Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Zephaniah & the Beatitudes Call to Conversion

January 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus’ Beatitudes are words of consolation and hope but they are also a call to conversion. Our first reading today comes from the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah who proclaimed God’s words in the land of Judah. Zephaniah denounced his people’s unfaithfulness, warning them:

“Near is the great day of the Lord,
near and very swiftly coming…
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and desolation…
A day of trumpet blasts and battle cries
against fortified cities,
against lofty battlements…
Because they have sinned against the Lord.”

Less than one lifetime after Zephaniah preached, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and Judah’s earthly kingdom fell.

Zephaniah denounced those rich in material things, who hungered for feasts and comforts, who thirsted for wines and pleasures, who fashionably clothed themselves in unrighteousness. These proud rich would not be satisfied. Zephaniah said, “They will build houses, but not dwell in them. They will plant vineyards, but not drink their wine…. Their wealth shall be given to plunder and their houses to devastation…. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them.

However, Zephaniah’s strongest condemnations denounced the idolatry among his people. Some worshipped idols in pagan temples, while some bowed down on roofs to worship stars, and some bowed down to the one true Lord God but would swear oaths by other gods. Zephaniah notes some said in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.” They lacked faith, and hope, and love for him in their divided hearts. But with unclean hearts, they would not see God.

Today we hear Zephaniah say, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth… seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Then Zephaniah announces that the Lord “will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. …They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.”

In fulfillment of God’s word, in response to a Jewish revolt, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C. They tore down the city’s walls, systematically burned its palaces and houses, and destroyed the Jewish temple. Those Jews who had made war were either killed or deported far away to Babylon, along with everyone else their conquerors saw as a threat. Yet “they left in the land of Judah some of the poor who had nothing and at the same time gave them vineyards and farms.” Blessed were the meek, for they inherited the land.

Yet even before Judah was conquered and thousands of Jews were carried off to Babylonian exile, God promised them a future return to Jerusalem. The Lord foretells through the Prophet Zephaniah: “At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you.” Blessed would be those people who remembered to mourn the loss of God’s temple and holy city, for they would be consoled. Less than one lifetime after their departure, once that Babylonian empire had been conquered by a Persian empire, the Jews were allowed to return home.

The words of Jesus and Zephaniah and the stories of their people should give us pause today, for “near is the great day of the Lord” always. How are we using our great riches? Which desires do we feed? Do we mourn the evils that we see in the world? Unless we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will never be satisfied. We might not worship golden idols or swear by pagan gods, but idolatry still exists today. If our priorities (as reflected by our finances, Sunday sports or vacations, worldly desires or addictions, or any other things) usurp our Lord from his rightful throne in our hearts, then our hearts are not yet so pure as he wills them to be.

Seek the Lord… seek justice, seek humility… do no wrong and speak no lies.” Practice mercy and pursue peace. Christ offers you his strengthening grace. Blessed are they who heed what Jesus tells us gains his Kingdom.

Something New Under the Sun — Funeral Homily for Marvin Weber, 94

December 30, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Ancient people thought about time differently than us. They did not picture time to be like a flying arrow, moving forward toward some end and purpose. They imagined time to be like a flat circle, going round and round. They saw history, in its broad strokes, repeating itself. The same four seasons, cycling over and over. Every empire eventually being replaced by another. This attitude is reflected in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, whose author wrote:

“What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”

That author adds:

“There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.”

Indeed, very few people’s names are remembered by this world after just a handful of generations. To keep track of time in the ancient world, the custom was to refer to the years of the ruler’s reign (such as “the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar”). Yet those earthly rulers came and went, as history spun round and round with no apparent purpose.

But then, unexpectedly, something truly new happened under the sun. It is an event that we always celebrate during the present time of year. At the center of history, God entered history, becoming a human being like us. “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” We now number all the years of time as before or after the Christmas birth of Christ our King (“B.C.” or “A.D.”). Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” His life reveals that our lives, this world, and all human history are not merely random accidents but exist with purpose in God’s plan. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

We are gathered here for Marvin’s funeral at a meaningful time. He passed away two weeks ago, before the celebration of Christmas. Today, we offer his funeral Mass during the week between Christmas Day and a new year. His peaceful passing comes, in a sense, both before and after Christmas. Year after year, Marvin already knew and looked forward to the joy of Christ’s coming. He had already experienced great joy in Jesus, but had not yet experienced its fullness in the time to come. The life of Jesus Christ causes us to see a Christian’s death through eyes which are different than the world’s. For a Christian, dying, “this momentary light affliction, is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” So Marvin’s passing is more than just a sad parting; it is a cause for joy in us as well.

Marvin married Betty inside this church 65 years ago. She told me many stories about her husband’s life, and there is no way I could retell them as thoroughly or as well as she. But I would like to highlight three anecdotes: First, Betty told me about Marvin’s dad who, when Marvin was about seven years old abandoned his family. Thirty years later, he appeared at his son’s doorstep and said, “I’m here.” He offered no apology, he gave no explanation, and Marvin was not happy about that, but Marvin valued forgiveness and forgave him. Marvin said he wanted his children to have a grandfather; he wanted them to know his father. Second, Betty tells me regarding Marvin, “If he found two pieces of wood he would make something.” Marvin has loved woodworking. He delights to repair or remake things into something greater. And third, at an age of 94, Marvin died relatively young. Because of the longevity of many of his ancestors who lived to be more than 100, Marvin died at a younger age than he had expected. For this reason, according to Betty he often put projects off for later saying, “I’ve got time.”

