and gathering all Israel around that tree, God’s Son said to them: “What, after all, can faith in God not accomplish? Why, if I were to say to death itself ‘Be uprooted,’ and believed that what is dead, God can raise up, then, would not this tree of death be instantly uprooted?” But Israel began laughing, hooting, and reviling him, because he spoke such madnesswhen all of a sudden, God’s Son, his voice rising above the din of that scornful crowd, cried out in absolute earnest: “Youtree! Be uprooted!” And immediately, even while the words were still sounding in his mouth, the ground began to shake; huge crevices opened in the earth spreading with a crackling sound in all directions, and death, the very tree of death, as big as a house, sprung like a Jack Rabbit high into the air, did a complete somersault and landed on its crown with all its roots sticking straight up to heaven, like the communion of saints with their hands upraised in praise of God. And all Israel stood there in speechless amazement because in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, and before their very faces, death had been changed to life, and they knew that meant everythingeverything, had changed!