Yesterday morning, I was at the Cathedral Basilica for the annual Chrism mass. It’s the mass where the Archbishop blesses the holy oils for the coming year and it’s the mass where the priests renew their priestly vows. As you can imagine, there are a lot of priests and deacons at the Chrism mass.
Seating at the Cathedral is priests in front, deacons in the back, which is as it should be. The only problem with the setup is that during the Consecration of the Eucharist, the priests stand while the deacons kneel. All the deacons can see is the backs of chasubles and a lot of bald heads.
As I knelt there yesterday morning, I wondered, as I often do, just what I was doing there. I know a lot of priests and deacons and most of them are good, holy men. The deacon who was sitting next to me is one of the holiest people I know. Then there was me, a sinner of the first order. Why would God choose me to be in this group?
But, you know what? I do belong in that group and here’s why. I don’t and can’t know what’s in someone else’s heart. I believe most of the men sitting around me at the Cathedral yesterday are more holy than I am, but I can’t know for sure. We’ve learned in the past few years that a lot of men we all believed were saints are actually pretty serious sinners. We don’t know. Only God knows.
Could it be that they have the same doubts and fears that I do?
Scripture tells us not to judge others. Is judging someone else to be good just as dangerous as judging them to be bad? Maybe so.
Think about what failures the Apostles were? Judas sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver. Peter denied he knew Him three times. The other ten ran off and left Him when He needed them the most. The only ones who stood by Him were the women. You don’t have to be perfect to serve Jesus.
If Jesus only called perfect men to be clergy, think how frustrating that would be for everyone else. They’d think they didn’t have a prayer (prayer, get it? Jesus does have a sense of humor.) Plus, there wouldn’t be very many priests and deacons. Maybe none.
I think Jesus wants His clergy to let people see that they’re sinners, just like they are. Judas didn’t have to turn Jesus over to the Jews, but somebody had to fulfill the words of the prophets. Jesus knew He’d do it, even before he chose him to be an apostle.
Peter didn’t have to deny him three times, but He did, just as He knew he would. He even told him he would do it. He knew the others would run away. But he chose them anyway, just like He chose you and me, sinners that we are.
So, today we mark the day when He died a painful death on the cross for you and for me. If we were sinless He wouldn’t have had to do that. But we aren’t and He did. In effect He told us that He’d like us to live a sinless life, but He knew that we couldn’t. So, He let Himself be crucified so that we might be forgiven.
As painful as that was for Him, He knew it would be even more painful to sit back and watch us destroy ourselves.
Without Good Friday, that’s exactly what we’d do.