At the Last Supper in the upper room, our blessed Lord tells his Apostle, Judas Iscariot, “What thou dost, do quickly.” The other Apostles believe that Jesus is instructing him to go out to purchase what is needed for the Passover meal, but Jesus already knows Judas’ heart. And sadly, Judas accordingly does the deed of darkness that he has plotted out of jealousy and self-centeredness. He “sells-out” his friend and Master to those who wish to destroy Him. Judas’ kiss was a lie, for with it, he showed not love, but cold-hearted betrayal against Love Himself.
Although we will not betray our Lord for 30 pieces of silver or hand Him over with a false kiss, as Disciples of Christ we must always be aware of the poisonous sin of calumny. As Judas was directly unfaithful to the Lord and, we too bear false witness when we engage in any kind of gossip. As Christians we must be cautious to not fall into this seemingly innocuous behavior which is in fact an act of betrayal and is very destructive. As our dear Lord teaches us in the Gospel…” It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” (Matthew 15:11)
We should be aware that we can destroy others with our ungoverned tongues or merely by lending an ear to malicious talk. There is a saying that goes “listening to gossip…is gossip”. How true! If there are no listeners, there would never be any gossip. The harm of gossip does not only exist in the “betrayal” of others, but the harm also lies in what we do to ourselves when we engage in it. Whether we practice gossip through speech or as passive listeners, there is no way we can continue to grow spiritually when we engage in this behavior. Spiritual growth can only take place within us in an environment completely free of any ill will.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church at #2479 teaches us about ‘Offenses Against Truth.’ Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.
Some of us may pride ourselves in refraining from gossip, yet as weak human beings, we may still (unknowingly) have big a problem with it. It’s possible that though we keep our tongues silent, we might still keep our ears open for any “juicy talk” that can fall our way. We might also try to “shake the tree” if we believe another person has some “chatter” or “dirt” to share with us. This is almost always done in an apparently innocent manner (recall the “kiss” of Judas), often by simply mentioning the name of someone about whom those with whom we are conversing may have very strong opinions.
As we begin Holy Week, let us keep in mind, amongst many memories of our dear Lord’s Passion, that act of betrayal, hidden in the guise of a kiss. Gossip is a betrayal in a sense, as it rescinds the active commandment given to us by almighty God: To live out our lives as His true disciples, we must “love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul…and our neighbor as ourselves.” Let us be aware of any tendency we have toward gossip and remind ourselves that gossip is the enemy of the love and faithfulness that we should render unto God. Therefore, in His Truth, what we do as Christians, we must do quickly …and that is to LOVE…our neighbor as ourselves!
Please make use of this Holy Week to grow in holiness.
This Holy Week is like no other that we have ever experienced. We are deprived of the sacraments and the public liturgies of the Church. Each day I offer private Mass and place all of you on the paten as I offer the pure and immaculate Host to God Our Lord and I pour your desires into the chalice whose wine is transubstantiated into the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Church remains open each day from 9AM until 5PM. Please come to pray (keeping proper distance). I have been so edified to see so many of you come into the Church. Many light candles or pray before one of the statues of the saints. On the Sacred Days of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, come to the Church to pray. Although there is no Holy Water in the fonts of the Church, please take the Holy Water to your homes. The water and salt with which it is mixed is both exorcized and blessed. Sprinkle it throughout your homes. I provide some of the words of blessing imparted to the water for your consolation. (I always say the words in Latin, the unifying language which the devil hates). The devil loves division and hates unity of language.
…may this your creature (water and salt) become an agent of divine grace in the service of the mysteries, to drive away evil spirits and dispel sickness, so that everything in the homes and other buildings of the faithful that is sprinkled with this water may be rid of all uncleanness and freed from every harm. Let no breath of infection, no disease bearing air remain in these places. May the wiles of the lurking enemy prove of no avail. Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water, so that the health obtained by calling upon your holy name may be made secure against all attack. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen
You may find the Holy Water Canister, very appropriately, in the Chapel of the Divine Mercy. Please bring a bottle or another vessel to fill with the Holy Water.
So many go into the Fatima Chapel and ask Our Lady, Health of the Sick, to pray for them and their loved ones. The little ones particularly love this Chapel. Perhaps they remember when it was the children’s room. (I am so happy that is no longer the case; when I arrived here seven years ago, a physician told me the Children’s Room was a petrie dish for infection). Perhaps in the natural order some infections have been prevented by the new Chapel.
I try to spend a fair amount of time in the Church each day. It is so beautiful to see the sunlight shine on the gold of the statues. Although it is not permitted to schedule confessions, please know that when you see me in the Church, I am always available to hear a confession. What time are there confessions? It is whenever you see me. In the Church. We may not use the confessionals because of the directives on “social distancing,” but when you see me in the Church (I usually kneel near the altar of St. Joseph) please do not be bashful about approaching me to confess. That is why I am there. Please just keep the social distancing and I am happy to hear anyone who wishes to confess. In these extraordinary days I also impart the Apostolic Pardon to everyone who confesses. The words of the prayer are most comforting:
May Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Son of the Living God,
Who gave to St. Peter His Apostle, the power to bind and to set free,
In His most loving mercy receive your confession
And give back to you that robe of grace which was first given you in baptism.
And I, the unworthy priest James, by the power of the Apostolic See, grant you a
Pardon and the remission of all your sins. In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
+ And of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Through the most sacred mysteries of man’s redemption, may almighty God remit
All the punishments due to you in this life and in the life to come; may He open to you
The gates of Paradise and lead you to everlasting joy.
In the Name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This special blessing is given to those in danger of death. I remember my dear father telling me that before the battle on Guadalcanal, in which he served as anti-aircraft, he received the General Absolution and the Apostolic Pardon. He and the scores of thousands of Catholic Soldiers were not anointed. They were not sick but were in danger of death. They needed absolution and pardon.
Last week I wept as I imparted this blessing to an eight-year-old. Although the child was not sick, the child, like us all in these days, was indeed in the danger of death. The child, so pure and so innocent, was not even aware of what I was doing. Afterward the child ran off to the Fatima Chapel, where so many have found comfort.
Sadly, in review of our parish on Google by “Elizabeth’” this lovely Chapel, where so may have found solace in these dramatic days, was called “yet another shrine to Mary on the pastor’s part” The child’s mother told me that her child loves to go there to pray because the Lady is so beautiful. I thank Bobby who donated that Chapel in his mother’s honor and blessed memory. And I say a decade of the Rosary each day for Elizabeth and for Bobby’s mother and for that child. May I ask you to do the same.
May we all have a very Blessed and Holy Week.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda