It’s one of the stranger dialogues that occurs in the Gospel, yet it is difficult not to rejoice in the aplomb of Jesus has he says it.
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, more likely speaking to them, rather than Herod, says the following:
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. (Lk 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 only serve to undermine their own wickedness and power, and to cause him to fulfill his own purposes.
For nailing him to a cross, he will be on that cross casting out demons and bringing healing. The next day he will descend to Sheol to awaken the dead, summon them to righteousness, and bring healing in life. And on the third day, he arises fully accomplishing his purpose and casting off death like a garment.
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. (Jn 1:5)
And in this strange and provocative saying of Jesus, comes important perspective for all of us. The perspective is this, that 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, by his own description, was casting out demons and bring 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.
In this saying of Jesus, and in the facts of the Paschal Mystery two things are taught to us about evil: one, that we should never glamorize evil, and two, that we should not utterly fear it.
As for glamorizing evil, we love our movies and other things in culture which often glorify evil, whether it is series like “The Untouchables,” “The Godfather,” “Good Fellas,” or perhaps other movies that simply and in a general kind of away exult wrongdoing and equated it with power and glory.
But this is illusion, for 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)
And therefore neither should we glamorize evil, nor should we inordinately fear its passing power. Yes, we should soberly confront it, and resist its evil demands, but we should not fear it.
No, evil cannot stand. To glorify evil or 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. Despite repeated attempts to persecute, diminish and destroy the Church she has outlived every one of her opponents. And her history extends back even more than 2000 years into the heritage of God’s people, the Jews. For his word to Abraham persists, and God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and gave his Word on Mount Sinai. And despite every attempt to ridicule, reduce and redefine God’s Word, his promise to Abraham, his Word from Sinai or His Word from The Sermon the Mount, all these persist and ring through to this day.
This is what lasts, this is what persists, God’s Word, and the Church he founded. This is verifiable by the study of history. 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, when they are gone, we will still be here.
Yes: 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. (Lk 13:32)
In other words, neither you nor Herod can thwart my plans. In killing me you merely assist me to accomplish my plan. In killing me I will break the back of your power. And when you persecute my disciples, or shed the blood of my Church members, you are sowing seeds for the Church by the very blood of the martyrs you spill. Whatever victory you claim, it is hollow, for it is really my victory.
And by these words the Lord decodes history for us. I 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.
Archbishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix celebrated Mass with members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Region XIII who gathered at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Feb. 12, 2020, during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN)