1. The St Peter and all the apostles except John Way. This is the deny-Him-under-duress, run-away-from-threats-and-then-repent-later method of betrayal. I would wager that in some form or another every single one of us has done a bit of this. I know I have. I’ve hemmed and hawed; ducked and covered, trying to keep all my old friends from my life Before Christ. Trouble was, they all found out. Eventually. And I ended up taking down a big dose of shame along with the grief of losing them. You can’t hide your love of Christ from your BC friends; at least not forever.
2. The Judas Iscariot way. This involves betraying Him for money or gain and then, when you realize that what you got is not anywhere near as good as what you paid for it, you just hang in there and don’t go back to say you’re sorry. No repentance, no homecoming, no fatted calf for you; just the stale bread of exile from God for life.
Those are the two ways that most people have gone about betraying their Savior. But there is a third way.
This third way has usually been reserved for kings and popes and other powerful folk; people who bathed in and drank from the hubris cup morning and night. Henry VIII is one of history’s most famous practitioners of this method of God betrayal. It isn’t all that complicated intellectually. All it requires is an ego and sense of entitlement that will allow you to tell God that He’s wrong and you’re right, announce this to the whole wide world and stick with it right down to the gates of your own eternal damnation.
This particular form of hubris-powered Jesus betrayal has been around since Christianity made its way out of the Catacombs and into the halls of power. What is different today is not the method or the thinking that goes into it, but how widespread and universal it has become.
Telling God to sit down and do as He’s told was once the province of powerful men made mad by over-privileged existences. Now, it appears that it’s the chant and cant of millions. These people hold God and not themselves to task for human depravity. They claim that wretched sinfulness of every stripe is, in fact, a positive good. They feed their children and old people to the flames of their self-succor and then berate God when anyone tries to tell them this is wrong.
Last, but certainly not least, are those who refuse to leave the Churches they despise, who will not walk away from the pretense of “following” a God they say needs their tutelage. First among these are the Catholic politicians who attend mass, take communion and then go out and vote for, support and sponsor every new trend in killing, immorality and social unwinding around.
Most people are blind to the “normal” folks who flaunt God in their daily lives, but they zone in on these politicians. It outrages and enrages them to see photos of an elected official who is well-known to support abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, war and torture walk up to the head of the communion line and accept the host.
They rail at the Church for not “doing something” about it. It it very popular in certain circles to call for this or that politician to be summarily excommunicated for his or her support for things that are 180 degrees off Church teaching. In fact, one of the sorrier spectacles of every campaign season is various political groups pointing fingers at each other’s “sins.”
Many people get white-hot angry with the bishops because they don’t drum these obvious miscreants out of the Church. They want them, if not burned at the stake, at least escorted to the church doors and told not to come back.
There are days when I get worked up over some of the things I see and feel like joining them. But it never lasts long. The reason is simple. It isn’t my job to kick people out of the Church. What’s more, I don’t want that job. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m just grateful they let me in.
The latest kerfluffle has been over Governor Cuomo of New York and his over-the-top legislative advocacy for abortion at all times, for any reason. This evidently follows quick on the heels of his support for gay marriage. In spite of all this, the governor continues to attend mass and take communion.
My personal reaction is that he’s a fraud and a phony every time he goes to mass. He appears to think that his personal moral understanding is superior to 2,000 years of Christian teaching and morality. My reaction to that is, fine on him. If he doesn’t believe that the Catholic Church teaches Truth and he has no intention of even attempting to follow the teachings of the Gospels as interpreted by that Church, that’s his call.
But, if that’s what he believes, I don’t see any honesty at all in going to mass and taking communion.
I have to be careful here, because my own sins are ever before me when I write things like this. Can I — can any of us — withstand the judgement I am meting out here? I sin. I do things I hope nobody ever finds out. I am not God’s best work. I assume that everyone reading this falls into the same sinful basket.
That’s why we need Jesus. It’s why we need the Church. It’s why our own understanding of right and wrong will always lead us down a destructive path if we adhere to it too closely. That is what, I think, has happened to Governor Cuomo. He’s been following his own understanding, and that has led him to advocating terrible things.
It always does, you know. Always. Every time. For each of us.
The only way to follow Christ is to actually follow Christ. The single best way I know to do that is to simply stop all the yammering and just accept that the Catholic Church really is the Church and that all you have to do is follow its teachings. When you fail in this — as you will — go to confession, get cleaned up and start over.
We have quite a number of politicians out there who basically spit raspberries at Christ by defying serious moral teachings concerning the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage (among other things) and then showing up at mass to take communion as if they were a bunch of nuns. We have an even larger number of Catholics who endanger their own souls by focusing on these sins of other people and letting their anger make them bitter and vicious.
My personal solution for this one is really quite simple. I don’t have to decide if these political birds will be excommunicated or not. In fact, I can’t make that decision. It’s just not my job. I don’t have the power to keep them out of church. And I don’t want that power. Do. Not. Want. It.
On the other hand, as an American citizen, I have the power to work and vote to keep them out of office. Maybe that’s where those of us in the laity should focus our energies. If I lived in New York, I think that working to help Governor Cuomo find a new vocation as a private citizen would be my focus; that, and praying for his soul.
What I wouldn’t do is berate my bishop or cardinal. I’d just let them do their jobs. After all, if they mess up, they’ve got someone a lot more important than me that they have to answer to, and in the final analysis, they — along with Governor Cuomo and you and me — will do exactly that.