WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Regret of Judas or Repentance of Peter?
I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
Judas asked Jesus, after he had just announced to the apostles that one of them would betray him, "surely it is not I, Rabbi?" To which Jesus replied, "You have said so."
We know when our hearts stray. We are aware of our own infidelity. In fact, the close we are to God, who is light, the more aware we are of our own shadows. The great stigmatist and confessor, St Padre Pio, used to ask God for pardon for his iniquity.
When God made man looks at his beloved friends in the face and reveals to them their unfaithfulness each has a different reaction. Michelangelo's painting, the Last Supper, is supposed to be the depiction of the apostles reaction immediately after Jesus makes the announcement of his betrayer.
When Jesus said, "You will all fall away." Peter told Jesus, the King of Prophets, that he was wrong and that he would never fall away. Which prompted Jesus to prophecy of his treble denial before the crow of the cock.
Holy Week is when we permit the gaze of Jesus to fall upon our faces and penetrate our hearts. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his book, the Priest is Not his Own, went so far as to say that the gaze of Jesus on Peter immediately after his betrayal, is the gaze that Jesus offers to priests that brings them to authentic conversion after their ordination, when they move from living on their own efforts and natural talents, to living truly by the Holy Spirit.
For the gaze of Christ fixes in our souls two profound realities: first - our unfaithfulness, particularly the end of any self-delusion that we are perfect or rather it unmasks the basis of infidelity to Christ - the lie that we can do it on our own; second - the merciful kindness of God, who shows us that the only true way to become holy is to allow the humiliation of our fallen yet redeemed state to be the foundation of authentic communion with God.
When Christ gazes at us there can be two very different fundamental reactions: Judas or Peter. Peter repented. Judas regretted. Peter wept bitterly and allowed this mistake to make him more honest about his own frailty. Judas woefully rued his wrong reading of Christ as the redeemer of souls and not the political liberator of Israel as a nation state from the Romans. Peter hoped. Judas despaired.
Holy Week should be marked by an increase in prayer, which Blessed Pope John Paul II reminded us is, "to gaze on the face of Christ." If we haven't made a good confession, it is the best time to arouse a deep contrition and make a thorough examination of conscience to allow the sacramental graces to flow more deeply. Even, as St Frances de Sales recommends, if we have not already done so, making a general confession of the sins of our whole life in kind and number, but even if we have, to make a general confession of those sins whose effects we still struggle with and which are related to the deeper roots of sin.
It is a good time also to meditate devoutly on the Passion of our Lord. Some friends and I are getting together to watch the film, the Passion of the Christ, to help us do this. There are many devout aids in the Church's life to do this: the stations of the Cross, the prayers of St Bridget, the meditations on the Precious Blood of Christ, the Sacred Heart of Christ, the Five Wounds of Christ, etc. Above all the reading and pondering of the holy Gospels passion narratives are the best.
If the graces of Lent are flowing, like the man who has walked closer to the light and sees his own shadows, you will undoubtedly be able to list a few lenten penitential practices which you failed. At this time it is good to make a spiritual bouquet of these and offer them to Christ, much like St Peter's repentance which allowed his failure to bring him closer to God.
May Our Lady, who accompanied Jesus in his Sacred Passion, accompany each of us to instruct us on uniting our lowliness to the mighty mercy of Jesus Christ, whose face is the face of mercy itself.
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on sexual ethics http://loveandresponsibility.org
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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