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Where I am going you know the way. … I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christians’ lives throughout the centuries will reflect the One who they have followed. For instance, despite our past unfaithfulness, our abandonment of God, Jesus forgave us, because he desired that we would come to know his Father. Christ took two pieces of wood for his Cross and used them to repair us and make us into something greater. And though our Lord died relatively young, with the resurrection he’s got time—everlasting life—to share with us forever.

The world will not remember us a few generations from now, but though the world may forget us, Jesus never will. Christ our King has come; entered time, our world, and our humanity to save us. So on this day of Marvin’s funeral, we are consoled by Jesus’ words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. … Behold, I make all things new.”

Good News Needed by Each & All

December 24, 2022

Christmas Mass
By Fr. Victor Feltes

I proclaim to you good news of great joy!” Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. Why is his birth such good news? Well, why do people still need Jesus Christ today?

Would you say we presently live in a time of great wisdom? A time of advanced technology? Certainly. A time with more wealth than previous centuries? Sure. But is this a time of great wisdom? Relatively few know how to live rightly, anchored firmly in hope, and thrive. Would you say we live in a time of great heroes? Who would be our heroes now beyond paid athletes or fictional characters with superpowers? No U.S. politician in national office today has an approval above 50%. And even the best leaders among us are flawed. Would you say we live in a time of strong fatherhood? Rather, families are increasingly strained or broken. And many people have never had a good father. Would you say we live in a time of great peace? Bombs are not exploding around us like in Ukraine, but is there peace in our culture and peace in all our souls?

The good news of Christmas, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold in our first reading, is that ‘the people who walk in darkness see a great light; upon those who dwell in the land of gloom a light shines.’ “A child is born to us, a son is given us… They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” In our foolish world, Jesus is the wisest teacher whose counsel wondrously changes lives. In our unvirtuous world, Jesus is the only flawless hero; he is God among us. In our world lacking fatherhood, Jesus says he “only [does] what he sees his Father doing”— so Jesus acts and loves like his Good Father forever. And in our troubled world, Jesus is the Lord who would bring us peace, both around us and within us.

In the days of the birth of Jesus, St. Matthew’s Gospel notes a decree had gone out from the Roman Emperor that the whole world should be enrolled in a census. (This brought the Holy Family to Bethlehem.) Caesar Augustus wanted everybody grouped and tallied for his worldly purposes: to tax more efficiently, to draft more men for war, and to dominate more effectively. Beginning with the birth of Jesus at the center of history, God decrees for all the people of the world to be gathered into his Church for his holy purposes. It is not to tax us, but to give us his gifts. It is not for waging wars, but to bring about his peace. It is not to dominate us, but to share with us the freedom of his Kingdom. Like St. Paul says in our second reading, the grace of God has appeared in Christ to save and train us all to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await our blessed hopes: the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and everlasting life with him.

On Christmas Day, Divine Providence brought the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) and the shepherds all together. God’s Providence has likewise brought you and all of us together this morning with the Lord Jesus in this Church. Will you be here next Sunday? I pray the joyful news of Christmas will bring you back again. The Lord who loves you calls you. Our world needs Jesus Christ profoundly and so do you.

The Openness, Obedience, & One Word of St. Joseph

December 18, 2022

4th Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our Gospel this final Sunday of Advent centers on St. Joseph. It recounts how St. Joseph received the stunning revelation of Mary’s pregnancy. We can learn from the great saint’s response — from his openness, his obedience, and his one word.

Mary was already Joseph’s wife when she conceived her child. In their Jewish culture, a newlywed couple would live apart for the first year of marriage. Thereafter, the husband would bring his betrothed into his home to live with him. When Mary conceived a child (whom Joseph knew was not his) why did he decide to divorce her? Was Joseph heartbroken because he believed she had betrayed him? Or was Joseph frightened, because he believed her story of the Annunciation and thought himself unworthy of this holy woman and her holy child? Whatever the case, Joseph was a righteous man and unwilling to expose Mary to shame, so he intended to divorce her quietly.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home because it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Once Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary into his home.

I used to fret very much about precisely discerning God’s will. “What if the Lord wants me to do a specific thing but I can’t figure it out?” During my college and seminary years, I thought I had a vocation to the priesthood but how could I be sure? I worried, “What if I get this discernment terribly, terribly wrong?” Then a holy friend gave me peace of mind by pointing to St. Joseph. When Joseph was about to make a terrible mistake by separating himself from Mary and Jesus, it only took one night’s dream to get him back on the right track because Joseph desired to do whatever God willed. God can easily redirect a willing heart.

People sometimes complain, “I wish God would just tell me what to do!” But unless we are open to doing God’s will, what good would his directions do us? Imitate St. Joseph in his openness. Like with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph’s openness allowed God to do great things through him. So resolve your will and pray for the grace to always be open to God’s will like St. Joseph. Another St. Joseph trait of we can imitate and profit from is his simple obedience.

St. Matthew’s Gospel records, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home… and he named [the boy] Jesus.” On this occasion, like later when told to flee to Egypt or told to return to Israel, Joseph does point-by-point what God commands. Like Moses in the Old Testament, whenever God instructs Joseph to do (A) and (B) and (C), the author notes how Joseph then does (A) and (B) and (C).

Moses and Joseph’s duties were different from ours today. We will not construct an Ark of the Covenant, nor protect and provide for the Holy Family, but each of us has persons and tasks entrusted to us by God; people to care for and works to be done. You already know a great deal of what God has commanded you to do; your own (A) and (B) and (C) according to your state in life. You will not fulfill your missions perfectly—and that’s OK—but imitate St. Joseph in his simple obedience because your basic, God-given duties are more important than you realize.

