Tuesday of the 4th Week in Easter 2019
Today we remember the outcome of one of the great human tragedies–the treason and suicide of the apostle Judas. Now we don’t know from the magisterium what happened to Judas after he died. Did he have a moment of clarity that caused him to repent as the noose tightened around his neck. Did he grasp the mercy and forgiveness of His Savior who was probably at that very hour dying for him on the cross? Or was he forever lost? We won’t know this side of heaven. But we do know that the remaining Eleven acted to replace him, and we know what the criteria were.
The twelfth apostle had to be one who followed Jesus from the days of John the Baptist all the way to the day when most of Christ’s disciples abandoned Him because of the doctrine of the Eucharist. He was with Peter and the others when Peter asked Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He stayed with Jesus all during Holy Week, but scattered with the rest when the Lord was arrested. And he saw Christ and broke bread with Him after the Resurrection, and learned from Him up until he witnessed the Ascension. But most of all, he was willing to spend the rest of his life testifying to the Resurrection and spreading the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. All the way to death–all the way to the ultimate witness of martyrdom.
We live in a culture not far from the one Matthias faced when he took on the mantle of apostleship. Oh, our medicine and technology and science are far ahead of the first century, but we live in a world that is just as hostile as the world of Matthias. When I came of age in the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century, we were surrounded by Christians, and in my case most were Catholics. Few businesses opened on Sundays; most people went to church or stayed home with family. Public school students prayed and the handful of atheists flew below the radar. Those with sexually deviant habits avoided the light of publicity. Abortionists were considered the lowest of the low. In other words, the culture itself enforced the moral law for the most part.
That has not been true for about a quarter of a century. Abortion, sexual license, profane and obscene speech are commonplace, and are celebrated in the media. Moreover, we who uphold God’s natural law are vilified regularly in the entertainment world and politics. I think many people were awakened to this reality recently when a Pennsylvania legislator spent significant time harassing young people and elderly ones who were praying outside an abortion factory. The chutzpah of atheists has been on public display in many ways for a generation. And the so-called LGBTQRS and WV “community” is, little by little, trying to force everyone else to admit that they are the “new normal,” and that anyone who resists sexual immorality is a racist and bigot. Those who a generation ago said, well, let’s live and let live are now on notice. The moral Left will not leave us alone until we declare in public that good is evil and evil is good.
What does Jesus tell us in response? The same thing we have heard all our lives: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” Now Christ told us this just a few hours before He went out into the garden and began His own day of decision, a day that ended with His death and entombment. Jesus told us that we, like Him, will have to lay down our lives for the salvation of others, even those who would make us deny Christ and embrace a life of evil. We must, to follow Christ, be willing to do more than love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We must love our neighbor as Christ loved us. That means we have to witness to the Truth of the Gospel, the Truth that is Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
What does that accomplish? We’ve seen it throughout history, whenever the Church has been challenged by the culture and has stood up for the Gospel. Christians come together, draw close to each other under the threat, despite or even because of the persecution. That was Christ’s mission: to draw together the scattered tribes of Israel, and of the Gentiles. That’s why there had to be twelve apostles, one for each of the tribes of Jacob.
I’ll tell you another reason I have hope in this developing cultural and religious disaster: Satan, who is always the adversary of humanity, particularly of the God-man and His mission, is ruler of a kingdom of chaos. His minions, whether demonic or human, really hate us and ultimately hate each other. So they chafe under any obedience, even if it has the objective of legitimizing their deviancy. Whenever a culture has embraced evil, as in the French Revolution, it has ended in disaster, in a scattering. Whenever a culture has embraced the loving obedience of Christ, it has drawn its citizens closer together, because they all came close to the loving Servant of God, the very Son of God, and shared His precious Body and Blood. Yes, the Evil One is pulling out all the stops on his pipeorgan of perversity, because he knows his days are numbered. He knows that the victory has already been won by Christ Jesus and the Church. But as he falls into hell, he wants to grab as many souls for his hellish table as he can.
Our mission, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and through a constant witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ, is to share the love of God with as many as we can, so that we will all be together in eternity at the awesome banquet of the Lamb of God. And so we pray with all the Church today, St. Matthias, Apostle and Martyr, pray for us.