Monday, June 5, 2006

The Heart of Forgiveness

By Mitchell

I have a feeling we're headed for more controversial posts, so in the meantime here's a nice thought to consider from Friday's Mass - an interesting homily by Fr. DeBruycker (yes, the Fr. DeBruycker who's pastor at SJA; he also celebrates the Friday morning Mass at St. Olaf), who debunks the Gospel of Judas, even as he presents Peter to us as the model for Christian forgiveness. (As an aside, Fr. DeBruycker even used the Roman Canon on Friday. On a weekday Mass! Better not let this get back to the board at SJA!)

But let's get back to the homily, and the question of Judas. One wonders what he actually picked up as a disciple of Christ. One of the arguments of the Gospel of Judas is that Judas was actually the only one of the disciples who “got it,” who understood that Christ had to die for the redemption of sins. He’s not Jesus’ betrayer; he’s the one who helps Christ fulfill His mission. As Fr. DeBrucyker says, the Church doesn’t accept that. It’s not even a new idea – as he points out, not only are the Gnostic gospels old hat, but this is basically the idea of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

There’s ample evidence that most of the disciples, Peter included, don’t get it. They constantly misunderstand His words, or fail to read the deeper meaning. They turn a blind eye to the real message Jesus is giving them, or simply equate His words with more mundane earthly meaning. Judas, according to this “Gospel,” is different – he’s the one who gets it.

And yet he doesn’t get the idea of forgiveness, of the healing power of Christ’s mercy and compassion. He suffers remorse, as does Peter, but his reaction is entirely different. Whereas Peter follows his remorse with a return to Christ (and how frightening that must have been for Peter, the man handpicked by Jesus, to face the One Whom he had denied – not once, but three times) and an acceptance of His forgiveness, Judas follows his remorse with total despair, and hangs himself.

Judas could have been remembered as one of the greatest disciples – as one who betrayed Jesus to death, and yet repented fully and came back to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. But he didn’t, and today we remember him for quite different reasons. Ultimately, he didn’t get it after all.

Peter did. He understood, as Benedict XVI says, that God is Love, and in that love is understanding and forgiveness for the repentant sinner. Peter got it, and it prepared him for the message that Jesus gives him three times in Friday's Gospel: Feed my sheep, lead my lambs, feed my sheep. His distress is not that Jesus asks him this three times; it is that through his own acts he has given Jesus reason to ask three times; and it helps form Peter’s determination to carry out Christ’s mission, to impart His love and forgiveness to others. Peter got it, and for that reason the Church holds him up as its greatest saint.

On the first Friday, contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries and meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it was a comforting message to keep in mind.

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