A third and final feature of St. Joseph reflected in today’s Gospel is his single word. Did you ever hear that in all of Scripture there are no recorded quotes from St. Joseph? It’s true: Jesus has many, Mary has several, but Joseph has none. Now there is no evidence that St. Joseph lacked the ability to speak or ever took a vow of silence.  Joseph probably said many things that were simply not written down. Yet today’s Gospel contains the strongest evidence of his having said any one particular word. What was that word?

The angel in Joseph’s dream said of the unborn child: “You are to name him Jesus.” And when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. Joseph named him Jesus. The name of Jesus was St. Joseph’s greatest and most important word. Ever after, the name of Jesus defined his life.

Learn from St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. Imitate his openness to doing God’s will whatever it may be. Benefit from practicing his obedience in your daily duties. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” like St. Joseph did.

Hope, Joy, & Salvation

December 11, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

On Friday afternoon, while Fr. Chinnappan offered the funeral Mass for Dr. John Eberle, I drove to McDonnell high school in Chippewa Falls to hear sacramental Confessions with several other area priests. Before everyone else arrived, I was able to spend some time with Fr. Paul Hoffman, whom I had not seen for a while. He heard my Advent confession and afterwards I asked him about what he had been reading lately. Fr. Paul has previously told me that his senior priest status allows him read more theology books like he has desired, to learn more about God before he ultimately departs to go to him. One of the questions Fr. Paul has been pondering lately is, “What will bring them back?” That is, what will bring the younger generations back to church?

I am now almost 42 years old, and I am among the youngest people at most Sunday Masses. This is a troubling trend. Young adults today usually do not believe they need the Church. Many disbelieve they even need Jesus Christ’s salvation. What could change this outlook? What might bring them back? The answer which occurred to me was: “Real Hope.”

As the culture continues to abandon the wisdom it has inherited from Christianity, the consequences of foolishness and sin will become increasingly clear. It will be seen in the sickness of society and felt in the pain of peoples’ personal lives. A life without true meaning or purpose in a world “with no hell below us and above us only sky” is an emptiness full of suffering. Where can people discover real hope—hope in something within this world and yet beyond this world? This real hope is found in Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

After our first round of hearing confessions from students and staff in the gym, we priests got a bit of a break, so I walked over to see Fr. Bill Felix and Fr. Brandon Guenther. We chatted a bit about Bishop Callahan, who was hospitalized with an illness this week, Then I asked them a question: “What are you thinking about preaching this weekend? I’m still looking for ideas.” Fr. Felix said, “Well, there’s always the obvious: Joy.” (“Oh, of course,” I thought. This Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and in Latin, “Gaudete” means “Rejoice.”)

Fr. Felix said the great thing about joy is that we can have it even when many things in our lives are bad. Happiness depends upon what happens, but joy does not and so it endures. To press this idea, I asked them in so many words how someone can feel joy when things are crummy? The answer given by both priests was: “Hope.” Fr. Guenther added, “Joy without hope is just optimism.” This reminded him of an old, witty observation: “An optimist is a happy fool. A pessimist is an unhappy fool. But someone with hope (real hope) is not a fool and will one day be happy.

We then returned to our confessionals to hear the older students’ confessions. Some people come to Confession after many months and confess rather superficially, but I was edified by hearing these teenagers confessed. Unlike many young people of their generation, their earnestness, honestly, and striving after God and his holiness were evident. I expect Christ’s Church to struggle in the coming decades, but our Faith is far from dead. Christian hope produces joy and manifest joy shines out. It shines out in the darkness of this world, drawing others to Jesus Christ and his Church. Our Lord lives and we possess a real hope. So let your Christian hope generate joy in you, and your joy will help save souls.

The Kingdom in his Garage — Funeral Homily for John Schwartz, 81

December 2, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Many stories could be shared about John; as a friend or neighbor, as a father to six children, or as a husband to Vernetta, whom he married sixty-one years ago today. He did interesting work for both multinational businesses and local organizations throughout the years. And even after his final job concluded, his kids tell me “he never retired.” I wish to tell you today about one of the ways John kept himself busy.

Whenever he drove a load to the Bloomer Recycling Center he might return home with more stuff than he had left with. In what others had rejected as trash, John saw value. He often said, “Everything is fixable.” John took his found-treasures back to a four-car garage in the backyard of his home. His kids tell me, “When he wasn’t working, he was there…” working.

The interior of John’s garage featured cupboard cabinets; each one painted to match and labeled to indicate the tools, parts, or materials stocked inside. John’s garage was a warm place—in both senses of the word. Throughout the colder months, John used his wood stove to keep the inside temperatures around 75 or 80 degrees. And once hotter weather came, John would open up his garage doors, sit in the doorway with a toothpick between his teeth, drinking coffee and waiting for people to stop-by to visit.

He was happy to share his time and talents with them, generous in sharing his tools or efforts whenever asked. His children tell me John loved that garage, saying, “His garage is his kingdom.” All good things in this world reflect the goodness of our Creator and our Redeemer. The beautiful realities we see are icons of invisible realities. And so, John’s garage is a partial glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Because of humanity’s sins and corruption, we were rightly condemned. But we were not to be rejected, left to be abandoned, forever. God continued to value us. He saw treasure in our trash. And Jesus came down to redeem us, intending to take us home. Christ is always working, and everything is fixable, because “all things are possible for God.”

