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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 13, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Sunday, April 13, 2014.
The most important document of the first year of his papacy was Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in which he insists that our participation in the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to establish, and for which he gave his life, cannot be restricted to the private life such that all that is expected of us is that we say our prayers, go to Mass and avoid sin in order to try to get our own souls into heaven. That's just the beginning!
Jesus calls us to continue his work of building the Kingdom of God here and now, and therefore the pope reminds us that we cannot remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. After all, if we do not do our part to establish his kingdom in this life, how do we expect to share in the Kingdom of God in the life to come?
Therefore, just as a mother's love expands to help most those of her children who need her the most, Pope Francis insists that the preferential option for the poor is fundamental for all Christians. Indeed, he says that we should be a church that is poor and for the poor ... as a couple of my brother bishops who recently bought expensive mansions have learned the hard way this year! But that's exactly what Jesus models for us today:
If we do not do our part to establish his Kingdom in this life, how do we expect to share in the Kingdom of God in the life to come?
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king who has renounced his privileges, riding on a humble donkey rather than a royal stallion: "Behold your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." He reaches out to encourage the downtrodden: "The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them."
And he does so courageously, despite the abuse he received at the hands of the powers-that-be: "I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting!" Indeed, by the end of Good Friday he will be in most respects the poorest man on the planet:
Without any power — condemned by the religious authorities and executed by the state.
Without any possessions — not even his clothing!
Without any prestige — abandoned by all those who had acclaimed him on Palm Sunday and practically all of his friends.
Without any pleasure — suffering brutal pain from crowned head to nailed feet and everywhere in between; back shredded by whips, knees shredded by falls, hands pierced by nails, delirious from dehydration and loss of blood, suffocating as fluid filled his lungs, able to speak only in short painful gasps and apparently abandoned even by God: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Jesus was a redeemer who became utterly poor to set us free from the power of sin and death, revealing the way of truth and life to us who had been blinded by our own idolatrous pursuit of power, possessions, pleasure and prestige, which promise happiness that they cannot deliver.
But on Good Friday there was one thing of which no one could deprive Jesus — not even Satan, his most bitter adversary — and that was his Father's love, which will vindicate him and save us ... and then send us forth to bring that same self-sacrificing, saving love to others, especially the poor and downtrodden who need it — and us — the most!