[Homily of Fr. Matthew Kelty, O.C.S.O. for the 5th   Sunday of Lent (B), 2003: (Jn 12:20-33)]

The  Master  Key

 Father McKenzie says that there is no Hebrew word for “thunder”. They use voice instead. Which leads to a lot of happy confusion. It would take no great imagination for any of us to think of a voice of God when we hear thunder. That an earlier people did so is no surprise. But it does seem clear that at least on three occasions there was a real Voice, not merely thunder, and all were at very significant times in the life of Jesus.

The first at His Baptism, when, contradicting the view of John, He submitted to a Baptism for sinners in order to state clearly that He identified with them, was their agent, their advocate before the Father. And His stance was vindicated by the dove of the Spirit and by the Voice, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him” (Matt 3:17). We are off on a most significant journey.

Late in His ministry, Jesus was at pains to describe what lay just ahead and, far more clearly and in explicit terms, that He would “go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Matt 20:17). To which Peter replied in strong objection, “God forbid, Lord, no such thing can happen to You” (ibid.). “Get behind Me, Satan,” is Jesus response. This dreadful episode, so disturbing to the twelve, was followed by the Transfiguration, with Peter, James and John. “This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him,” was the Voice (Matt 17:5).

Today’s episode is on the heels of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the waving of palms, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (John 12:13). When the Greeks are brought to Jesus, He is at pains both to welcome them and to make plain to them the essence of His teaching in terms of the Cross. The scene of triumph is followed by a gospel of suffering and death. For Him and for all who followed Him. Then a Voice from Heaven is response to Jesus’ prayer: “Father, glorify Your Name” (John 12:28). “‘I have glorified It and  will glorify It again.’ The crowd then heard it and said it was thunder, but others said it was an angel. ‘The Voice came for your sake,’ Jesus said.” So it was a Voice.

The reconciliation of opposites is so much at the heart of our Faith and necessarily at the heart of our response to it. Never retreat from a confrontation with such truth. There is nurture in it. Depth. Point and purpose and meaning.

The very fact of our immortality is already such a challenge. And yet so fundamental an aspect of our mortality.


So, a friend is in charge of housing at a large western university. The master key is lost or stolen. In order to avoid disaster, new locks were quietly ordered, to be installed at once. Several thousand. Schlage, the company, did not have quite that many on hand. But they did provide several thousand and said they’d have the rest in 24 hours. And they did. Thousands (about 6) and one master key.

The point is: thousands of locks. All different. And one key would open them all. So small an instrument could be interpreted in so many ways.


A friend, a student of C.S. Lewis, visited Wheaton College and the works of Lewis housed there with the work of several other evangelists. My friend picked up a volume from Lewis’ library, “Eternal Life”, by Frederick von Hugel. And in pencil on the inside cover Lewis had written:

It is not an abstraction called Humanity that is to be saved. It is you yourself —yourself, not another. It is your soul and, in some sense not fully understood, even your body, that was made for the high and holy place. And that you are—your sins excepted—every fold and crease and nook and cranny of your individuality, destined from all eternity to fit God as a glove fits a hand. And that intimate particularity which you can hardly grasp yourself, much less communicate to your fellow creatures, is no mystery to Him. He made those ins and outs that He might fill them. He gave you just so curious a life because it is the key designed to unlock the door of all the myriad doors in Him.

So for Lewis.

How nice! We are all of us so very individual: made in God’s image and likeness because we are, we are forever, and we are one. There is only one you and there will never be another.

The key is, of course, the cross, the “clavis”. For all our differences, for all our singularity, it is the cross that for one and all is the key that opens the door of His Heart. Our specificity is, to be sure, basic. And in our singularity enters the Heart, the Life of God. And that is possible because Jesus is the Master key. The lock turns, the door opens for us. For each. For you. For me. Not some great mass of humanity. But individuals. Dearly loved and deep in the Heart of God.  Amen.

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