Jesus prepares a special place for each of us. Enthroned in heaven, he opens the doors to receive us. His Father’s house is a very warm place—in both senses of the word. We must be prepared to stand in the intense fire of God’s all-holy presence and infinite love for us. Thankfully, Christ is generous in sharing with us his tools and helping graces, so that we may become perfect (truly “good enough”) through faith in him. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, about whom countless stories could be told, John and you and I can all be together in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 20, 2022

By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Many years ago, Mohandas Gandhi the great Hindu religious leader in India wanted to overthrow the British Empire through love not violence. Christianity has not failed. It’s never been tried. As we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, we need to follow Jesus peacefully.

What’s wrong with calling Jesus the King? A king is identified three ways: power, wealth, and force. With Jesus none of this is true. The power of kings is to control people and be the boss over them. His apostles James and John wanted the honor to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus. Jesus was upset and rebuked them saying that the power of Jesus is to love and be a servant to all people.

The kings of this world are identified with wealth, they have more than they could possibly ever need. They draw money from everyone even the poor and build up their own prosperity. There is an incident in the Gospel where a young man asks Jesus “what must I do to gain everlasting life?” Jesus says, “Keep my commandments.” He replies, “I have done that from my youth.” And Jesus says if you want to truly be perfect to follow me now, go sell everything you have. Give it to the poor then come and follow me. The wealth of Jesus is His people especially the poor. He loves all of us and wants best of everything for us.

The kings of this world want to have superior dominance and control in this world. They will even go to war to get their ways. Jesus rejected all violence. While Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, the soldiers came to arrest Him. One of the disciples drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus said put away your sword. Jesus healed the servants’ ear. Jesus rejected violence. Those who want to live by the sword die by the sword.

Human kings follow the ways of the world, not the ways of Jesus. So it’s really a contradiction to think of Jesus as a king of this world. We think of the aspects of earthly kings: power, wealth and force and try to make that the way of Jesus. If we are going to follow the way of Jesus, live Christianity, don’t talk about it. Gandhi says “it has never been tried, it has not failed, it just has not been tried.” Each of us is called now to try to live the way of Jesus, really change according to his ways and his thoughts.

Is not this one of the reasons why we and the church and everyone throughout the world are fascinated with Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. When he was elected the first thing he did was bow and seek the blessing of the people. He wants to be our servant. In a short time after he was elected, he went to visit the prison, knelt down and washed the feet of the prisoners. He’s showing time after time how he reaches out to the poor, the vulnerable, the way Jesus did. We rejoice in it because it’s clearly the way of Jesus and that’s what we are called to do.

The kings and rules of this world want to dictate and control everyone. The kingship of Jesus is different from the kings of this world. He loves, forgives, accepts, and He rules over us with mercy and compassion. We are all equally important to him.

Good Tweetman Speaks

November 7, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

This image from The Simpson’s provided the avatar (or avi) which Goodtweet_man used for his pseudonymous Twitter account.

Good Tweetman (Goodtweet_man) is a Catholic attorney in Kansas who, until recently, had a significant and devoted following on Twitter. There he would crack jokes, post others’ prayer requests, and offer sometimes salty commentary on religion and politics. But on October 27th, the same day that Elon Musk was completing his purchase of Twitter, Goodtweet_man’s account was ‘permanently suspended’ by the company for “violating our rules against abuse and harassment.”

Goodtweet_man had tweeted in reference to the Catholic bishops of Germany, whose ongoing “Synodal Way” drew a warning from the Holy See this July. (The Vatican statement clarified that “the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel the bishops and the faithful to adopt new ways of governance and new approaches to doctrine and morals” and to do so “would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”) The image below is a screenshot of Goodtweet_man’s suspension notice from Twitter which includes his flagged tweet and the policy Twitter found he had violated:

As word of his suspension spread throughout the Twitterverse, The Pillar editor and cofounder J.D. Flynn and others posted the hashtag #FreeGoodTweetman, and various tributes, satires, and jokes, were shared about the situation. The next day, the ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, Eduard Habsburg, tweeted: “This is a reminder that @Goodtweet_man is still suspended. Twitter, you don’t want all of us to lose faith in you, right?” Though the online clamor has since died down, many of Goodtweet_man’s former followers still hope for his account’s reinstatement.

This is his first public interview following the suspension.

What is your perspective on this suspension by Twitter?
While I should very much not have said what I said as it was uncharitable, it is completely silly that this of all things garnered a permanent suspension. I am aware that even people who aren’t particularly fond of me thought the same. It was likely just an algorithm.

Have you appealed your suspension? What are your hopes your account will be restored?
I have appealed the suspension, and I would have to imagine it gets restored if a human being at their offices gets some eyes on it. Of course, that may be the biggest obstacle I face.

What has your life been like unplugged from Twitter?
Well I do have an alt account which I’m slowly introducing. The name isn’t particularly vulgar but I don’t think it particularly would fit an interview from a priest we’ll say. Also, for now, it’s somewhat nice not having to deal with the people I don’t like knowing about my twitter. It’s been nice to have a little bit of a respite in any event.

Are you concerned that this other account might run afoul of Twitter’s ban evasion policy?
No, I made that account a couple years ago and the rules specifically state that only accounts made to evade the ban are subject. My account wasn’t made to evade the ban, therefore it is fine.

Any thoughts on Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, and the hot topic of content moderation on the platform?
As for Musk: I’m pretty indifferent overall, and I expect most people will find things aren’t terribly different once the dust settles. There’s advertisers and users to take into account after all.

What would you like to say to your friends on Twitter?
I’ll be back.


