Thursday, 30 October 2014

When the Saints Go Marching Out

One of the stranger, but mostly unnoticed aspects of papal homilies, is the infrequency with which Pope Francis talks of the Saint commemorated on that particular day in the Church's calendar. It is as if the lives of the Saints are being airbrushed from the Pope's catechesis. I am sure you can find some exceptions and I'm not sure whether this is a Jesuit thing, but I would have thought that the Feast of St Simon and St Jude, glorious Apostles and Martyrs of the Church, would be good opportunities to talk of these heroic men who can help us by their powerful prayers.

On such a happy day, such as the Feast of the patron of cases despaired of, the Pope could easily encourage devotion to this Saint. Instead, his hearers received a homily about Catholic citizenship and how Christians should not be on the 'threshold' but in the Church. In general, I think I'm right in saying that in papal homilies, the Saint of the day does not really get much of a look in.  What his hearers and then the world media received from this papal homily was this: 'Poor Judas, eh? He didn't sin any more or less than any of the other Apostles. Who sinned the most out of the Apostles? Who knows?' 

More precisely the Holy Father said:

Judas was not the one who sinned the most: I don’t know who sinned the most.

On paper, of course, that sentence makes little sense. It reads as follows:

Did Judas sin the most? Definitely Not.
Did Judas sin the most? I do not know.

Which one is it, Holy Father? USA Today decided to run with the first statement and not the second as a headline. Furthermore, it's not quite fair to say that 'all of the Apostles were sinners' because that needs qualification in as much as these men became Saints. Yes all of the Apostles are Saints, most of them, like St Simon and St Jude were martyred for the love of Christ and His Church. Whatever their sins - and only St Peter's sin is recorded in his triple denial of his Lord, does that not deserve or warrant some kind of honour?

Further still, while the world remembers the notorious sin of Judas in particular and remembers not the sins of the Apostles in general, it certainly is not objectionable to recall that the sin of Judas could have been wiped away, had his remorse turned to repentance and caused him to kneel before his crucified God and Lord. The problem with a subtle rehabilitation of Judas or a kind of subtle 'equalisation' of the Apostles with the traitor is that while the Apostles cried out things like "Increase our faith!", as Benedict XVI remarked, it is quite likely Judas had no faith. Judas throws back the silver at the chief priests claiming, 'I have betrayed innocent blood'. We do not hear Judas confess, "I have betrayed my Lord and God!"

In the scattering of the Apostles, bar St John, we can say that the majority of the Apostles committed a sin of cowardice in leaving Jesus to die in the company of His Blessed Mother and those recorded in the Gospels. We can say that their sin was motivated by fear. Judas's sin was motivated by malice. The Devil, according to Christ, had entered into Judas suggesting that he was possessed by the very Devil Pope Francis warns us about today. Such is not said of the other Apostles whose behaviour seems to be born out of human weakness rather than diabolical activity and consort with the enemies of Christ.

The upshot of this homily is that one major newspaper in the US has carried the story that the Pope believes all the Apostles were sinners and that Judas was no worse than any of them, despite the immediate contradiction he makes of his statement and the fact that after the Resurrection, these virtuous, heroic men laid down their lives for Jesus Christ and suffered a glorious martyrdom in defence of His Name and His Church. I am certain that the Apostles will always have recalled their weakness in scattering away when the Shepherd was struck and knowledge of their cowardice will have kept them humble in preaching the Good News to the Jews and the Gentiles. They repented and went from strength to strength, virtue to virtue, glory to glory. Judas didn't. According to the Acts of the Apostles, in selecting a new Bishop to replace the traitor, a process underway for Arundel and Brighton...

"...they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."

The Apostles, though aware of their own sorrowful fault in leaving the Lord's side while it was pierced by a soldier's lance, obviously did not consider themselves in the same league, sharing the same fate or having the same sin as Judas, because they did not orchestrate the handing over of the Lord of Glory to His enemies and were only scattered from Jesus following the Lord's arrest, because of Judas's notorious sin.

Despite this, they all repented, St Peter in particular and went on to become triumphant Saints and, all but St John, martyrs for the Lord Jesus. Therefore, it is simply unfair and unjust to put Judas and the other Apostles in the same league. Judas left the league who were to become glorious citizens of Heaven, going to 'his own place'.

Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI discussed Judas in far clearer terms. Having completed his homily, he prayed to God to “help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people.”

Jesus knew that even among the twelve apostles there was one that did not believe: Judas. Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master. Why? Because Judas felt betrayed by Jesus, and decided that he in turn would betray Him. Judas was a Zealot, and wanted a triumphant Messiah, who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus had disappointed those expectations. The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil. This is why Jesus said to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” (John 6.70). We pray to the Virgin Mary, help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people. ~ Pope Benedict XVI, 26th August 2012


Anonymous said...

The saints and martyr's adherence to Faith and morals contradicts Pope Francis's ideology. Lord, have mercy.

Marie said...

Pope Francis the Unclear strikes again.

umblepie said...

Interesting post. Thank you.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think the ignoring of the Saints precedes Pope Francis and is part of the "Spirit of Vatican II". The absence of statues of Saints in modern churches - in one near here I understand the priest actually buried them in the Churchyard! Then in the Missal there are masses and readings for the feasts of Saints but priests choose to read the readings for the day rather than those specially chosen for the Saints. And it goes so far that when we have an important feast such as the Immaculate Conception falling on a Monday it gets completely ignored and there is no mass at all. I suppose the problem is that these Saints were obviously rather tiresome people who tried to follow the teachings of the Church. What prigs!

On the other hand the Catholic Herald usually publishes each week some homily by Benedict XVI on a particular saint which is always enlightening.

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