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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Our Sins Assault Christ

Many of my reflections touch upon the liturgical year. We can learn a great deal in our ritual, worship and the Church readings. Lent is probably my favorite time for pondering the things of faith. We have so many worthwhile opportunities. Take for instance the reading of the Passion and the ceremonials of Palm Sunday. They are so powerful that many if not most priests do not offer homilies on Palm Sunday. However, in a few words or in bulletins, much can be added to help people in their Lenten reflection. Our Lord is acclaimed with palm branches and cries of Hosannas. Nevertheless, many of the same voices that praise him will eventually cry, “Crucify him!” The drama is glorious and frightful. While we are given the ultimate example of that love of which there is none greater; we are also given a terribly real picture of human fickleness and treachery. What makes matters more intense is that we see ourselves in the Christ-story. Jesus reveals the self-sacrificing love of God. However, our own sinfulness and faithlessness is put up against the mirror. When done in a dialogue style, the reading itself puts Christ’s rejection as a criminal upon our own lips. Sometimes people object to this or remain silent. But, there is no running away from it. The Apostles tried running away, but our Lord would catch them hiding in the Upper Room after his resurrection. There is no fleeing the truth. There is nowhere to which we can run. Every sin we have ever committed, both large and small, was a denial of Christ and a hammer blow to his crucifixion. We are guilty, not just the Jews or the Romans or the few living in Palestine two thousand years ago. All of us have blood on our hands. The Church deliberately intensifies the readings and rituals to bring this home to us. Unless we come to a genuine realization of our sinfulness, then true repentance would be impossible.

The mystery of Christ’s passion and death is that he did not deserve to die. Jesus was the innocent one. As the Son of God, he was the very one slighted by the primordial sin of our first parents and by all subsequent ratification of their rebellion in our own transgressions. Finite creatures utterly dependent upon the Almighty had violated the infinite dignity of God. Instead of damning us eternally, we were promised a Redeemer. God called to himself a particular Semitic people and promised them a Messiah. They looked for the restoration of their nation. Christ would come to establish an entirely new kingdom. God himself would pay the debt we owed and could not pay. He would redeem us with his own life. Jesus had every right to curse us from the cross, instead, he would say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The absolution of Christ from the Cross, actualized in faith and the sacraments is a great consolation to us. But, there is a qualification about which we must be alerted. Are our sins not of an entirely different caliber since we are believers? Do we not know what we are doing? Lips that have offered responses at Mass and recited the Lord’s Prayer, have also cursed, gossiped, and told dirty jokes and stories. Eyes that have looked upon the elevated host, literally our Lord raised high on the cross, have also been windows to shameful entertainment and temptations designed to arouse lust and covetous desires. Hands that grasp others in the sign of peace and receive our Lord have also engaged others in derogatory gestures, fighting, and unlawful pleasures. Minds that were gifted with intelligence that we might know God have neglected him for profane and idle learning. Hearts that were made for God alone have displaced him for a love of the things in our passing world. Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week attempts to strip away our hypocrisy and self-deceit. It is imperative that we center ourselves on that which most matters, our relationship with the God who has redeemed us in Jesus Christ. Not just for a day or season, but all year long, we should be mindful of our high calling and the price of our sins.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.