Christ or Barabbas
Fr. Shannon M. Collins, CPM
31st Sunday in OT - Year C [31 October 2004]
"I will give You glory, O God, my King" (Psalm 145).
1. On Good Friday, all practicing members of the Catholic Church participate in the Story of the Passion of the Christ. Chapters 18-19 of St. John's Gospel are read with the priest speaking the words of Christ, while everyone in the church, including the priest, takes the part of the crowd. Eventually, we come to a section of the Passion where a choice is made by the crowd, an election is held. Two candidates are put forward, one being Barabbas and the other being Christ Jesus. Pilate announces —Do you want me to release to you Jesus, the King of the Jews? And to this question we respond with the Jews of old —We want Barabbas, not this one. After having the good Lord scourged, Pilate puts Christ Jesus on display. Pilate then turns to the crowd once again and states —Behold your king. In response to this statement, we cry out in unison —Crucify Him. Pilate is amazed at the results of the polling data — he is incredulous on how the election process is proceeding. And with one last campaign pitch, Pilate asks —What? Shall I crucify your king? Then the chief priests vote with their voices —We have no king but Caesar.
2. In just a couple of days, an election will be held throughout the United States. Some elections will be for local offices, for sheriffs and judges. Choices will also be made for state-wide positions, as well as casting votes for sending some off to Washington, DC. And, of course, a presidential election is also being held this November 2. First and foremost, this election is not about abortion ... first and foremost this election is not about euthanasia ... first and foremost voting on November 2 is not about stem cell research or human cloning ... First and foremost this election is not about defending the divine institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman in a lifelong union open to life. Despite the gravity of these issues, despite the fact that we wish to promote a culture of life, the most important issue in this election is determining just who is our ultimate King. Will Barabbas get the nod from us? Barabbas who was an insurrectionist and a murderer...or will Christ Jesus be chosen as our King? Will we render to Caesar more than His due, including our very conscience and our immortal soul or will we allow Christ to reign in our hearts and minds? This election, first and foremost is about Christ the King — seeking either to extend His reign, His Kingship, or being an obstacle to the growth of His Kingdom.
3. Now Christ Jesus is the King of Love — He is the Author of Life, the Bread of Life, the very source of our existence, both natural and supernatural. His Kingdom, then, is a Kingdom of Love and Life — a Civilization of Love and a Culture of Life. The platform of the Son of God is one that sees innocent human life as inviolable — His position on marriage was made very clear in the Book of Genesis — and His campaign to enlighten those in darkness and to bring life to those in the shadow of death caused Him enter into the realm of this world. Our dear Lord never compromises on essential moral issues — He never flip-flopped — He was never "no" one moment and "yes" the next. He expects members of His party, His supporters to extend His Gospel of Life. To knowingly vote for a candidate that is pro-abortion, when a pro-life alternative is available, is to reject Christ, Who is the ultimate Life Candidate. To choose a candidate that wishes to extend the culture of death and the reign of Satan, when another choice is on the ballot that would either slow or push back such an evil empire, is to choose Barabbas...is to render to Caesar what is not his due.
4. When our dear Lord preached about Hell in the Holy Gospels, He often used the term Gehenna...the fires of Gehenna. The word Gehenna described an actual place in the Holy Land — a place called the Valley of Hinnom, where pagan worship ceremonies had been held and human sacrifices performed. Jews who had fallen away from the faith of Abraham began to worship the false god Baal. The pagan priests promised the apostate Jews that if they sacrificed their own children to Baal, they would receive good fortune. A huge fire was ignited at Gehenna, and crowds came bringing their young, crying children. One by one the children were thrown alive into the flames. Gehenna was a place of child sacrifice — part of Satan's empire — part of the culture of death. But it is interesting that during these ceremonies a large band played loud music — trumpets, horns, harps, tambourines, and drums would serve to cover up the shrieks and cries of the babies. Their screams became silent screams, for the people were deaf. They had chosen Barabbas...they had rendered to Caesar that which was beyond his due instead of having God as their King. Remember, too, Zachaeus in today's Holy Gospel. He was small in stature — that is he was short on grace. And as a result, Zachaeus was not able to see above the crowds to see Christ the King passing by. Some remain deaf to Christ's Words — others blindly follow the way of death.
v. Barabbas offers an attractive platform that makes many deaf to the truth of Christ. This insurrectionist and murderer promised a temporal victory to the Jews and an earthly paradise. Caesar, too, offers many temporal benefits that can blind us to eternal realities. Oh, Caesar might offer social security benefits and affordable prescription drugs. But if the elderly and disabled are euthanized, social security benefits and affordable medicine mean little. Caesar and Barabbas campaign using universal health care to attract voters, but if babies are aborted what will free health care mean to them? Allowing same sex couples recognition and economic help may please some individuals, but it is destroying the divine institution of marriage. Temporal benefits and worldly advantages can make one blind and deaf to the Truth of Christ and to our Catholic Faith. A Catholic conscience can reject Christ lust like the Jews of old...Give us Barabbas... crucify Christ... we have no king but Caesar.
6. May Catholics throughout this country truly realize that their primary duty in voting on November 2 is to extend the reign of Christ and to cause the reign of Satan to recede. That we may realize that our act of voting is a moral choice that can be directed to our proper end, namely eternal life. And for those who may be morally deaf and blindly following the way of death — for those who plan to vote for a candidate representing the culture of death, may they like Zachaeus receive a special grace that lifts them above the crowd so that when they enter the voting both they may see Christ the King passing by. And Christ is giving us the word we need to hear, as well as enlightening the mind of the Catholic voter through His Church. I want to end with the following quotation from the document —Living the Gospel of Life. A Challenge to Catholics in America— This 1998 document from the Bishops of America states the following.
We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human Life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue — or lack thereof — is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.