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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Meditation: Deliver Us From Evil

St. Joseph, patron of a good
death, pray for us.
I read a sobering article this morning, Father Hyde and the Mystery of Evil, by Deacon James Toner about a pious Catholic priest who became immersed in a child sex abuse ring. It's a horror story to rival Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

As I read the article I couldn't help thinking of the psychological term, cognitive dissonance, believing two opposing ideas at the same time. Clearly, that's what happens when the rug is pulled out from under one -- when a person you believed was holy suddenly is revealed as committing the most horrific evils. How could that be? Is it the same person you loved and respected?

But perhaps a holy "Fr. Hyde" really was pious and good until, somehow, he gradually, step by step, embraced the persona of the evil "Fr. Hyde." It's sobering isn't it? To think of someone we admired and loved, a person we looked up to and respected is revealed as the betrayer. Was he always a fraud? Were we simply blinded by a false light?


But perhaps both pictures are, or were, true. I read a story once about an artist doing a portrait of Jesus with the apostles. He painted Jesus first and found a model that personified in his face the innocence and holiness of Christ. It took the artist years to work on his magnum opus and Judas was the last figure he painted. He looked for a man whose face depicted the evil of the betrayer. And when he finished his portrait, the model revealed that he was the same chosen to portray Christ years earlier.

Is that what happened to Judas? When Jesus called him was he a devoted follower filled with love and zeal for Jesus and His teachings? I tend to think of him as always the betrayer, but is that a true picture? Was he once among the most admirable of the apostles, holy and innocent who, step by step, decision by decision, embraced evil? And is that a warning to each of us about our own potential to become the betrayer?

It's a question each of us should ask...often. Of what evil am I capable? What can I do to be sure I don't become the betrayer?

 We know that the Protestant question, "Are you saved?" is an oversimplification. Yes, perhaps I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior today, but that is no guarantee of my fidelity until the hour of death. Even the devil believes that Jesus is God...and hates Him even more because of it. And yet he was once the "light-bearer," glory of the heavenly host.

And, yes, each of us in our heart of hearts knows our own capacity to be the traitor. Why else would we have the sacrament of Confession or, where there is no sacrament, so often publicly confess to Dr. Phil or Oprah or Ellen?

So much to think about. And so, today at Mass, I am praying for the grace of final perseverance. I don't want to betray Christ in the end. What a fate that would be -- to turn traitor in the final hour. When I do betray Christ, as I do so often in small things, I pray that, like Peter, I will go out, weep bitterly, and return chastened to serve with even more zeal than before. Let us each pray for reform of life, sincere amendment, and to start again each day on the path to holiness.

St. Joseph, patron of a good death, pray for me.

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