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Pastor's Letter 20200402 - 02 April 2020 - Death and Life

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Passion (Palm) Sunday

April 2nd, 2020

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “Death and Life”


  The Tracks We Leave Behind

 I fondly recall many a clear, Midwestern winter’s day, during my youth, and the sight of fields covered with soft clean snow.  On a normal day, one could cross and re-cross these fields and see nothing of the doings of birds and animals. Everything would be covered.  Occasionally, though, everything would be written in the snow—innocence, fun, resourcefulness, pain, cunning and even death.  Here and there were tracks of birds and animals, and on looking closely, it was possible to identify some of them—and even tell what they were doing: little creatures having scratched to find something to eat, perhaps sparrows searching for a worm or insect, or rabbits rooting about for a blade of grass.  There also might have been a spatter of blood, here or there, indicating some fox or bird of pray had made a kill.  

 We know of such occurrences in the “human world.”  Something happens in the community or the workplace forcing people to take a stand.  Suddenly their “cover is blown” and they appear in their “true colors.”  Some come out well, but others are shown in a very poor light.

 As we have seen, Jesus’ trial and execution was one such event, which revealed the true hearts and minds of people.  All who were abroad on that day were judged—but not by Christ. They judged themselves—by the “tracks” they left behind. 

At the end of WWII, an international military tribunal was set up at Nuremberg to try the leading members of the Nazi regime, who were charged with crimes against humanity.  These men had made the whole world shiver with fright, yet they weren’t “devils incarnate,” as some might have believed.  They were simply human beings who made evil choices.  One observer, when asked what they looked like reportedly said: “They seemed so ordinary—like men who had sat up all night in a third class railway carriage.” The people who put Christ to death were not uniquely evil people either, acting from the vilest of motives.  They were ordinary people of their time, belonging to the same human family as we do.  In each one of them, however, we may glimpse something of ourselves, with our failings, and need for grace.  This may be a troubling “kinship,” but one we cannot reject. The trial and execution of Christ was one of those worldly events, which revealed the minds, and hearts of the people:

   Consider the Pharisees:  These were good, austere, religious men, who devoted all their energy to “doing good," and studying God’s law.  Convinced of their own righteousness, history shows that such people are capable of the most appalling evil.  (One can readily think of the “unconverted” Saul—a noteworthy persecutor of Christians who became Paul, the great messianic missionary; and other “justified” people in history—those who participated in the atrocities of the Crusades; the perpetrators of The Inquisition; people who have historically tortured political prisoners; or those who, even today, apply guerrilla tactics, etc.)

  The High Priest, Caiaphas was a man who thought mainly about religious orthodoxy, and how easily people get led astray by false messiahs.  The church of his day routinely condemned heretics to burn at the stake, thinking it was doing service to God.

   Governor Pilate was thinking about his high office, and the preservation of law and order at a time of great civil unrest.  He knew in his heart that Christ was such a transparently innocent person when He was put on trial. He feared trouble would ensue if he did not give the religious leaders what they wanted.  No doubt, like many people, he was thinking about his own job—he knew the “right thing” to do, but didn’t have the courage to do it.

   Even today, Jesus' apostle, Judas serves as the model of a most disillusioned man. But we are told he came to know and regret his evil actions, unable to live with the guilt of killing an innocent man.  However, many in our modern world have no such compunction: i.e. abortionists, terrorists, and death squads.…  There are instances in which some of us betray our ideals, and even our friends.

   In Peter, we see a weak man who was simply acting cowardly.  But how many of us could have most likely denied our affiliation with Christ, given similar circumstances?  At least, Peter shed tears over his denials, (and went on to become the most stalwart of Jesus’ disciples.)  We must ask ourselves how often, if ever, do we act similarly when confronted with out own “feet of clay.” 

    The soldiers were simply men carrying out their orders.  (Nazi leaders proffered the same excuse at Nuremberg—they tried to convince their accusers of their good character; that their only crime was loyalty.)  Motion picture plots of the 1950s, such as “The Robe,” “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” (and several others since then,) have suggested some recalcitrant soldiers became Jesus’ disciples.  (Considering the spreading charism of “The Way” after the Resurrection, such tales are all together plausible.)

   The crowd was highly emotional, and as we know from modern “mob scenes,” quite understandably carried away.  It’s not difficult to believe many of them were good people, at heart, and simply not aware of what was happening.  Many times we also exhibit “crowd mentality” and give the truth short shrift in favor of the attitude that “everybody is doing it!” 

 Even a child could tell who was “for” and who was “against” Christ.  When we look back at those tracks from the vantage point of our modern life can easily focus on the hatred and fanaticism of Caiphas and the religious leaders who plotted Jesus’ death; the cold, calculating evil of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him; the weakness of Peter, who disowned Him; the cowardice of Pilate who knew He was innocent, yet signed His death warrant; the unthinking hostility of the mob that shouted: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!;” and we see the dutiful obedience of the soldiers who carried out the execution. 

 But we also see some lovely things: the compassion of Veronica who wiped His face; the courage of Simon of Cyrene as he helped carry His cross; and the sympathy of the women of Jerusalem who wept for Him. We also see the steadfast loyalty of the little group of His friends who stayed with Him to the end—His mother, Mary Magdalene and His disciple, John. 

 All of us leave our tracks behind.  Holy week gives us an opportunity to “put down our bags” and look back at the tracks we are leaving behind us.  Are they the tracks of a coward, or a hypocrite, or someone who lives only for themselves?  Or are they the tracks of a courageous, generous person, who is not ashamed to call themselves disciples of Jesus?

We will see whether or not we are on the side of Christ insofar as we are on the side of our brothers and sisters, or whether we are against Him because we are against our brothers and sisters.  

It would have been quite easy to lose sight of the central character in this sordid story, namely, Jesus, Himself.  It might be said that the snow of His innocence fell from heaven and covered the earth.  From the depths of His pain He reached out to others—the weeping women along the Way of the Cross; the repentant thief; and His mother, whose care He entrusted to John. His entire message was to show us the only way to overcome evil is by “doing good.”  He loved us to the point of dying for us….  We know some people like that:  they are like “sugar cane”—even when crushed in the “mill of life,” completely squashed and reduced to pulp, all they yield is sweetness.

 It should be a great comfort to us to know that Christ, the innocent and sinless One, has gone down the rod of suffering before us, and gone down it to the end.  On the cross He gathered up all human pain and made it His own.  The extent of our virtue is determined, not by what we do in extraordinary circumstances, but by our normal behavior. Modest, everyday incidents, rather than extraordinary ones, most reveal and shape our characters.

May God Richly Bless You!


“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (Galatians 6:14)

And This Is Love.docx

And This Is Love.mp3

View  recording of Today’s Holy Mass here:


Edited by Father Michael
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