(Twitter owner @ElonMusk, @TwitterSupport, and @TwitterSafety had not responded to requests for comment on the @Goodtweet_man account suspension by the time of this interview’s publication.)

Three Strengths of Saint Zacchaeus

October 30, 2022

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The Jews in Jericho looked down on Zacchaeus (and not just because he was short). He was a tax collector regarded as a sinner. When Zacchaeus chose his occupation he knew his neighbors would despise him. Even if he had never extorted or cheated anybody, he still would be resented for serving the unpopular political powers ruling over Israel. It’s easy to imagine him being insulted and shunned by the Jews in his territory. He needed a thick skin to do his job, caring little about what others thought of him. He was not only a tax collector but a chief tax collector, and this made him a very wealthy man. Yet his riches did not fulfill him. He was searching for something more than money and this led him to Jesus.

[Zacchaeus] was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.” Now apart from tree trimmers and deer hunters, when was the last time you saw a grown man sitting in a tree? It’s something children do, and Zacchaeus likely looked ridiculous in the eyes of the unfriendly crowd below. But “when [Jesus] reached the place, [he] looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

When the crowd saw this they began to grumble, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner!” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to Jesus, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” As a wealthy man, Zacchaeus came to know how great wealth disappoints. He had developed significant detachment from his wealth, which allowed him to give up half (and perhaps much more than half) of everything he owned. And Jesus declared to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus had these three strengths helping him to find and follow Jesus: firstly, his honest acknowledgement of his dissatisfaction in this world; secondly, his indifference towards what others thought of him; and thirdly, his healthy detachment towards his riches. Why was he “seeking to see who Jesus was?” Why was he so joyfully eager to host Jesus at his house? Because Zacchaeus could admit that he was dissatisfied, with himself and what this sinful world offers, and he believed that Jesus could help him find salvation. Zacchaeus had developed a thick skin as a tax collector. He did not care about others’ mockery, gossip, and dim opinions about him. This allowed him to climb that tree to see Jesus even if others might laugh at him as a fool. And Zacchaeus’ healthy detachment concerning riches allowed him to be generous and fulfill justice with his wealth, as our Lord wished him to do.

Let us take stock of ourselves from the example of St. Zacchaeus. Can you admit where you are not yet fully the Christian you are called to be and then present yourself to Jesus? Are you dissatisfied enough with this unjust world to hope and act for more than the status quo, to sacrifice for this world’s betterment while longing for a world to come? Are you willing to be unapologetically Catholic before others; a person, for example, willing to pray before a meal at a restaurant even if someone might see you; a Christian who does not allow others’ opinions prevent you from being openly faithful to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church? And are you detached enough from your wealth to generously share it and serve justice with it boldly, as our Lord would have you do? In what ways is Jesus calling you to go out on a limb for him?

Our Divine Physician

October 22, 2022

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus tells us a story of two men who go up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, a group with a reputation for holiness. The other is a tax collector, a profession associated with injustice. The Pharisee, entering the temple courtyard, walks to a more prominent place and speaks this prayer to himself: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.” Jesus presents this Pharisee as an example of someone convinced of his own righteousness and despising of everyone else.

The tax collector, in contrast, stands at the distant edge of the temple court, keeps his eyes cast down, and beats his breast (an ancient sign of contrition) praying, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The Pharisee exults himself while the tax collector humbles himself before God. And Jesus tells us the tax collector went home justified, reconciled with God, while the Pharisee did not.

Imagine going to the hospital clinic for your annual check-up. Sitting there in the waiting area, you glance discretely at the other people around the room. Your secret thoughts become filled with observations and guesses at what ailments brought them there. “I’m in much better health than these people,” you think to yourself with pride. Then your name gets called. The doctor greets you, you sit down, and asks if you are having any issues with your health. “No, nothing’s wrong” you say, but that’s not true.

Awhile back, you cut your hip on an exposed piece of jagged metal, and your concealed wound is not healing. It’s been oozing a smelly, yellow fluid and the skin all around the wound is swollen, red, and painful to touch, but you’ve been mostly able to ignore it. Either embarrassed at your injury or oblivious to the danger, you say, “I’m fine,” and leave without presenting this infection to your physician who has the ability to heal you.

In a sermon about Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, St. Augustine once preached:

How useful and necessary a medicine is repentance! People who remember that they are only human will readily understand this. It is written, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ The Pharisee was not rejoicing so much in his own clean bill of health as in comparing it with the diseases of others. He came to the doctor. It would have been more worthwhile to inform him by confession of the things that were wrong with himself instead of keeping his wounds secret and having the nerve to crow over the scars of others. It is not surprising that the tax collector went away cured, since he had not been ashamed of showing where he felt pain.

Do the sins of others bother you more than your own? Do you know what your sins are? Are you contrite for them? When was the last time you went to Confession? Will you present your infected wounds to our Divine Physician and then follow his prescription for your good health?

A New, Joyful Day — Funeral Homily for Robert “Bob” Sobotta, 77

September 26, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

It was the day after Bob’s nineteenth birthday and the day before he would marry Joann. Bob and Joann had met at a Pines Ballroom dance and now they were at The Pines Ballroom again, together with family preparing food for the next day’s festivities. They listened to the radio as they labored, and that’s how they learned what had happened at 12:30 PM that day in Texas. A short time later that same afternoon, the first report of grim news was followed by another: President John F. Kennedy was dead. It was Friday, November 22nd, 1963.

