Bottom line: We have fallen into some of the worst evils - as we see in the clergy abuse scandal. So, even though people are ready to believe the worst about us, we gain little by trying to defend ourselves. Better to say the Divine Mercy prayer: "For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."
Tonight - after twelve days of Passiontide - we uncover the cross. It should shock us. We live in a world where people say, "nothing shocks me anymore." Well, it should shock us that a man as innocent as a small child should be humiliated and tortured. He bears on his shoulders the unjust suffering all people from the beginning of human history right up to the present moment. He alone is the answer to the question that haunts every person with an ounce of compassion: Why is there so much unjust suffering? Seeing innocent suffering, a person can either turn away from God or turn to Jesus. Tonight I hope you will turn to Jesus.
This Holy Week we have been making this prayer: "Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you..." In relation to Jesus' Passion we see a major reason people lose their faith: the hypocrisy of Jesus' followers. We live incoherent lives. We say one thing and do another.
Tonight we see the two worst cases of duplicity.
First, Judas. Jesus trusted him with the finances - the common purse. As we hear, "Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons."
With a kiss Judas betrays Jesus.
Arguably worse than Judas is Peter. Judas had been entrusted with finances, but Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. Rather than testifying to Jesus he denied even knowing him:
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.
When you and I sin, we betray Jesus. We may even go so far as denying that we even know Jesus. These betrayals and denials cause other people to disbelieve in Jesus. During Night Prayer I examine my conscience. One of the things I ask myself: has my behavior today weakened someone's faith?
Having recognized that our sins cause people to lose faith, we also have to recognize that people are looking for reasons to not believe in Jesus.
A while back, when Rosie and I were taking a walk through the neighborhood, I stopped to talk with a couple of our neighbors. It was a pleasant conversation until the topic of our stolen church bell came up. The neighbor informed me that "word on the street" was that the one who masterminded the robbery was a "prominent member of the congregation." When he finished giving this news, he said, "typical". Well, I decided to call the police and ask if they had a report on the robbery. They did. They send me a written report and when I read the names of people charged, it turned out none of them were "prominent members" of our congregation or even were on our data base. Needless to say, the story that a prominent member of our congregation masterminded the robbery of our bell was just that, a story.
People are ready to believe the worst about us. You see that in the common narratives about the Inquisition, Galileo, the Crusades and so on. Recently my brother and I watched a documentary on cats. In the middle of somewhat charming program, they claimed that a medieval pope had condemned cats as evil and diabolical. According to the documentary this led Europeans to massacre thousands of the felines. That sounded suspect to me so I did a google search. It only took a few clicks to find out the story was a fabrication.
The fact that people gladly make up stories about us does not mean that we have always lived up the standards of Jesus. Far from it. We have fallen into some of the worst evils - as we see in the clergy abuse scandal. So, even though people are ready to believe the worst about us, we gain little by trying to defend ourselves. Better to say the Divine Mercy prayer: "For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." Amen
Spanish Version (Word Document)
From Archives (Good Friday Homilies):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru