Pastor's Desk Notes

January 28, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” This question posed to our Lord by a demon is a powerful one, as it reveals the fear that evil spirits have of the Incarnate God. They know that the mission of Jesus is to destroy sin and death, to conquer their power in favor of the grace, mercy, peace, and overwhelming love of God. The story handed down to us in the tradition of the Church is that Lucifer, an archangel, rebelled against God’s authority, freely choosing for eternity to oppose the God who made him. In doing so, this fallen angel took a third of the angels with him and was cast out of heaven by St. Michael the Archangel. Since that time, the devil has worked to lead as many human souls away from God’s authority as possible. God the Son, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, takes on our human flesh to redeem those led astray by the devil, and so a major part of His mission involves exorcism. While the demon’s cry in the Gospel today is a cry of despair and protest, clinging to sin and selfishness, we can find a different, spiritually healthy tone for this question to resonate in our own hearts.

“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” (Lk. 5:8). St. Peter says these words to Jesus after the Lord grants him an incredible catch of fish. In all humility, Peter is asking Jesus what He has to do with such a lowly man. When we come to the realization of our sinfulness in light of God’s infinite goodness, we might humbly ask the same question. What do you want with me, Lord Jesus? Who am I, that you would give me any blessings whatsoever? Though Peter judges himself unworthy, Jesus has a different plan. He does not call Peter because he is worthy, but because he is loved. Our Lord sees beyond our wounds and weakness, and wants to work with us in building His Kingdom.

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word and my servant will be healed,” (Mt. 8:8). The Roman centurion’s words become our prayer before Holy Communion at every Mass. In recognizing his unworthiness, the centurion is not putting himself down in any way. Rather, he acknowledges the greatness of Jesus. This is a prayer of worship, of wonder and awe. It reminds us of the joyful exclamation of Elizabeth when Mary greets her: “Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me?” (Lk. 1:48). God comes to us – this is the simple message of Christmas. God desires to be with us – this is the simple message of the Gospel as Christ preached it. God saves us – this is the simple message of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. God remains with us and calls us to be in communion with Him – this is the simple message of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Asked properly, the question “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?,” is an entirely appropriate point of meditation and prayer. When we ask it, not as a protest demanding our own autonomy, but as an awe-filled cry of the heart that humbly recognizes our own shortcomings in the face of God’s perfect goodness, we will be drawn into a meditation that shows us how truly Jesus desires communion and relationship with us. Praying with this question, we come almost necessarily to a very different question. Lord, if You who are so infinitely good can look upon my weakness and still love me, how should I respond, how should my life be different, what do You want me to do, so that I can have everything to do with You?


Fr. Sam