Saturday, April 9, 2022

HOMILY – Palm-Passion Sunday – Betrayal


          Our theme this Lenten season has been: Choosing the road that leads up to Calvary. The only real high road. 

Sometimes when we take the high road, we encounter those who will betray us.

These are people intentionally want to hurt us by stabbing us in the back, or go behind our backs to try to destroy our reputation, or become conduits for people critical of us and our motives.

Jesus had a famous experience with his betrayer Judas Iscariot. History was not kind to Judas.

          But just listen to Jesus’ words from the cross and we can get a better idea of how Jesus may have felt about Judas. 

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

These words are the first of the so-called Seven Last Words of Jesus said from the cross and they carry much significance.

When we truly follow Jesus, we come to understand that for forgiveness to happen something in us has to die.

Our pride has to die. Our self-righteousness has to die. Our anger with others has to die. Our pain has to die. 

What’s that old saying? “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

          Jesus calls us to radical forgiveness. It doesn’t mean we forget what was done to us. Only that we forgive.

When we forgive, it frees us from the prison of our resentment.

Forgiveness is a gift we give to others and to ourselves. It allows us let go of the anger or resentment we’re holding in your heart and move on. 

Just having the desire to forgive is a good start. You may think, “Well, I can’t do it. I can’t forgive that person.” You may be right. You may not be able do it. But God can.

         True radical forgiveness is a gift from God. It is a grace.

This is how we take the high road to Calvary.

Need examples of this? Pay close attention to what Jesus is doing in today’s Gospel Passion.

Even when Jesus is captured by palace guards, he takes time to show love to one of them who had his ear lopped off by a disciple, stopping to heal it before being taken into custody.

Who does that when faced with such hostility? Jesus does.

Jesus gives us clear examples of how we are to deal with people who wish to do us harm: by showing them love.  

To do this, we need to sacrifice our indignation just like Jesus did to find the new life offered to us by Jesus.

 Jesus prays for forgiveness of his persecutors and betrayers just as he taught his disciples to pray for their enemies and to do good to those who hurt them in his Sermon on the Plain.

He’s showing us what love of one’s enemy looks like in practice as he absolves his very executioners and others from the cross.

Luke wants us to see that Jesus’ passion is a manifestation of Christ’s greatest mercy and love for the whole world. 

Finally, let us not forget our old adversary, the devil, who is always lurking in the shadows of our hearts.

As former Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wrote in his book Come Follow Me:

“Satan waits for opportune times to tempt us…  We should not be surprised by that reality because we see it happening to Jesus on the cross at Calvary.”

We all know the old saying: “The devil made me do it.”

           Perhaps this is the very reason for Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” from the cross. Because Jesus understands the devil is real and can lead us down dark paths of false testimony, self-righteous incrimination of others, gossip, and criticism, leading us to betray others.

But when we take the high road that leads to Calvary, we find the antidote for thwarting the devil: By becoming imitations of Christ in the world and channels of his peace.

          Yes, this can be a sacrifice. But just like Jesus’ example from the cross, it can be a sacrifice of love extended to others.

Yes, even to our enemies. Yes, even our betrayers. 

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