Presidential assassinations had happened before, first and most famously with President Lincoln. But it had been sixty-two years since the last murder of a president, when President McKinley was shot and died in Buffalo, NY in 1901, and few were still alive who remembered living through it. So Joann recalls how shocked everyone was that a president, America’s first Catholic president, was killed. They were all discussing it, stunned. They just couldn’t believe it, it seemed so unbelievable — and yet it was real, as real as death.

I asked Joann whether that mournful news, whether this national tragedy, soured their “Big Day”? No, she said, it was “just as joyful.” Bob and Joann awoke the next day and were married in the morning (as was the custom then) in a 9:30 AM Saturday wedding Mass at St. Peter’s in Tilden in the company of many loved ones, their family and friends. This was followed by a dinner at the Sundial Club and then a reception back at The Pines, a feast and a dance for them all. Bob loved to dance, polkas and waltzes in particular, and he enjoyed dancing with his new bride. Bob and Joann would happily share their next fifty-eight years together loving God, each other, and their family, friends, and neighbors, until Bob’s recent passing.

Death is sad and unsettling. Though common to history, it still remains shocking for us. But suffering and death are not the end of our stories. Though we mourn now, we will be comforted. We expect a new dawn, a new day, when the blessed friends of Christ – our King who dies no more – will awaken to celebrate his wedding feast with him. Jesus our Good Shepherd will spread the table before us, and the just shall dance with delight, and every tongue shall give praise to God. Though today we walk in the dark valley, the day we prepare for, the day we look forward to, the day that awaits us, will be full of joy.

On Being Man’s Best Friend

September 25, 2022

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In the 1996 film “Independence Day,” we get introduced to a single-mother named Jasmine, played by Vivica Fox. With alien ships hovering ominously above the world’s major cities, she decides to flee Los Angeles. When the aliens begin their attack, Jasmine is stuck in a traffic jam inside a tunnel with her little boy, Dylan, and their handsome pet Labrador Retriever, named Boomer.

A wall of fire rushes from behind, tossing cars into the air before it and incinerating everyone it catches. Jasmine grabs her son and runs between the cars until she spots the door to a maintenance room. She kicks down the locked door and they huddle inside, but their dog has not followed them. Jasmine cries out, “Boomer! Boomer!” And Boomer sprints toward them, jumping over cars, and leaps safely into the side room at the very last second, just as the inferno passes by. Hundreds and hundreds of people are killed in the tunnel, but Boomer survives.

One commenter on a YouTube clip of this movie scene remarked, “I remember when I first saw this scene in the theater. I got all teary-eyed because, ‘YAY the doggy lives!’” Another commenter wrote, “When I saw this at the cinema, everyone cheered at this bit. It was the only part of the movie they cheered at!

Our culture loves dogs, but Jewish culture was more ambivalent towards them. Scripture does not celebrate dogs as “man’s best friend” like we do today. There are verses pointing to sheepdogs for shepherding or watchdogs for security. And in the Book of Tobit, when young Tobiah leaves home with the angel Raphael, it says “the dog followed Tobiah out and went along with them” on their adventure. However, the mentions of dogs in the Bible are usually negative.

In the Old Testament, for example, Goliath said to David who held a shepherd’s staff, “Am I a dog that you come against me with a stick?” Years later, encountering a different scoffer, one of King David’s soldiers asked, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” And Psalm 22, which Jesus referenced on his Cross, says, “Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me… [Deliver] my life from the grip of the dog.

In the New Testament, we see more of this dim view of dogs. Jesus teaches, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” St. Paul writes, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers…” And the Book of Revelation, when it describes God’s heavenly city, says, “Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit.” So where does this biblical disdain for dogs come from?

Realize that in those days, most dogs were not pets but wild. Packs of feral dogs were not only a noisy nuisance but also dangerous. This is reflected in Psalm 59, which describes deadly enemies as “growling like dogs and prowling about the city.” If not killing prey, stray dogs would eat whatever dead flesh they found, of beast or man — “they roam about as scavengers; if they are not filled, they howl.” I mention all of this because of details in today’s parable.

In Jesus’ story, a rich man with expensive, comfortable clothing eats plenty of good food at every meal. But outside of his gate, lying on the ground, is Lazarus, a hungry poor man covered with exposed sores. Jesus tells us Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” And Jesus notes that “dogs even used to come [up to Lazarus] and lick his sores.” When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to a place of peace with Abraham. But when the rich man died he descended to a place of torment, in part, for his failure to care for Lazarus.

Those stray dogs did not attack Lazarus but licked his wounds. Perhaps they were drawn to the salty taste, or maybe they had an instinctual impulse towards him. But in either case they were helping him. Like many other animals, including cats, rodents, and primates, dogs lick their wounds to clean them. And certain chemical compounds found in dogs’ saliva help to disinfect, reduce pain, and promote healing. Letting dogs lick your wounds today is not recommended by doctors today; modern disinfectants and treatments are less likely to result in infection. But in the ancient world, for a beggar on the streets covered with sores like Lazarus, such dog licks would be a blessing.

The parable tells us Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” This resembles the remark of the Syrophoenician woman who came to Jesus seeking a miracle for her demon-possessed daughter. Though they were not of the house of Israel, she begged Jesus to help them, saying “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table,” but the rich man never gave him any. So the rich man treated Lazarus worse than a dog. “Dogs even used to come and lick [Lazarus’] sores.” This means even the despised dogs in the streets treated Lazarus better and helped him more than the rich man ever did.

