Tuesday of Holy Week - 2004
Fr. Shannon M. Collins, CPM
The Fathers of Mercy Resident Priest - Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Tuesday of Holy Week
"I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray Me" (John)
i. Although an instrument of torture and execution, the Cross was chosen by our dear Lord as the best instrument to bring about the Redemption of the Human Race. It was the perfect instrument, for it is proper that if we fell as a race near a tree — the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it is only proper that we rise as a race near the tree of the Cross. The Cross is also very directional — it points north, south, east, and west telling us that salvation goes out in every direction from the Cross. And finally, the Cross displays Christ to the world. He is, if you will, seated upon the throne of the Cross — the Teacher, Wisdom Incarnate is fixed to the Master's Chair teaching us by word and example.
ii. And upon this throne of the Cross, the first words out of Christ's most sacred mouth were — PATER DIMITTE ILLIS — "Father, forgive them." Father, forgive them is not a prayer for His mother, nor for those holy women at the foot of the Cross. Nor is it for the Beloved Disciple, St. John. No, these words are spoken for the sake of His executioners. His Most Sacred Heart is always going out to those in greatest need or to those least deserving — His enemies. Christ Jesus issues no complaints — no mention is made of avenging justice. Rather, He pleads for mercy for them. PATER DIMITTE ILLIS.
iii. In the Old Testament, individuals who sought to arrest or insult prophets were often the object of divine vengeance. When King Ahaziah tried to forcibly bring Elijah the Prophet into his presence, Yahweh took revenge on the troops that sought to touch Elijah. "Man of God," the soldiers said to Elijah, "the king commands you to come down from the hilltop." "If I am a man of God," Elijah stated, "may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men." And vengeful fire did come down not once, but twice upon two groups of soldiers. Also, consider when the prophet Elisha was taunted and insulted by a group of boys — who kept on saying to Elisha, "go up, thou bald head, go up thou bald head." The prophet cursed the youngsters and two bears came out and tore the forty youngsters to pieces.
iv. But such revenge — such punishments — such curses were never made against our Lord's executioners. In fact our dear Lord Who is the Prophet of Prophets only pardons and grants mercy. And such merciful love brings conversion — a repentant thief — a centurion who claims Christ's divinity and innocence, and yes countless men and women who weep and strike their breasts as they look upon Him Whom they have pierced. And yes, such a prayer as — PATER DIMITTE ILLIS — Father forgive them ... would lead countless martyrs that followed Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their persecutors.
v. And such love, such forgiveness, would even have been for Judas Iscariot. If I have one criticism of the movie, The Passion of the Christ, it is the portrayal of Judas. As is often the case, Judas is seen as an individual torn — in turmoil — a man who wished to see Christ succeed, but in a worldly sense. Well, the apostles and the Fathers of the Church have quite a different view of Judas. Remember the Gospel reading from yesterday, where Judas complains about the perfume poured upon our Lord by Mary. He has no real love for Christ or else he would not have complained — He was a man filled with greed, avarice, using Christ for his own profit. St. John tells us, "he was a thief. He held the common purse, and used to help himself to what was deposited there." Does not the Bible clearly state today that "Satan entered into Judas" —that he left the Last Supper and that "it was night?" St. Ephrem, the great deacon states, "Judas scorned charity and left the company of the Apostles. Abandoning the true Light, His own Master, hating his brethren, he walked out into the darkness." In my mind, Judas had sought to use Christ for his own advancement and financial gain. And when things looked bleak for the Master, the thief cut his losses — yes, selling him out for thirty pieces of silver. He is ever recorded by the Evangelists simply as the traitor, the man who betrayed Christ.
vi. When we portray Judas as some tragic individual, we naturally feel pity for him. But when we seem him as the Gospels do — as a thief, as one who descried the devotion of Mary of Bethany — as one who was avaricious, greedy and would sell His supposed friend in a heart beat, then our pity towards Judas is lacking. What an ugly character — how could anyone love this man? Yet Christ did love Him. Our dear Lord did wash the feet of Judas — and even when that blistering, hateful kiss was given to the Master, Jesus looked at Judas and called him — FRIEND.
vii. How we can learn from our dear Lord. When tempted to condemn one who persecutes or irritates us — when we are not willing to forgive and forget — when we sit in judgment — when we grow harsh or severe — not excusing persons because of weakness hear the words: PATER...