There are responses – universal things – that spring from a deeper level than words, and therefore from a deeper level than understanding. Spontaneous smiling is an example. We all smile reflexively at the antics of toddlers, at hummingbirds, on sharing memories with old friends. These things pierce deep inside us, and engage something there, a primordial innocence at the bottom of the well of who we are, where wordy self-consciousness has not yet usurped the place of God’s voiceless wisdom.

The Fall is not the death of the soul, but rather its subordination to the self.


After a turbulent early life, one rich with romance, heartache, folly and adventure, a woman decided at the age of thirty to become a poet. From that time on she labored over her art, and produced several slim and highly regarded volumes, mainly sonnets although some free verse as well. Sometimes she assumed the voice of her childhood, but mainly she wrote in a timeless present, artfully reporting her experience of the world around her. Occasionally, during difficult times, a tone of melancholy crept into her poems, adding to them a sense of ineffability. As the close of her life approached, her poems became very simple, almost childlike again, almost haiku. After she died, her minor fame gradually dwindled and all but disappeared.

Many years later, a graduate student in literature happened across one of the slim volumes in a dusty used book store. On a whim, she bought the book, took it home and read it. Very much affected by the poems, she sought out all the other books the poet had written, and when the time came for the student to write a dissertation, she chose those books as her subject. She titled her dissertation, The Mind of a Poet.

At about the same time, a learned and renowned professor of theology completed the manuscript for his magnum opus, the culmination of his lifetime of study. After considerable introspection, and with a trace of pride, he decided to call it The Mind of God.


Human affiliation alleviates the most fundamental dread of human nature, that of being alone. All social institutions and mass movements, including religions, owe their existence to that reality, and their success – their growth, their longevity, their coherence – to the salve of their affiliation.

Successful shepherds – be they politicians or entertainers or gurus – provide effective means of escaping loneliness to their sheep. The most successful become idols, human gods, for a time.

Christianity, the religion, is usually advocated, like many other religions, as providing an eternal remedy for that dread, an eternal escape from loneliness. That is its allure to human nature.

But the Good Shepherd does not seek to satisfy the nature of the sheep. He seeks to change it.


There was once a king who ruled his subjects through terror and intimidation. His cruelty was so deeply ingrained in his nature that his very face was frozen into a terrible rictus of disdainful pride that instilled fear and dismay in everyone he met. But he didn’t care, because those were exactly the emotions he wished to inspire.

But there came a time when from a distance he saw the beautiful princess of a neighboring kingdom, and for the first time of his life, he felt incomplete. He inquired, and learned that she was as lovely of character as she was of appearance. He longed to make her acquaintance and court her, but he knew that his terrible face would frighten her, and he would never have the chance of winning her love.

As his only resort, he sought out a local witch, and ordered her to fashion him a magic mask that would hide his true face, and instead show one of benevolence. When he tried the mask on, he could barely recognize himself in the mirror. Instead of arrogance, the mask showed an expression of humility; instead of cruelty, the mask showed kindness; instead of avarice, the mask showed generosity.  When he smirked with gloating delight at the deceptiveness of the mask, the mirror showed back a gentle look of calm reassurance.

With confidence in the mask, he arranged to make the acquaintance of the beautiful princess.

The courtship took root, but the king quickly realized that in order for it to flourish, his behavior would have to support the illusion of the mask.  Gritting his teeth – A friendly smile, through the mask! – he began playing the part of the benevolent ruler.  And over time, he played the part well.    The laws of the land came to manifest justice, instead of tyranny.  His people, at first wary, gradually turned to him for help and understanding.  Neighboring kingdoms, once exploited, now found in his a cooperative ally.  Most of all, perhaps, a feeling of general goodwill and peace spread over his country.

At long last, the king proposed marriage, and the princess accepted.  But on the eve of their wedding, the king, moved by a strange urging of conscience that he had never before experienced, confessed to the princess what he had done, that ever since their first acquaintance he had been wearing a magical mask that disguised his true appearance.  Before they could marry, he needed to show her his true face.

“Of course,” she said.  “But do not worry.  I love your heart, whatever your face.  Let me remove the mask.”

And when she had done so, she studied him for a moment, and then said, with a quizzical smile, “My darling, you look exactly the same as the first day we met.”


We need not venture upon the fractious question of the nature of the relationship between, in Jesus’ denominations, the heavenly Son and the heavenly Father. Be the relation consubstantiality, whatever that theological imponderable might connote, or be it as identity in some mysterious mathematic, or be it as created to creator on analogy to human biology or manufacture, or, as is most likely, be it what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, we may leave that disputation to eventual heavenly discovery, if we may only allow to received gracious revelation that the heavenly forgiveness of all human sin, past, present and future, has been accomplished for all of God’s children through divine instrumentality, the instrumentality named the Word by St. John, and by St. Paul, Christ.


When you shine a flashlight into a dark closet, spring cleaning in your mind, the light doesn’t create the dust, the moth holes, the lonesome mitten lying on the floor. The light simply reveals them as they are.

Jesus is the light of the world.

When the spring sun bathes the earth with light and warmth, its light pours down heavenly nourishment, while its warmth thaws the life stored in frozen soil and branch, and begins to draw that life towards itself.

Jesus is the sun of righteousness.


The buds that cover its branches in the spring have not earned the tree’s support: they grow out of it; they manifest the life and vitality and identity of the tree.

Jesus did not earn God’s love for us. He manifested it.


Persuasion and instruction depend on the parties involved sharing certain premisses, certain interests and values. Instructions on how to apply for a passport hold no interest for the complacent homebody. Someone arguing for a particular political system – democracy, for example – by showing how it advances the cause of personal freedom will have no persuasive influence on someone who places no value on personal freedom – a committed Marxist, for example.

The internet sometimes offers videos of people, deaf from birth or injury, receiving a new cochlear implant. What the videos show when the implant is activated is invariably heartwarming. The sounds of voices and music that once fell on deaf ears are suddenly sources of joy and wonder.

Being born from above is not a supernatural intervention, creating a new and innocent spirit. It’s a change of perspective that may or may not result from exposure to the Gospel truth, the truth of God’s unconditional love for all His children. It’s not a new creation ex nihilo; it’s a new receptivity to Christ’s instruction.


Life is knowledge of the Gospel truth. Death is ignorance of the Gospel truth. Light is the illumination stemming from the knowledge of the Gospel truth. Sin is knowing the Gospel truth, but not walking in its light.

Pretty straightforward, really.


Imagine a mother who was informed that her infant son, at the age of twelve, would be removed to a far country, one with different customs and a foreign language, there to spend the rest of his life. Wouldn’t the mother, in all love, do her best to familiarize her child with the ways and habits of that country’s culture, to provide him acquaintance with what to expect, with how to understand and respond to its motivations, how to appreciate their rationale and enjoy their rewards? Most of all, wouldn’t she teach him the language of that far country, so that he might communicate from the very beginning?

Think of Jesus as our loving mother.