Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Holy Thursday night was a night of betrayal. Judas sold Christ for thirty silver pieces, and Peter denied Christ three times, saying,
“I do not even know the man.”
Yet Our Lord did not give up on either of them. The Divine Mercy of Our Lord sought out both Judas and Peter. Judas rejected God’s mercy and forgiveness and hanged himself in bitter despair, but St. Peter repented and was restored to grace.
This is good news for us. Just as soon as we sin God is looking for the chance to forgive and reconcile us. When Our Lord made Peter the first Pope, He knew that Peter would later deny Him and yet, Christ did not change His mind about Peter. Rather, Jesus strengthened him. He built him up. He gave St. Peter the grace to become a saint. That is the way Christ looks at you and me. We have betrayed Christ by sin, but God wants to give us the grace to become saints.
Imagine how unworthy St. Peter must have felt the day he entered heaven. When he came before Christ’s judgment seat, our Lord received St. Peter lovingly into heaven and embraced him. Christ gave Peter a beautiful crown and placed in His hands the keys of heaven. Then our Lord led St. Peter, our first Pope, over to the gates of the kingdom. Christ put Peter in charge of watching the heavenly gates to make sure that no one would enter who had not been found worthy.
A few days later as Our Lord was walking through the kingdom, he saw several people walking around heaven who had lived terrible lives on earth. Now they were wearing white robes and had faces that shone with brilliant white light. They came running over to Our Lord and kissed His feet in loving adoration and worship. Now, of course, Christ rejoiced to see them, for they had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Our Lord made haste and went over to the gates to talk to St. Peter about this. He asked St. Peter when he had let them through the gates. St. Peter said he had not. Our Lord insisted.
“Peter, were you sleeping again as in the garden? Peter, were you not paying attention? Don’t you remember when they came through these gates?”
St. Peter asked our Lord to describe them. Jesus said,
“Rather than describe them, I will bring them over here for you to see them.”
Christ called these new saints over to the gates so that Peter could see them. They came before the Apostle Peter, but he did not recognize them. Then St. Peter said,
“My Lord, I have never seen these people before. But Lord, I think you know well the answer. It must be your mother again. I keep the gate carefully guarded, but, you know well, my Lord, she throws ladders over the walls, she opens every window. If someone is in trouble and calls out to Mary, your Mother will give them special graces to get into your Kingdom, Lord.”
Dear brothers and sisters, on this Good Friday, in the Apostle John’s account of Our Lord’s Sacred Passion, we hear the tender words of Our Lord to His mother,
“Woman, behold your son.”
Now Our Blessed Lady has taken very seriously her beloved Son’s words. Christ has told Our Lady that we are her spiritual children. And just as human mothers always seek after their children to protect them, even hiding them in the folds of their apron, so Mary, our Mother in the spiritual order, never tires of seeking out her children who have run away from the Father’s house.
As human mothers know how to nurse back to health their sick children, so Mary knows – and knows well – how to apply the spiritual remedy of God’s grace to her children who have been mortally wounded by sin. Pope St. Pius X tells us that Mary,
“entirely participating in His passion,”
has been given the unique honor of dispensing all the gifts of her beloved Son. While, of course, the strict right of distributing grace belongs to Jesus alone, nonetheless, due to her intimate union of suffering with the Redeemer.
Mary is praying at the feet of Christ for all her sons and daughters. She is praying for you and for me. She is praying for the conversion of sinners. It is as if Our Lady in heaven has found several ladders and she has thrown them over the side in order for us to climb the rungs of one of these ladders in order to ascend to heaven, even scaling its walls to get in.
St. Vincent Ferrer in his writings says she has let several ladders down and that these ladders have rungs on them. St. Vincent says Mary can help us secretly scale the walls of Paradise by helping us ascend by the ladder of penance, climbing the rungs of that latter which are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Mercy is another ladder; its rungs are the seven corporal works, and the seven spiritual works of mercy. Chastity is another ladder; its rungs are the custody of the five senses, avoiding bad company, and occasions of sin.
If we need the Virgin Mother’s special help to attain entrance into heaven, she will help us to secretly do these works of virtue, and secretly enter the fortress of the King of heaven. There is even a prophetic verse about this in the Book of Psalms. We read,
“Blessed is the man whose help is from you: in his heart he has disposed to ascend by steps, in this vale of tears.” (Ps 84:6-7).
On Good Friday, we have come to Calvary, we have come to the place of the skull, Golgotha. And as you make your entrance to Calvary, you will find posted some rather sobering words:
Hinc humilibus venia. Hinc retributio superbis.
"From this point, there is forgiveness for the humble,
but from this point there is retribution for the proud."
As we come to the foot of the altar, we are coming to Calvary. And behold there your Mother. See her. What is she doing for you? Mary is opening every window; she is unbarring every gate; the Sorrowful Mother has taken ladders of grace on thrown them over the walls of that heavenly city so that you might climb in. She had does this in order to let God’s grace into your life. Our Lady of Grace has opened heaven for you.
Climb through Mary’s window, ascend her ladders. Follow Dismas, my friends, and steal Paradise once again. And then, one day as you enter that Kingdom of Heavenly bliss, you meet your Merciful Lord and Savior and He will introduce you:
“Son, behold, your Mother.”