30 pieces of silver

I don’t do this often, but on this Good Friday I’ve decided to repost something I wrote back in 2011.  One thing has changed in three years.  Today the price of silver is about $20.00 an ounce.  That makes to price Judas was paid, in 2014 dollars about $600.00, a pathetically small amount for the life of the son of God. [mb]

30 pieces of silver; that’s what they thought Jesus was worth.  It’s the price that the Jewish leaders paid Judas to betray our Savior.  Silver is worth about $45.00 an ounce as of today, so if the pieces used to buy Jesus were about an ounce each, then Judas got a whopping $1,350.00 for turning Jesus in.  Seems like a bargain to me, especially when Judas gave the silver back when he realized what he’d done.

That raises a question.  I wonder what Judas thought they were going to do to Jesus?  Surely he didn’t think they were going to throw him a party?  Or maybe ask Him to join their little club?  Jesus had been telling the twelve that bad things were coming, did Judas not listen?  I guess we’ll never know.

But, back to the 30 pieces of silver.  It seems like small change to betray the son of God.  But, at what price do we betray Jesus today?  Will we give Him up in exchange for a night of drinking and hitting on the neighbors’ wives?  Will we give Him up for a couple of hours looking at a porn movie?  Maybe we give Him up for a few office supplies?  Or, maybe we give Him up for the pleasure of talking about our friends behind their backs?  Maybe Judas’ $1,350.00 wasn’t such a cheap price after all.

I know people who give Jesus up so they can sleep in on Sunday morning.  I also know people who give up Jesus so they can play golf on Sunday.  Maybe a good parking spot for the Cardinal’s game is enough to tempt some people to pass by church on their way downtown.

Today is Holy Thursday, the day we remember the Lord’s Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal.  Many of us will go to mass (some of us will go three times, but that’s another story) but most of us won’t.  It’s Thursday night.  Some folks are willing to trade an hour with Jesus for an hour of CSI.  That’s too bad.

Living in a very secular world, where devout Christians are looked on with scorn by many of our brothers and sisters, we need to be reminded once in a while of what Jesus did for us.  The holy trifecta of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday is just the place for us.  An annual reminder of what actually happened twenty centuries ago doesn’t hurt.  In fact it’s good for us.  Yes, I know these liturgies can get a little long some times.  So what!  Three or four hours, once a year is a small price to pay.  Trust me.  You’ll get more than thirty pieces of silver worth of peace and blessings in return.

 

Good Friday

Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence in preparation for Jesus’ glorious resurrection. We’re all encouraged to attend services today, but it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation. You don’t have to come to church today. You can’t eat meat and you can’t eat between meals, but you don’t have to come to church. I think that’s a little bit odd. On the day that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to save you and me from our sins, I think we should be here. Obviously, so do you.

On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a day when we’re obliged to come to church, says something about those of us who do come, and those who don’t. One of my wife’s pet peeves is people who don’t send thank you notes. It seems like that simple, common courtesy has fallen by the way side. It’s just good manners to thank someone who’s done something for you. If it’s bad form not to thank someone who has given you a toaster, how much worse is it to not thank someone who’s died for your sins.

Our church will be full tomorrow night for the Easter Vigil. Doesn’t it make sense that it should be full today too? Even in this politically correct, what’s in it for me, don’t mix religion and politics, world, a lot of people get today off. Good luck trying to find a politician in Washington DC today. They’ve all gone home for the Easter break. You’d think that more people, not having to work or go to school today, might take an hour to drop by and say, “Hey, Jesus! Thank you for suffering terrible torture, being beaten and ridiculed, and for dying the painful death on the cross for me.”

If you were here yesterday you heard Father Paul talk about what was in the roads in Jesus time. Washing feet was generally done by servants because people’s feet were pretty nasty. The road was full of animal waste among other things. Remember that Jesus fell three times on the road to Calvary. That alone is more than enough reason for us to thank Him.

But, no. I could have told you ahead of time who would be in church today. I can also tell you a lot of people who aren’t. But you and I are here. We love Jesus and we’re thankful that a loving God would send His only begotten Son to die so that we might live.

Today is a solemn celebration. We mourn Jesus’ death. We see Him lying in the tomb and we realize that if it wasn’t for our sins, He wouldn’t be there. We’re sad and we’re sorry for what we’ve done. We also have the advantage of history telling us what’s about to happen. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty because He’s risen from the dead. Where today’s service is solemn, tomorrow’s will be joyful. There will be candles and bells and incense and we’ll rejoice that He’s overcome death. We will celebrate His resurrection because it’s the precursor to our own resurrection!

In a few minutes we’ll quietly leave church anxious to return tomorrow or Sunday for the great celebration.

Thank you Jesus for saving us from ourselves.

Good Friday

As a kid growing up, I could never get Good Friday.  Granted, it was a day off school so from that standpoint it was definitely a good day.  In fact, in those days even the public school kids got a four-day weekend being off for Good Friday and “Good Monday.”  But it just didn’t make sense to me that the day of Jesus’ crucifixion was “good”.  I thought it should have been called “Bad Friday”.

But as I got older, especially when I joined the Catholic Church I began to realize that Jesus had to die.  His death on that fateful Friday afternoon was for me.  He died so that my sins could be forgiven.  Even so, if that had been the end of it, if He had just died, then I would still feel like it was a bad trade.  The death of the Son of God in exchange for my sins wouldn’t have been a very good trade.

Ironically, by dying Jesus defeated death.  Not because He died, but because He rose on the third day.  His glorious resurrection meant that it was ok for me to die because, with His grace and forgiveness, I can rise too.  I no longer have to fear death because the end of this life isn’t the end.  It’s actually the beginning.

