Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
Some Pharisees, likely disingenuous in their motives, approach Jesus to warn him that he needs to leave immediately: Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus says simply:
Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.' (Luke 13:32)
Surely Jesus has more in mind here than the next three days on the calendar. He’s obviously speaking of the Paschal mystery, of his passion, death and Resurrection. He is saying in effect, to any who would threaten to kill him, that in so doing, they serve only to undermine their own wickedness and power, and to cause him to fulfill his own purposes. There is no way that Herod—or the Pharisees, or Satan himself—can win, for in winning, they lose.
So also for all who would align themselves with the darkness rather than the Light. For no matter how deep the darkness, the dawn inevitably comes and scatters the darkness. The darkness cannot win. Scripture says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Evil, no matter how powerful it seems, cannot stand. It will ultimately self-destruct and be overcome by the Light. No matter how awful Good Friday seemed to those first disciples, Jesus was at that very moment accomplishing his purpose of casting out demons and bringing healing in that very act of suffering. And his apparent disappearance into death, and down into the place of the dead, was only for the purposes of turning out the Devil’s trophy room, and bringing life into the place of the dead, and healing to the deep wounds caused by sin.
And while Resurrection Sunday manifested an obvious triumph of Jesus, even Good Friday and Holy Saturday were already manifesting his great victory.
Yes, evil has its day, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. One of the Psalms says:
I have seen the wicked triumphant, towering like a cedar of Lebanon. I passed by again; he was gone. I searched; he was nowhere to be found. (Psalm 37:35-36)
Do not glamorize evil, nor inordinately fear its passing power. Rather, soberly confront it, and resist its evil demands. But do not fear it.
No, evil cannot stand. To fear it inordinately is to miss both Scripture’s lesson and history’s lesson. At the end of the day, evil does not last.
What does last is God’s holy Word and his Church. The Church has outlived every one of her opponents, and her history extends far beyond two thousand years into the heritage of God’s people Israel. And despite every attempt to ridicule, reduce and redefine God’s Word, his Word—his promise to Abraham, his Word from Sinai, his Word from the Sermon the Mount and his Word through his Apostles—persists and rings through to this day.
Empires have come and gone, wicked philosophies risen and diminished, scoffers and persecutors arrived and departed, all in the age of the Church. And here we are, and they have gone. And those who claim power now, and laugh at us and say our day is done, or call us hateful and make other untruthful claims—when they are gone, we will still be here.
Yes, listen again to the Word of Jesus to Herod who threatened him:
Go tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Luke 13:32)
And by these words the Lord decodes history for us. It doesn’t matter how we might wish to obsess over this loss or that apparent defeat. It doesn’t matter how the world and Devil might wish to gloat over an apparent victory. In the end, the Lord holds the cards, and the house, his House, always wins.
It is true. Read history. Do not admire evil or fear its apparent ascendance. Jesus has won, and his victory is shown time and time again. Don’t let the Devil fake you out. Do not be deceived, for evil cannot stand. The Devil is a liar.
We are blessed to know the end of the story. Jesus wins. And if we stay with him, we will win through to the end. It’s right there on the final page of the Bible:
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” (Revelation 22:12-17)
Yes, come Lord Jesus! Meanwhile, Go tell that fox….