The explosions in Belgium yesterday rocked the world. Evil does that. At the time Jesus died and evil appeared to triumph, Matthew’s Gospel says “the earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened.” Just as yesterday in Brussels, Matthew recounts that onlookers of the crucifixion were “terror-stricken” at what they observed. It is always evil’s goal to strike terror and fear in the hearts of men, women and children.
The same diabolical hatred seen on Calvary also led ISIS earlier this month to execute four of Mother Teresa’s nuns in Yemen and kidnap a priest (please remember Fr. Tom, the Indian Salesian priest, in your prayers). The suffering of the innocent mirrors that of the Suffering Servant, the Innocent One.
At Mass this morning as the words of institution of the Eucharist were pronounced, I couldn’t help but see the contrast between the darkness of evil and the Light of the World. The suicide bombers say “This is my body given up…this is my blood, shed for others.” But their sacrifice is in the service of grave sin, not its forgiveness. Jesus freely laid down his life for love of us. He took on the sins of ISIS and all who cooperate with evil. While ISIS channels the powers of hell, our Savior conquers the hearts of sinners who trust in His mercy. The Holy Triduum reminds us of this transformative truth – Jesus died for our sins and opened the gates of heaven to all who have faith in Him and follow in His footsteps.
The Church, our mother in this hour of sorrow in Brussels and throughout the world, accompanies Mary at the foot of the cross of the many who are victims of the senseless violence done in the name of religion. She grieves with those whose hearts are broken in this hour. Pope Francis has been clear in his denunciation of the Muslim extremists who purport to advance adherence to their faith through acts of senseless, cruel violence. He invites us to solidarity with the legions of Christians whose religious liberty is threatened in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere, and who live intimately, perhaps daily, with Jesus His passion, death, and resurrection.
Today the Ave Maria University community will gather to pray at the exact hour the United States Supreme Court gathers for oral argument in the Little Sisters of the Poor litigation. The sacred right of religious liberty, the most cherished of Constitutional rights conferred upon us as citizens, is in dispute. Ave Maria University was the first to go to Federal Court to fight against the Obama administration’s efforts to conscript us in their “armies of contraception.” We filed our lawsuit within three weeks of President Obama’s February 2012 announcement. We continue to press our case and exhaust all legal remedies at our disposal. I hope to see you at the Oratory at 10AM.
This year, March 25th, the traditional feast of the Annunciation of Mary, falls on Good Friday. It is fitting in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that Mary’s “yes” that led to her virginal conception and birth of our Redeemer, converges with the fount of Mercy flowing from the Cross to us.
We should spend time pondering this mystery in the context of current events in America and across the continents. The collision between Good and evil, Light and darkness, and Truth and terror, exists throughout the ages to remind us of what is at stake in our individual lives, and how Love and Mercy alone triumph. Our Blessed Mother invites us to join with her in these holy days of prayer as she leads us to the splendor of hope in the midst of darkness, terror and fear.
Have a blessed Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil, and a glorious Easter season.