It’s fine to love dogs. They’re one of God’s good creatures and they reflect his goodness. It’s been said that God created dogs to help show us how he loves us (and that he created cats to show us how we love him). But it sadly seems rather common today for people to care more about the well-being of random dogs than of random strangers. Today’s psalm tells us, “Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, [and] gives food to the hungry.” Living in this way makes us more like our Lord ‘who sets captives free, raises up those who are bowed down, and protects strangers,’ and becoming like our Lord is necessary for us to be at home with him in his heavenly city. It’s alright to appreciate our pets, but lest we end up like the rich man in hell let’s make sure we treat and love everyone better than dogs.

Can Computers be Persons?

September 17, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In recent years, the question of artificial intelligence (AI) possessing personhood has become a hot topic of debate. Some believe that AI could one day achieve sentience and become its own entity, while others believe that personhood is something that can only be attained by beings with a soul. The Catholic Church has not yet taken an official stance on the matter [a debatable claim –Fr. VF], but it is an interesting question to consider. For example, if an AI became self-aware and could think and feel for itself, would it have the same rights as a human being? If an AI was created with the sole purpose of serving humans, is it ethical to treat it as a mere tool?

The preceding paragraph was not written by a human being but generated online by a LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). I gave the program GPT-3 the instruction: “Write an interesting introductory paragraph, including an example, for a Catholic article on the question of artificial intelligence possessing personhood.” The paragraph above was its first five sentences of its output. The accompanying illustration above was also created online using the image generation program DALL-E from my submitted prompt: “A robot touching a monolith (like in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’)”. GPT-3’s paragraph and DALL-E’s image each took less than a minute for computers to produce. We can expect computers to be capable of even more amazingly sophisticated things in years to come. This leads to the question: “Can computers be persons?

Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church in the modern world, says “[man] is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself.” But this teaching was written in 1965, when Seymour Cray had only begun building the earliest supercomputers in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Could mankind now fashion a new type of rational creature, a self-aware being endowed with an immortal soul? There are philosophical and theological issues with that proposition. First, if an AI were ever self-aware, how could we know? A computer need not be conscious to say “Hello, World!” according to its programming. Second, I am aware of nothing in divine revelation which suggests God would begin imparting souls into the works of our hands. Various electronics may be equipped with sensors and speakers and means of motion but I do not believe any of them will ever truly see or hear or speak or walk. As noted in René Magritte’s famous painting “The Treachery of Images,” a mere depiction of a pipe “is not a pipe.” Pope Francis spoke about this fundamental difference between man and machine, persons and things, in a 2019 address at the Vatican:

The inherent dignity of every human being must be firmly placed at the centre of our reflection and action. In this regard, it should be noted that the designation of ‘artificial intelligence,’ although certainly effective, may risk being misleading. The terms conceal the fact that – in spite of the useful fulfillment of servile tasks… functional automatisms remain qualitatively distant from the human prerogatives of knowledge and action. And therefore they can become socially dangerous. Moreover, the risk of man being ‘technologized,’ rather than technology humanized, is already real: so-called ‘intelligent machines’ are hastily attributed capacities that are properly human.

I cannot see Catholicism ever attributing personhood to complex machines, but I predict that others will begin to in the coming decades. As new applications are programed to increasingly replicate human conversation and emotion I could see young people imagining them as their real friends. As anthropomorphized technology’s creative feats far surpass our human abilities, I could even see some adults revering them as wise and powerful idols. If so, then these passages of Psalm 115 will find a new fulfillment: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk; they produce no sound from their throats. Their makers will be like them, and anyone who trusts in them.”

The potential of AI is very exciting, and yet it also holds dangers. The 5th Psalm reflects, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet…” Let us honor our Creator, defend the primacy of human dignity over all earthly creations, and never worship the works of our hands.

Stories of Three Fruitful Conversions

July 30, 2022

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Leah Darrow grew up in a strong Catholic family, but she recalls that in high school her Catholicism started to get “fuzzy.” By the time she was in college, Leah says she had become a “Catholic But,” as in, “I’m Catholic but I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on cohabitation… I’m Catholic but I don’t see the problem with a couple who love each other sleeping together before their marriage… I think the Church is behind the times.”

One evening at college Leah watched a reality show called “America’s Next Top Model.” She thought to herself, “I’m pretty cute, maybe I could be on that show.” Leah tried out, got accepted, and competed on national television against other gorgeous women. Even though she didn’t win the competition this exposure and fame jump-started her modeling career. She still recalls her excitement at receiving her first modeling paycheck featuring a number with a comma in it. Leah’s chosen path eventually led her to an experience in a New York City skyscraper which forever changed her life.

She came to pose for a risqué, international, men’s magazine. They brought out a number of itsy-bitsy outfits for her, she put one on, and the photoshoot began. Yet while Leah was posing, a vision flashed into her mind: three images in the span of perhaps a second or two. First, she saw herself standing in a large white space wearing that immodest outfit. She felt no pain in that moment, but had a sense that she had died. In the second image, Leah was looking up, holding out her open hands at her waist with the knowledge that she was in God’s presence. In her third and final scene, Leah saw herself holding her hands all the way up, offering God all that she had, but she saw that she was offering him nothing. She realized that with all of the blessings, talents, and gifts God gave her she had wasted them on herself. She saw that if she had died at that moment she would have nothing to offer Christ.

Leah abruptly abandoned the photo session, changed back into her own clothes, and ran down 5th Avenue balling. She called home saying, “Dad, if you don’t come get me I am going to lose my soul.” So her father drove across the country from Oklahoma to New York City. When her dad arrived, though Leah wanted to leave for home immediately, her father insisted upon seeing the sights. “But first,” he said, “we go to confession.” Leah made a good confession through tears, and came out of the confessional healed, like a new woman. In the years since, Leah Darrow has been bearing good fruit as a national Catholic speaker.

