Sátira del suicidio romántico - Leonardo Alenza
The Pope of surprises.
I was wondering what the Pope would have to say about Today's Gospel - I wasn't disappointed.
Speaking of the lost sheep Francis explained that it did not get lost because it didn’t have a compass but because it "had a sick heart" and was running away “to be distant from the Lord and was satiating an inner darkness”.
And pointing out that the Lord knows these things and never neglects to go out and look for the lost sheep, the Pope said the Lord’s attitude towards Judas is so symbolic:
“Judas is the most perfect lost sheep in the Gospel: a man with a bitter heart, someone who always had something to criticize in others, he was always ‘detached’. He did not know the sweetness that comes of living without second ends with others. He was an unsatisfied man!” he said.
The Pope said that because of the darkness in his heart Judas was separated from the herd. He said – more in general - that darkness can lead to living a double life: “a double life that, perhaps painfully, many Christians, even priests and bishops lead...”
Pointing out that Judas himself was one of the first bishops, the Pope recalled a beautiful sermon given by Father Mazzolari in which he described Judas as a lost sheep: “Brother Judas, he said, what was happening in your heart?” Francis said we need to understand lost sheep: each and every one of us has something in us of the lost sheep. - Vatican RadioAccording to the narrative from Vatican Radio, the reporter interpreted what the Pope said explaining, or suggesting the 'repentance of Judas' ... it's an interesting consideration.
The Repentance of Judas
The Pope went on to explain that is not so much a mistake but a disease of the heart that makes a sheep wander and he said it is something the devil exploits.
Just as it was with Judas whose heart was ‘divided’. And finally when Judas saw what harm his double life had wreaked in the community, when he saw the evil he had sown because of the darkness in his heart that caused him to run away, looking for a light that was not the light of the Lord, but artificial lights like Christmas decorations, he was thrown into despair:
The Pope said that the Bible tells us that “the Lord is good, he never stops looking for the lost sheep” and it tells us that when Judas hanged himself he had repented.
“I believe that the Lord will take that word [repentance] and bring it with Him” he said. And it tells us that right until the end God’s love was working in that soul.
He said that this is the message, the good news that Christmas brings asking us to rejoice with a sincerity that brings with it a change of heart that leads us to take comfort in the Lord, and not in other ‘escapist’ consolations. - Vatican Radio
Many times I think that when the Holy Father discusses priests and bishops, and a double life, he is speaking from personal experience, of men he knew, likewise, I'm convinced he has in mind the scandals of the last couple decades, involving bishops and priests. I do not think the Holy Father bashes his priests. When the fine points of what he says are dissected, and examined for 'orthodoxy', the message gets lost. I read what he says like a child, I think. Though it may be over my head, I just don't see his precautions as a general condemnation or mean-spirited criticism.
The meditation on Judas is provocative - and considerable. Especially when despair is a frequent temptation in the lives of many - surely not the righteous - but those whose lives have fallen apart, those who wandered away, who separated themselves from others and are bitter and critical and therefore separate themselves from the 'fold'. Sometimes this separation can be to such an extent, they can see no way to return, to be reconciled ...
That said, what the Holy Father suggests reminds me of what St. Paul wrote, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love." I don't know about anyone else, but when the he speaks like this, he moves me to an even deeper repentance - and confidence and love - trusting in God's merciful love.
“May the Lord give us the grace to sincerely recognize our sins as we await Christmas, as we wait for the power of God who comes to console us." - Pope Francis
The suicides ...
The Holy Father's consideration on Judas, reminds me of the Fr. Ryan Erickson story - a Wisconsin priest who killed two innocent men, who were most likely initiating an investigation upon him for sexual abuse of adolescent boys. The two men most likely knew about his sexual attraction to young boys and one of them may have confronted him. Ryan shot them - later, under investigation, he hanged himself. The case is closed now. I did an ex-voto style painting in his memory, and I'll reprint an excerpt from that narrative - it might help in understanding what the Holy Father said.
What kind of priest was he?
The man was a good priest. Perhaps a bit doctrinaire, dogmatic and therefore rigid in his pastoral approach however. He loved being a priest. He loved the cassock, wore it everywhere, and in the winter, he wore a cloak with golden frogs clasping it. He loved traditional trappings: The hats and beanies and cape-lets and elaborate baroque vestments and man-lace. He was orthodox in his spirituality, deeply devoted to Our Lady, and scrupulously faithful to the Roman rite - he was a Novus Ordo priest to be sure, yet totally traditional. Father also happened to be an impassioned homilist as well as moralist. I suspect he would have loved Savonarola. None of that is bad or wrong of course, although his zeal tended to alienate many - he came on pretty strong.
When I first met him, he was wearing his winter cape, I thought he was kind of a fruitcake. After I got to know him, I still held that opinion, although I could see he was sincere and wanted to be a holy priest, and eventually I found him rather like-able. He had a good sense of humor, but there was something there that told me he craved affirmation, respect, and deep down, he just wanted to be liked. Human respect was very important to him - despite the fact he had so many critics among his congregation. Could it be that human respect became motive enough to murder someone who might have exposed his secret life, revelations which would ruin his orthodox facade? Maybe. Father also loved guns and hunting, and he tended to be rather militant when it came to heretics and liberals - but was he capable of murder? Personally, I think he could have been found guilty on all counts - but not necessarily damned.
As I finished adding the details to the painting, I considered adding some things to suggest his sexuality near the rosary in the snow, as if they had fallen from his pockets. Just as I began to paint the items in I felt a hand grasp my shoulder, as if to hold me back from proceeding. A chill ran down my back and I sensed an interior warning to stop. I turned quickly to see if anyone was behind me, but I was completely alone.
The next day at work I told a co-worker what had happened. This man had great respect for the priest and could hardly believe the accusations against him, much less his suicide. In fact, not a day or two after his death, my friend's mother had a dream of a priest coming towards her in church with a message for her son, "Tell him I'm okay." It turns out my friend's mother had never met the priest nor had she heard of his suicide at that point - but when she described him, her description fit that of Fr. Erickson.
I no longer know what to think regarding the case, but I will continue to pray for the priest and the murder victims just the same. - Let the dead bury their dead
The suicide of Ryan Erickson