2cornucopias

St. John of the Cross

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/03/18 at 12:00 AM

The great Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross, tells us that Good Friday is the day of the year that, more than any other, invites us to enter into the sufferings of the Son of God (Spiritual Canticle 35.9).

Truly, this is the day, more than any other, on which we contemplate and delve into the mystery of human sin and its crucifying consequences, felt most especially on a rocky hill outside of Jerusalem some 2000 years ago.
Whether we like to think of it or not, all of us are complicit in our Lord’s Passion and death, for all of us are sinners. The Passion narrative gives us some prescient examples of human sin and the terrible consequences of those sins.
As such, the story of our Lord’s suffering and death is also a primer for how to deal with our own sins, especially as we compare several of the historical figures in the story.
Look at Peter and Judas. Both were apostles; both had witnessed our Lord’s countless miracles. Both Peter and Judas knew who Jesus was. Yet both of them betrayed Him nevertheless, and both suffered terrible anguish for doing so.
But it is there that the similarities end, for in their knowledge of Jesus’ divinity and their terrible betrayal of Him, Peter and Judas made radically different choices. Peter made a choice based on humility and hope; Judas made a choice based on pride and despair.
What we learn today is that in the face of our own sinfulness, each of us has to make a fundamental decision: to either proudly refuse God’s mercy and sink into despair, or to humbly accept His mercy and live in hope.
Indeed, we must remember that the potential to be a Peter or a Judas lies within all of us. All of us betray Jesus every time we sin. The graver and more mortal our sins are, the worse our betrayal is.
And if our sins are mortal, the choice to seek God’s mercy or proudly refuse it will determine the eternal destiny of our souls.
We see this so clearly in the story of the two criminals crucified with Jesus. While John’s Gospel, which we read from today, does not provide many details about these two criminals, the Gospel of Luke does.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that in an act of humility and faith, the Good Thief, whom Tradition names Dismas, recognizes the innocence of Jesus, admits his own guilt, and asks Jesus for mercy – which is readily given to him by our Lord along with the promise that Dismas will, that day, be in Paradise.
Sadly, the other criminal mocks our Lord and remains steadfast in his sin.
Just as the potential to be a Peter or a Judas lies within us all, so does the potential to beDismas or the unrepentant criminal.
The crucial question is how we respond to our own sinfulness, especially at the end of ourlives, for this determines whether or not we will be saved.
My experience as a priest has shown that most people die just as they lived.
In other words, if we live lives in which asking God for His mercy, especially in Confession,is a habit for us; if we have sought to be in union with our Lord through prayer, obedience to His teachings, and frequent and worthy reception of the Sacraments, then we will most probably die a happy death like Dismas, even though we may have sinned terribly during our lives.
But if we live a life of proud selfishness and unrepented sin with little thought of prayer, obedience, or worthy reception of the Sacraments, then we cannot expect to be open to God’s mercy at the end of our lives – even though God’s mercy is always available.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as we consider today all that our Lord suffered because of our sins, let us ask ourselves how it is that we are going to respond to our own sinfulness, most especially in the waning moments of our life.
In the face of man’s abominable sinfulness, Jesus responds with the greatest act of love the world has ever known. None of us is worthy of Heaven, but Jesus makes it possible for us anyway – and this must be our hope and our confidence!
Today, as we venerate the cross – that terrible instrument of our salvation – let us pray for the grace to always recognize our sins and to humbly yet confidently turn to our Lord for His mercy.
May pride, despair, or self-loathing never keep us from the gift of salvation our Lord gives to us this Good Friday, but like St. Dismas, may we all be happy thieves in Paradise some day!

April 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

You can go directly to his homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

 

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