I was reminded of Leah’s story by a young man’s testimony this week. My spiritual retreat house in Illinois was a short distance from the Mundelein Seminary, which allowed me to take in a portion of the Courage International conference being held there now. Courage is a fellowship helping men and women who experience same-sex attractions to live chastely — faithful to Jesus Christ and Catholic teaching on sexuality.

Part of the training day for clergy was hearing a Courage member share his story. He grew up Catholic with faithful, loving parents, but like the Prodigal Son went off on his own way. He says his lifestyle had many pleasures but there remained an unsatisfied sadness. He knew what he was doing wasn’t right. One night, awakening from sleep, he also had a life-changing vision. He saw his heart of flesh descending over a dark ocean, dropping deeper and deeper down into the depths. And then he heard the Lord say two things to him (if I recall the phrasing precisely): “My son, come home,” and “Time is running out.” This experience helped him see he was God’s beloved but needed to change his life. He was called by Christ to something greater, and now his joyful life is bearing good fruit.

A different speaker at the conference shared another great story. It was an anecdote about a husband and father who had an addiction to viewing indecent images. Through renewed devotion and the help of God’s grace, this man began to experience victory and freedom from this sin. One day, as he was driving down the road chit-chatting with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat, she remarked, “I like new daddy more than old daddy.” (To be clear, both “old daddy” and “new daddy” were references to him.) This man’s four-year-old daughter did not know why things were now different, but she delighted in how much more present, attentive, and open her dad had become for her by valuing pure love more than sin.

As St. Paul urges us in today’s second reading, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” Your old self and its practices must give way to the new. “Think of what is above,” Paul writes, “not of what is on earth.” Be renewed in God to share in his delight and great rewards.

The rich man in today’s parable gathered earthly wealth, planning and preparing for himself pleasures in this life. He thought he still had many years ahead of him to enjoy, but his time was running out. God calls him a fool since he is soon to appear before the Lord with empty hands, poor “in what matters to God.” “Vanity of vanities,” our first reading says; this world is full of vanities! Stop chasing after and clinging to worthless things. Remember that you are loved, that you were made for great things, and that the joy and freedom Jesus Christ has given to others he can also give to you.

His Power Shall be Known to his Servants

July 2, 2022

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Today’s psalm tells us: “Shout joyfully to God… proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How tremendous are your deeds!‘” When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved two years after, I remember my dad remarking that those were things he thought he would never live to see. It seemed like Russian power would dominate Eastern Europe forever. But then, the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed, something which no one — not even the C.I.A. — saw coming.

At Fatima in 1917, before the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, the Blessed Virgin Mary accurately warned that Russia’s errors spreading throughout the world would cause wars and persecutions of the Church. But Mary said, “In the end, my immaculate heart will triumph.” In 1984, on the Feast of the Annunciation, the day when we celebrate the conception of Jesus in his mother’s womb, Pope St. John Paul the Great consecrated Russia and the whole world to Mary’s immaculate heart. Seven years later in 1991, on Christmas day, when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the USSR and the Soviet flag was removed from atop the Kremlin forever. The Evil Empire ended, not with millions of deaths from nuclear blasts, but peacefully. This was a great miracle orchestrated by heaven.

Shout joyfully to God… proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How tremendous are your deeds!‘” The Lord has brought about another tremendous victory in our time, and we do right to recognize and joyfully praise his glorious deed.

Once Wisconsin became a state in 1848, we quickly passed laws respecting the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. In 1849, our state legislature outlawed abortion in all cases (except to preserve the life of the mother) and then, in 1853, our state government abolished capital punishment. Whenever possible, we do not kill people, not even people who are guilty or highly inconvenient, because killing is not the way of Christ and his Kingdom. We are instead to show merciful love for all.

In 1973, Wisconsin was one of thirty U.S. states which prohibited abortion at all stages. But that year, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe vs. Wade (a decision which even pro-abortion legal scholars acknowledge lacked constitutional justification) legalized the killing of unborn children everywhere in the United States. In response, for forty-nine years, pro-life people prayed and marched and voted. Through thousands of organizations across the land they provided moms better, holier, more loving options (like adoption) and practical resources (like diapers, formula, cribs, and clothes). Yet, despite their persistent efforts, many pro-lifers doubted they would ever live to see abortion end anywhere in our country. Last month, after seven sets of seven years of prayer and sacrifice, the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion to the states. Wisconsin abortion laws were never repealed. And so, this Fourth of July weekend, Wisconsin is a pro-life state once again.

Today Isaiah says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her!” Nurslings shall be carried in her arms and fondled in her lap; they shall now find comfort. “When you see this, your heart shall rejoice… the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”

The date on which the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade (June 24th) is usually the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In future years we will mark the anniversary of this victory by celebrating the birth of him who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of the newly-conceived Christ. But this year, 2022, St. John’s day was superseded by an even greater feast which is always celebrated on the third Friday after Pentecost. This year, Friday, June 24th was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Indeed, in the end, his Sacred Heart has triumphed.

The reversal of Roe is a landmark victory, but of course there remains much work to do. “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” and be open to being sent yourself. Like the seventy-two in today’s Gospel, Jesus Christ sends us forth to those he seeks to save. Wishing peace on everyone, peace to each house and peace in every household, we shall defend and extend his Kingdom’s Culture of Life throughout this land and around the world. And though literal demons will rage and resist us, we shall not be afraid but prevail, for Jesus, his mother, and the angels are with us for the victory. “When you see this, your heart shall rejoice… the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.