There’s a popular catch phrase in the Church: “Meet the people where they’re at.” Proper use of the English language reminds us never to end a sentence with a preposition, so the phrase could be adjusted to: “Meet the people where they are.” Either way, I think it applies to this situation.
The week before Palm Sunday, I overheard someone express disapproval with a homily I gave two weeks prior at the school Mass. This person admitted to not being at that Mass, but evidently heard that it might not have been appropriate for children. So, it goes like this:
On that Friday, which is now almost a month ago, the Gospel was one of those ones we hear frequently during Lent, where the Jews are trying to kill Jesus. It even uses the words: “The Jews were trying to kill him.”
The kindergarteners were not at Mass, only 1st through 8th grades, and the normal assembly of adults and infants. As the school children hear these Gospels, which they should, they may think that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But hopefully they are learning their Faith, and my homily only came as a reminder of what they have already been learning.
So, I pointed out in my homily that it might seem like the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, but as the story played out, the Jews didn’t actually kill Jesus, but the Romans did. Then, I asked the rhetorical question: Are the Romans responsible for the death of Jesus? Maybe we could place all the blame on Judas for his betrayal…
What does the Church teach in the name of Christ her founder? The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in paragraphs 597 and 598 that the personal sin of the participants is known to God alone, and that Jesus and St. Peter asked God to forgive the participants for their ignorance.
I remember I had to learn this in second grade before going to confession. Why did I have to go to confession in the first place? For my sins. And why are my sins a big deal? They put Jesus on the Cross. I learned the reality that I was a sinner, and that God loved me enough to go through all of that for me. At the age of reason, we are supposed to be able to understand this. If we can’t understand it, we cannot be ready for Holy Communion either. I let the first graders know since they had not yet reached the age of reason, they had no responsibility for the death of Jesus.
The Catechism quotes Sacred Scripture and the Tradition down through the ages that “sinners were the authors and ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” The Church admits that we Christians have the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus. The Catechism quotes St. Francis of Assisi: “It is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”