Summary: But the fruits of vice are vicious. Sin appeals to our basest passions.
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2018
Let’s take an imaginary journey in space and time. Let’s go back to the first day after the execution of Jesus of Nazareth. This was the first Holy Saturday, but it felt anything but holy to the disciples of the murdered Messiah. They were–with the probable exception of the Blessed Virgin–totally distraught. Crucified like a captured slave or anti-Roman rebel. His heart opened by a soldier’s lance, his hands and feet pierced like the poor guy portrayed in the psalm. Gone. We might think that–as the Holy Saturday morning antiphon goes–the whole world was in mourning.
But we would be wrong about that. The whole world was not desolate. There were a lot of folks celebrating. The Pharisees were sick of being called hypocrites for being very careful about the Mosaic Law. They went above and beyond what was required; they even kept the rules that applied to the priests. The priests were happy because they looked forward to increased offerings now that this Galilean revolutionary was gone for good. Pontius Pilate was rid of a troublemaker; the situation had even restored him to Herod’s good graces. The world of vice, hypocrisy and oppression was having a big party, right on top of the Passover celebration.
But the fruits of vice are vicious. Sin appeals to our basest passions. When someone who has harmed us gets indicted or hurt in an accident, there’s a passion stemming from original sin that says “finally!” When we reap more than we sow because we have cut corners, we are tempted to think “that brings me closer to even with the people who have always swindled me.” The same applies to all the rest of the seven deadly sins: they feel good for a short time, but we know we have done wrong, and we know bad consequences are likely to come.
Thus, in not too many years, Pilate lost his position of power and suffered disgrace. Some sources even write that Emperor Caligula ordered him to take his own life. In the Jewish revolt, Roman legions surrounded and destroyed Jerusalem. With the Temple destroyed, the priests lost their livelihood. Perhaps hundreds of them lost their lives. The Pharisees fared better, but Jewish life had changed for the next two millennia.
The followers of Jesus had a Sunday after that Saturday that reversed everything. Mary Magdalene and some of the women disciples discovered the stone rolled back and the guards scattered. Peter and John verified that the tomb was empty, and found the burial clothes with a strange image burnt onto it. Shortly thereafter Mary Magdalene had a vision of Jesus, alive and almost unrecognizable. Then the apostles, minus Thomas, whose feast we celebrated last week, saw Jesus in the upper room and received His peace and a ministry of reconciliation. After forty days He ascended into heaven after promising a Spirit that would bind them together. And ten days later, His promise was sealed in fire and tongues. The Church was founded, and her members continued the miracles and signs of Our Lord for generations to come. One Lord, one faith, one Church.