Bottom line: None of us realize the magnitude of our sins. With humility we thank Jesus for opening the path to forgiveness.
This Lent I have been giving a homily series on forgiveness. Forgive and you will be forgiven. We reach a high point today. We see that Jesus' suffering and death achieves forgiveness for us. Before his Passion, Jesus offers the cup of wine saying, "This is my blood...poured for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." And, from the cross, he says, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
For this homily, I ask the question: Who are the "them"? "Father, forgive them". Well, we have to start with Pilate He makes the decision to condemn Jesus to death. The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority. Instead of praying for Pilate, the people make demands: "crucify him, crucify him". As an extension of Pilate, we have the Roman soldiers. Some are just "doing their job". Others use Jesus for perverse pleasure - like the guards at Dachau who forced prisoners into ice cold showers then turned the water scalding hot. Just so, the soldiers mock Jesus, crowning him with thorns. Jesus asks the Father to forgive them and even makes excuses, "they do not know what they do".
Among the "them" we can learn from two people in particular: one who accepted Jesus' forgiveness and one who turned away. Both had committed terrible acts of disloyalty.
First Peter: Jesus took Peter with him at intimate moments, for example, the transfiguration and the raising of Jairus' daughter. Jesus entrusted Peter with the keys of the kingdom.
Second Judas: Jesus also placed great trust in Judas. He put him in charge of the common fund. Judas broke Jesus' trust by stealing money meant for the poor.
What happens when the crunch came? Peter denies that he even knows Jesus. He denies him not once but three times. Judas, for his part, betrays Jesus with a kiss. In the ancient world a kiss signified that two men were comrades, that they shared a common purpose and affection. Judas uses the kiss to betray Jesus to Roman soldiers.
Judas and Peter both sin grievously. What's the difference between the two? It's this: Peter weeps bitterly and opens himself to forgiveness. Judas, however, turns in on himself and despairs. Bishop Patricio Flores used to say, "In the end there's only one sin - despair."
Brothers and sisters, we have begun the greatest week of the year. I encourage you to find time to walk with Jesus - especially as we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper on Thursday and the Veneration of the Cross on Friday. If you want to know why the cross is necessary for forgiveness, come to the Good Friday service. Then on Easter we will hear Peter - the same man who denied Jesus - make this proclamation: "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name." Do not miss it.
Today we hear Jesus' prayer - which includes you and me: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." None of us realizes the seriousness of our sins. With humility we thank Jesus for opening the path to forgiveness. Amen.
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From Archives (Year A homilies for Palm Sunday):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Kurt Nagel (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru