Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pope Francis, the Pride of Mockery, and the Mockery of Pride

By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae at These Stone Walls

The very presence of Pope Francis makes a mockery of pride, and calls for a most vital Catholic reform: a reform of our hearts to atone for the worst of our vices.
“It is a terrible thing that the worst of all vices can smuggle itself into our religious life . . . But this does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual. Consequently it is far more subtle and deadly . . . Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952)
For nineteen years in a row, I have been separated by prison walls from the Church’s remembrance of Holy Week. Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, and the Easter Vigil are all reduced to a remembrance from inside a prison cell. In preparation for Holy Week this year, I have been reading the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, a trilogy of books by Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. Volume II is subtitled Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.

I wanted to write something brilliant and uplifting for Holy Week so of course I turned to Benedict the Beloved. But as I read his inspired pages, I kept coming back to my Holy Week post of 2012. Something Benedict wrote causes me to point once again this Holy Week to “Dismas, Crucified to the Right: Paradise Lost and Found.” Here are Benedict’s words:
“Of the two men crucified with Jesus, only one joins in the mockery; the other grasps the mystery of Jesus. He knows and he sees that the nature of Jesus’ ‘offense’ was quite different. . . and now he sees that this man crucified beside him truly makes the face of God visible; he is truly God’s son. So he asks him, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.’ ” (Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, p. 212)
The other criminal, crucified to the left, takes his pride to the grave and runs his mouth in mockery in sympathy with the very Roman officials and the crowds who condemned him. In a most bizarre display of so-called “Stockholm Syndrome,” that crucified man emulates their pride and takes up their prejudice to mock Christ.

His mockery bears witness to C.S. Lewis’ quote above about the true source of our pride, “the worst of all vices.” That other man echoes Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. He sneers, even from his own cross: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us then!” The arrogance of his agenda was exactly what C.S. Lewis predicted of pride’s true nature. It deprived the condemned man of an awareness of the reality of his life and death. It stole his common sense. It left him with the worst combination of human traits: a closed mind, and an open mouth... (continued)


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