Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Man Found Dead in Graveyard

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 05, 2022

John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt. 3:2) Exciting news. He announced the coming of a Prophet, absent from the land for 500 years since the time of Malachi. If the Kingdom of God is as important as we think it is, why can’t we see it? How do we encounter the reality of the Kingdom?

The psalmists frequently invoke the beauty of His creation. “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” (Ps. 19:1) Saint Paul identifies the essence of the Kingdom as a good heart filled with the Holy Spirit: “For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)

Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in His parables. The Kingdom is like a hidden pearl of great price worth everything or the treasure of the household. The Kingdom transforms the world like yeast in dough; the Kingdom seems insignificant, like a mustard seed but sprouts into a great harvest; and the Kingdom is like that catch of a fisherman, who sorts the good from the bad (cf. Mt. 13). So goes the Last Judgment.

These words and phrases describe the reality of the Kingdom, so let’s examine the inherent significance of words.

A word either accurately describes reality or distorts it—which in turn may reflect either incompetence or intention. Words are like notes in a symphony. In the proper context, they bring music to our ears but misplaced, they distract. Great literature, poetry, religious dogmas, and diplomacy—all use words to communicate an intended message or evoke a desired emotion. The abuses of words (e.g., “pro-choice” and “transgender”) separate us from reality and our encounter with the Kingdom. Words have a civilizing effect when used with temperance and accuracy. (“Good man!”) Brief phrases can also ruin a day: “You brood of vipers!”

Even the shortest of words and phrases expand our horizons. “Factory” describes a strange and complicated array of buildings and machinery. An adjective develops our understanding: “automobile factory.” Editors use provocative headlines to catch interest. “Man Found Dead in Graveyard.” “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks.”

Words foster clear thinking by prompting correct distinctions. In a conversation involving American foreign policy, an admiral humbly explained his career was in operations, not policy. Such contrasts open the floodgates of insights and applications.

The centurion with the sick servant applied the distinction. He asks for healing and humbly declines the visit of Jesus, his Superior. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” (Mt. 8:8) He knows the difference between his authority as a soldier and the superior authority of Jesus. “For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Jesus marvels at his humility and trust and tells his disciples: “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Mt. 8:9-11)

Accepting the contrast discourages unreasonable aspirations. Skill sets that separate an operations officer from a policy officer are considerable. Rising stars in organizations often crave promotions. Careful! The famous “Peter Principle” warns that it is common for people to “rise to their level of incompetence” by ignoring the distinction made in job descriptions. Alas, the Peter Principle affects every big organization, including the Church.

The only Policy Officer in the Church is Jesus Christ the King, the Master of reality, “through him all things were made.” Like military organizations, Church leaders—popes, bishops, and priests—participate in the policy-making of Jesus, but only to an extent. We mostly execute His policies. Wise operations officers in the Church choose their words wisely (and precisely) to remain in good standing with Jesus and His teaching—and with reality. Catholic doctrines and dogmas are elegant words that help us enter God’s unseen mysteries.

Humility shuns the Peter Principle. Humility identifies one’s abilities and refuses to claim job responsibilities beyond one’s competence. John the Baptist declines to claim authority he hasn’t received. At the peak of his success, he rebuffs the titular conferral of honor by the crowds. “I am not the Christ.” “Elijah?’ He said, “I am not.” “The prophet?” He answers, “No.” (Jn. 1:20-21)

John is a mere “voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” (Jn. 1:23) His voice, like his garb, is uncivilized, imperfect, and wild. John defers to his superior, “He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (Jn. 1:27) It is fair to speculate that John even refuses the “prophet” label. It waits until Jesus confers it on him. “I tell you [he is] more than a prophet.” (Mt. 11:9) And, “…he is Elijah who is to come.” (Mt.11:14)

Jesus has the authority to confer meaning on words and behavior. He taught the multitudes about evil in judging others, profaning holy things, ceaseless prayers, entering the narrow gate to life, the danger of false prophets and self-deception (cf. Mt. 7). “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Mt. 7:28-29)

The words of Jesus reveal the authority of His eternal Kingship, and His glorious Cross and Resurrection validate His words. We encounter the Kingdom of God in its fullness: in the Word made flesh; the living Word in the Church that extends throughout history; the Word proclaimed at every Mass; and the Word that dwells in our hearts, especially after the reception of Holy Communion—the Real Presence.

The Word is the remedy for the tangled confusion of our minds detaching us from reality, and a single Word embodies the entire Kingdom: Jesus. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Phil. 2:10)

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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