Friday, April 2, 2010

The Crucifix: The Book of Life

~If you would like to love God,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you hope for eternal happiness,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God loves you,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God wants you in heaven,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how God
 tries to prevent you
 from the yawning jaws of hell,
 look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God will help you to save your immortal soul,
look at the Crucifix!

 ~If you wonder how much
 you should forgive others,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 your faith demands of you,
in humility, poverty, charity, meekness
 and every virtue,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you want to know
 what unselfishness and generosity are,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how far
 your own unselfishness
should go to bring others to Christ,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you want to understand
 the need 
for self-denial and mortification,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wish to live well,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wish to die well,
look at the Crucifix!

The Crucifix - the Book of Life!

   ~Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scandal in the Church: The Judas Factor

It is hard not to have heard "something" about the newest scandals rising within and against the Church, which again calls to mind what I call "The Judas Factor."

Have you ever wondered what went wrong with Judas the Apostle, and why there have always been men of his ilk within the Church? Judas' is a sad story, especially when compared to the love, reparation, and devotion of the great penitent St. Mary Magdalen. (Notice the egg in her hand? It denotes the Resurrection; it is one of her forgotten symbols, since she was the first of the holy women - after the Virgin Mary, of course - to which the risen Lord spoke.)

Despite his many sojourns with Christ, Judas became weary of doing things Our Lord’s way. This one apostle was tired of the endless sacrifices, the exhausting journeys, the throngs of people asking for service, the interrupted sleep.  Even Christ's doctrine had begun to chafe. It had begun to matter little to Judas that Jesus taught all of His apostles and all the people by His example, His doctrine, and His miraculous signs. And still, Jesus did not meet Judas’ personal expectations. It may not have occurred to Judas that perhaps it was he who was supposed to strive and live up to Christ's expectations. 

Six days before the Jewish Pasch, Judas – one of the Twelve Apostles - decided to betray Christ. His resolution sprang from an event at the supper at Bethany, which occurred soon after Christ had resurrected Lazarus. Held at the house of Simon the Leper, [1] it was at this supper that St. Mary Magdalen took “a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” [2]

As the Gospels relate, St. Mary Magdalen’s act of humility, generosity and homage to Our Lord outraged many at the Bethany supper.[3] She gave her all, thinking only of Christ, and her loving acts (like the odor of sanctity) filled the house with a beautiful scent.  Did anyone other than Christ recognize the charity behind her actions? It seems not. “And they murmured against her.”[4]

Now, among these ‘murmurers’ were some (if not all) of the disciples. [5] According to the Gospel of St. John, it was Judas who brazenly confronted Christ: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now, he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.” [6]

The Apostles (and perhaps other followers present) witnessed Mary’s act - but they did not understand it. If they had charitably conferred with each other in order to grasp her actions, it would have been one thing. But such is not the case; we know that they committed the sin of rash judgement because St. Matthew records that “they murmured against her.”

Perhaps encouraged by the unkind murmuring, it was Judas who dared to challenge the Lord but only succeeded in exposing himself as “the mouthpiece of discontent, and disguised his ill-humour under a hypocritical semblance of charity. Mercenary, covetous, crafty, coarse, and selfish, his heart had remained impervious to the teachings and the influence of Jesus; all the holiness and love of Jesus had not altered him – he hardened his heart against grace and remained unsubdued by the goodness of God.” [7]

But Jesus said: Let her alone, why do you molest her? She hath wrought a good work upon Me. For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good: but Me you have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come beforehand to anoint My Body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memorial of her. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray Him to them. Who hearing it were glad; and they promised him they would give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.” [8]

Initially, Judas became angry because the manner in which Mary bestowed her gift upon Christ left the faithless apostle no way to personally benefit from the penitent's generosity. As St. John said, the man was a thief. [9] Judas was the holder of the purse, which held the donations given by the faithful. It was from this purse that the Apostles gave alms to the poor and also, when absolutely necessary, which they were sometimes compelled to use for their basic necessities of life. It was only after Judas’ betrayal of Christ and his own suicide that the other Apostles realized that Judas had been pilfering the purse.

After his heated outburst of feigned charity at the Bethany supper, Judas - the consummate hypocrite - became even more livid when Jesus took Mary’s part; Judas was also disgusted that Christ defended her action as a good work, only in the next breath to speak of His own burial. How could the Christ castigate him - an Apostle! - and defend a notorious (although penitent) sinner, and a mere woman at that? And to speak of death, again, as Jesus had been doing with increasing frequency - what morbidity!

That was it. Judas had had enough. His association with Jesus was not what he hoped it would be. This Man, thought Judas, cannot be the Messiah, the Son of God. He decided to leave the service of Christ - but not quite yet. It was not enough to abandon Jesus; no, Judas wanted to gain something by it, too. What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver.” [10]

The betrayal of Christ may seem like a hasty decision, but Judas had long trifled with grace. For quite some time, Judas may have been going through the motions of an Apostle but, slowly and surely, his interior life degraded. The fact that he was an apostle of Christ did not protect him from the temptations of his selfish inclinations. However, since he was an apostle, he knew the ways of recourse. He chose not to use them.

As for Our Lord, He tried to save Judas’ soul, giving him every opportunity. Jesus, Who reads all hearts and Who does not take away our free will, saw that this unfortunate apostle was bent on following his own course. It is for this reason that after exhausting all efforts, even to the events at the Last Supper, Christ finally said to Judas, “Thou which thou dost, do quickly.” [11]

Judas, once an apostle and friend of Christ’s, chose to follow what he thought was a better way – his way.

