Dinner started off well enough, that is, until Jesus announced that one of the Apostles was about to betray Him. It set off a flurry of questions. “Could it be me Lord?” And we all know who left dinner early, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and who hanged himself in despair. It didn’t get any better when Jesus told Peter that before the night was through, he would Deny Him three times. It went from bad to worse when the Apostles, overcome with grief, fell asleep on Jesus repeatedly, and that, it turns out, was only the beginning.
There is much in tonight’s narrative that bears on the state of the Church in America today, much worth pondering. That Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and used one of the most intimate expressions of love and affection as the signal for identifying him in the dimness of night is chilling. Credit Peter for brandishing a sword and slicing off the ear of one in Judas’ entourage. It was the Apostolic high water mark for the night. It would all unravel for the Apostles from that point on.Having been rebuked on the use of force, Peter would go on to deny Jesus three times, and all but John would head for the tall grass.
Only John followed his Master to the foot of the cross.
Meditating on these past events this week, and watching the drama of religious liberties play out on the national stage this week, it has become evident that Church today resembles the Church at 5 AM on Good Friday. It is a church at low ebb, with the successors of the Apostles as mute and bewildered as the men they succeed were when the gates of Hell were unleashed on the world, when all of the goodness that had gone on for the past three years seemed to be swallowed up in a demonic cataclysm.
With religious freedom under threat from Big Gay, the Governors of Indiana and Arkansas sought to pass state laws that guarantee the same religious liberties as the federal law sponsored by Teddy Kennedy and Chuck Schumer, and signed into law by Bill Clinton. The demons in and through the media howled with rage and threatened boycotts of these states, which led the champions of religious freedom to…
wait for it…
…declare principled religious and moral objections to being forced into participating in gay/lesbian weddings a form of discrimination.
Allow that to sink in for a moment. The staunchest defenders of religious liberty not only went into retreat, but did Big Gay’s bidding for them by calling for laws that declare Judaeo-Christian moral norms a form of unjust discrimination.
Peter slicing off the ears of his fellow Apostles.
And the silence from our bishops has been deafening, especially when contrasted with a Cardinal leading a St. Patrick’s Day parade with a gay contingent who were out and proud, leading them smiling and waving right past the front doors of his Cathedral. It is the same silence that did not see the bishops unify against gay marriage in the several states, or speak out against the Boy Scouts of America leadership ignore the 67% of leaders polled nationally who opposed permitting openly gay scouts, and on, and on.
We see one brave bishop in San Francisco holding the line on Catholic teacher contracts and behavior. Archbishop Cordileone as John at the foot of the cross.
Meanwhile, the plight of so many Catholic business owners is that of Peter at the fire on Holy Thursday night, being sniffed out as “One of his followers,” taunted into denying Him. Credit those businesses who have not denied him and been handed their own crosses as a consequence.
Weep for the bishops who have locked themselves away in fear of the crowd, who have abandoned their sheep at the darkest hour.
Perhaps it’s time for the faithful to rally to these business owners’ sides, to counter boycotts with support, to become the new Pauline community, of whom it was said, “See those Christians, how they love one another.”