Friday, March 30, 2012

Palm Sunday: The crimes of despising another or betraying a friend, and all sins, are healed in the betrayal and rejection of Jesus Christ

"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,
one who is eating with me."

There are some injuries that so deeply rend the fabric of human existence, that are so terrible to contemplate or experience that even the thought of them can result in a gut-wrenching kind of physical sensation of revulsion. This can be the case whether we are the perpetrator or the object of such injuries and the sins which provoke them.

The act of despising another human person because of their weakness, or for whatever reason, is profoundly anti-human and does violence not only to the person so despised but at the same time violates the humanity of the one who thus turns away from authentic compassion and brotherly love. Despising another reveals a deep form of self-rejection in the human person for it is one's own humanity which is in fact rejected when one despises one's neighbor. The betrayal of a friend is also an act deeply violating both to the one rejected and the one who chooses to turn away from the bond.

We are all human beings: our experiences of temptations or weaknesses, though different for each one of us, are in some way shared by all of us. When one of us despises another because of his or her weaknesses or the ugliness of marred humanity because of the effect of sin, it sunders us from the other person in a very deep way, causing an injury that wounds us to the heart and marrow of our existence. When we have shared the close bond of friendship, whether within the family or beyond it, and that relationship is broken in a way that seems beyond all repair this, too, can cause deep and lasting effects which are like a wound to the person, causing lasting impairment to the spirit and mind.

In this Holy Week, beginning with today's Palm Sunday procession and Mass, we accompany Jesus Christ again through his physical, visible suffering on the streets and hills of Jerusalem. Though he suffered and died 2,000 years ago, He tells us that His Passion continues today because of sin: "when you reject them, you reject Me."

We see in the Body and Blood shed by Christ the price that is paid, the act of love made necessary by the only One who is capable of repairing what has been broken by our sins, whether visible like the broken, beaten and crucified body of Jesus Christ or the invisible kind of evil which is a hidden corruption.

" ... he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

In the rejection and murder of Jesus Christ is found both the story of and the answer to each and every instance of human betrayal and discord, for "by his wounds we are healed". It is in the betrayal of Jesus Christ which results in the sacrifice for sin that all sins now must find their healing, for only in Jesus Christ is God's mercy made available for each of us. This happens in the most intense way in the Church through the sacramental life. On our altars now is consecrated, offered and received the same Jesus Christ who died on the Cross 2,000 years ago. He is present again to involve us and our wounded sinfulness in His Divine embrace which binds us up and makes us whole again.

"It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly." (CCC 1851)

Sin and death will not have the last word.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

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