Oh, the great mystery of all time – that God Himself became Man, was betrayed by one of His own Apostles, and died on a wooden cross, a pagan-devised execution intended only for the lowest of criminals! Through the actions of one traitorous Apostle, the Savior of the world suffered the most terrible Passion – but we must remember that Jesus allowed it all to happen for His own reasons.

The main cause, however, came down to one serious thing: Sin.

As we near the end of Lent 2010, we are witnessing how “The Judas Factor” once more assails Christ’s Spotless Bride, the Catholic Church. Judases throughout time have oft betrayed Christ, His Church, and her people. Today’s Judases, some of them in the guise of shepherds, have struck in an unprecedented way, harming the sheep and, even worse, the innocent little lambs.

The faithful Catholic must understand that Our Lord knows of all of these scandals. He knew of them at the moment they were perpetrated, and He is angrier than are we. As for Our Lady, is it any wonder that the Weeping Madonna has miraculously manifested so many tears through a great many of her statues, including one of her Fatima Pilgrim Virgin statues (1972-73), and one of her images at Akita, Japan (1973)? God is justly angry, and Our Lady weeps at our stupidity and our blindness.

Although we cannot yet see why, there is a reason why God has not yet struck the guilty. Just as there were many good reasons that the innocent, sinless Christ allowed the betrayal of Judas, an apostle “within” His own circle, God has His reasons for allowing those “within” the Church to betray Him, His Bride and her children.

Yes, the fort is betrayed by them who should have defended it, as the bishop-martyr John Fisher said. That is important to remember, especially when even faithful Catholics speak of “the sins of the Church,” for they speak wrongly and do great disservice to their Mother because the Church herself does not sin; no - only people sin. The mystical Church herself is eternal and faithful to Her Spouse. She is the Bride and never a harlot.

Consider this analogy of the Church of Christ: The Bride's adopted children are precious to her, and she would not ever harm them. They, on the other hand, are sinners and so, depending on whether or not they cooperate with grace, they are capable of either doing great good or great harm. Those who betray their adoptive mother are the Judases, and it they who sully her name and her office as Christ's Bride.

Like Her Divine Spouse, the Church is repeatedly betrayed and undergoes an unjust trial, followed by a Passion. The current plot and ensuing betrayal against the eternal Church may be the worst in history. All of this is brought upon the Church by her faithless children and friends - some of them apostles like Judas - who (for whatever reason: fear of others, pride, covetness, etc.) cooperate with the enemy. Sin buffeted the eternal Christ, and sin buffets the eternal Church. In imitation of Her Divine Spouse, this Bride who is wounded in and by Her Mystical Body is herself without sin.

While we are rightfully scandalized by the many betrayals (of type and number) now coming to light, no amount of Judases will ever induce the true faithful to abandon Christ and His Church. Rather, we stay and defend the eternal Church and her faithful children, of which we hope to number ourselves. 

As citizens of the Catholic City, we are obligated (and with the obligation comes the right) to protect the citadel, safeguard our children, and defend against the rebels, the miscreants and the insane dreamers (as Pope St. Pius X would and did describe such people, in his apostolic mandate on The Sillion).

Just as importantly - we must keep offering prayer (especially the daily Rosary!) and reparation to God for the terrible sins of these same Judases. Simultaneously, we must not forget to daily ask Our Lady to protect and enlighten us, lest in the battle we fall into other snares laid by the devil. 

We should also ask St. Mary Magdalen, the Great Penitent who became the Great Saint, for her intercession as we also remember her example. Even before Christ's Passion, She loved and adored Christ far past the love of the apostles, and she was not afraid to show it when at the house of Simon the Leper. Before the week was completed, it was she who stood with the Virgin Mary and St. John at the Foot of the Cross. As Tradition tells, after the Resurrection Christ first went to His Mother and then to Mary of Magdala in the Garden where His Body had been laid. 

Fight the good fight, but always keep Christ's peace in your heart. That is what was meant by St. Augustine, when he wrote to Felicia, a virgin sorely grieved over the scandals then afflicting the Church:

“I exhort you not to let yourself be too much troubled by scandals, which indeed were foretold precisely so that when they happen we may remember that they were foretold and not be disconcerted. For the Lord Himself foretold them in the Gospel. Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.’ (Matt. 18: 7) Thus, there are those who hold the office of shepherds that they may watch over Christ's sheep; and there are those who hold it for the sake of temporal honors and worldly advantages. These two kinds of pastors, always dying and giving place to others, will both be perpetuated in the bosom of the Catholic Church till time ends and the Lord comes to judgment.” [12]

"Pray the Rosary every day and make many sacrifices for the conversion of sinners." (Our Lady of Fatima)
After Easter Week: More on "The Judas Factor" and the current scandals afflicting the Church.
1] Jn. 12:3 and Lk. 7:40. The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1899 edition photographically reproduced].
2] Gospel of St. John, Ibid.
3] Mk. 14:4.
4] Mk. 14:5.
5] Matt. 26:8.
6] Jn. 12: 5-6. [Emphasis added]
7] Meditation on the Passion [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, reprinted February, 1963], p. 35. Compiled from various sources associated with the nuns of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with an Introduction by Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, Feb. 23, 1922.
8] Mk. 14: 7-12. [Emphasis added.]
9] Jn. 12: 5-6.
10] Matt. 26:15.
11] Jn. 13: 27.
12] St. Augustine, Epist. 208, 2 and 5. [Emphasis added]