Jesus died for my sins and for your sins.  Keep that in mind today as you fast and abstain from meat, a small price to pay for such a great gift.  Lent has ended.  We don’t celebrate mass today but we do gather to remember.  We receive the Blessed Body of Christ and we kiss the cross, recognizing that this ancient means of execution is now the means of our salvation.

Have a blessed day in preparation for the great celebration of His rising from the dead on Sunday.

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #35 Fish Fries

Leave it to us Catholics to turn a penance into (1) a fund-raiser and (2) a competition.

When the Church said we couldn’t eat meat on Friday the parish fish fry was born.  When it was decided that we only had to abstain on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the Fridays of Lent, we turned it into an art form.  For a lot of parishes, the annual fish fry season (aka Lent) became a major fund raiser.  After all, why shouldn’t we invite our neighbors, Catholic and nonCatholic alike, to join us in our annual penance and make a few bucks at the same time.  Running a Catholic church, especially one with a school ain’t cheap.  We need all the help we can get.

Since Lent is only six weeks long, the competition between parishes to lay claim to the title of “best” is fierce in some areas.  Some claim to have the best fish.  Some claim to have the best side dishes.  Some claim to have the best home-made deserts.  Then there’s the ambiance.  There’s live music. There are themed fish fries.  At least one local parish has a “Mexican Fish Fry.”  (It’s very good, by the way.)

A lot of people, my wife and I among them, spend the Fridays in Lent traveling to a different parish every week.  We have some favorites that we never miss but we also like to try at least a couple of new ones each year.  Local media run competitions, scoring free fish in the process.  Besides being a good way to raise funds (even though a good fish fry is a tremendous amount of work) it’s also very ecumenical.  Some folks who normally wouldn’t be caught within a hundred yards of a Catholic church have no problem enjoying a great plate of fried fish, french fries and cole slaw.  Who knows when one of them might decide to convert.  Hey, it could happen.

By the way, there’s nothing that says fish fries have to be Catholic.  VFW posts, Lion’s Clubs, Moose Lodges, and others can, and do, have great fish, some of them every Friday of the year.  But when it comes to the total package, there’s nothing quite like a good ol’ Catholic fish fry.

I won’t say where (mostly because I haven’t cleared it with my lovely wife yet), but we will be chowing down on some Catholic fish somewhere before this day is over.

Don’t forget, Peter, the first Pope, and several of the other Apostles were fisherman.

Catholic fish fries are definitely cool.

By the way, fish fries aren’t the only Catholic fund-raiser.  We’re also known for Bingo, trivia nights, mouse races, silent auctions, and a lot of other stuff.  None of these things are exclusively Catholic, but we do them and we do them well.  I think if you did a word-association test with random people on a street corner and you said the word Catholic, you’d get an awful lot of “fish fry” and “Bingo” responses.

Like I said earlier, most parishes, especially ones with schools, rely on fund raisers to survive.  Besides, it’s a lot of fun to get together with your fellow parishioners to put on a successful event.

The Exultation of the Holy Cross

Yesterday we remembered a saint from the 4th Century, Saint John Chrystostom.  Today  we remember a celebration that began around that same time, the Exultation of the Holy Cross.  Saint Helen, Constantine’s mother, discovered what is believed to be the actual cross used for the Crucification of Christ on September 14, 326.  That’s why we have this celebration on this date.

Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site where mom found the cross in Jerusalem.  Helen had her son build two other churches, one in Bethlehem and another one in Jerusalem.

The Persians, who would today be the Iranians, actually stole the cross in the seventh century.  Problems with that particular country are nothing new.  When the Byzantine emperor defeated the Persians, he returned the cross to Jerasulem.

Of course, the Holy Cross symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection, the means of our salvation.  All Christians employ the symbol of the cross.  Our Church uses the Crucifix, the figure of Jesus on the cross as a reminder of His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection.  Our protestant brothers and sisters generally display the empty cross.

We see the crucifix so often, in our church, in our homes, and maybe hanging around our necks or off the rearview mirror of our car, that we may take it for granted.  We make the sign of the cross when we enter church and when we pray.  We make the “small sign of the cross” with our thumb before the reading of the Gospel.  We also use the small sign at baptism with the parents and godparents tracing the cross on the child’s forehead.

Ask most non-Catholics how we pray and they’re most likely to say we pray the Rosary.  The main feature of the Rosary itself is the Crucifix.  We begin the prayer by making the sign of the cross with that Crucifix as we begin.

We have the stations of the cross, especially during Lent, and on Good Friday we venerate the cross as we mark the day of Jesus’ crucification.  It’s good that the cross was the instrument of execution in Jesus’ time.  If he had lived in more recent times, we might all be wearing little gallows around our necks, or maybe little electric chairs.

Seriously, we display the crucifix here in church for one reason.  It’s a reminder of what the Lord suffered so that you and I might be saved.  I can remember, not so long ago, when no one spoke out loud once they entered the church out of respect for the cross, and for Christ’s presence in the tabernacle  I’m not sure when this practice went away, but it would be good for all of us to remember that before and after mass, some of our brothers and sisters might be venerating the cross and to respect their desire for quiet.

I think that this week, as our diocesan priests gather for their convocation, that the cross will be prominently displayed in their gathering places.  Next week I’ll be on retreat and I can assure you that the cross will rarely be out of our sight, or out of our minds.

As we continue with our prayers this morning, I’d like to offer you the most traditional of Catholic blessings.  May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.