BARDSTOWN, Ky. — The bourbon capital of the world shares its home with the historic Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, and although distilled spirits weren’t the reason Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre celebrated Mass there on the first Saturday after his installation, they did offer a warm welcome to his new Kentucky home.
The smell of mash — a yeasty aroma produced by the 11 bourbon distilleries around Kentucky’s Holy Land — blanketed the town and greeted those who filled the church the afternoon of April 2.
The new archbishop presided alongside Father Terry Bradshaw, pastor, and held a sturdy golden crozier.
“It’s quite a crozier, isn’t it?” he exclaimed joyfully at the end of Mass. The pastoral staff and a pectoral cross he wore for the liturgy are both from the era of Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget. Bishop Flaget, the first bishop to lead Kentucky’s Holy Land, established the cathedral in 1819.
Archbishop Fabre’s homily focused on the Gospel story from the book of John, chapter 8, in which the Pharisees ask Jesus how an adulterer should be punished in an effort to trap him.
Archbishop Fabre invited his listeners to place themselves in the Pharisee’s shoes.
“Jesus Christ had been such a nuisance to them,” he said. “He had gotten them so worked up that now they spent their days simply looking for reasons and ways to trap him, to make Jesus hated by society.”
He explained how the Pharisees hadn’t stumbled upon the woman they accused of adultery. Likely, they identified her as a sinner, followed her and waited for her to commit a crime so as to bring her before Jesus.
“They say, ‘The law says such women should be stoned. What do you say?’ They probably know that if Jesus says, ‘Follow the law. Stone her,’ the scribes and Pharisees will tag him as having no mercy, as being coldhearted. And if he says, ‘Don’t stone her,’ then they will say he does not follow the law of Moses. In either case, Jesus is discredited.”
According to Archbishop Fabre, “The presence of light, the presence of goodness, the presence of righteousness,” all of which Jesus is, “tends to bring about that reaction.”
Even though the Pharisees used everything at their disposal to discredit Jesus, he didn’t condemn anyone.
Instead, he attempted to bridge the division that had been formed.
“In the face of such sin, in the face of such selfishness, in the face of hatred, look at what Jesus does,” Archbishop Fabre said. “Notice how Jesus acts. Notice what Jesus says and does. Jesus condemns no one. Does not condemn the women. Does not even condemn the Pharisees.
“Jesus responds, ‘Let the one without sin be the first to cast a stone,’ ” the archbishop said. “And the Pharisees’ plan falls apart because Jesus condemns no one.”
He said to the congregation that every single one of them, including himself, has fallen into sin and temptation but that Jesus invites us into relationship with him.
“Jesus uses the law not to condemn her but to show her the way to peace and happiness,” he said. “ ‘Go forth and sin no more.’ It’s a totally different vision that Jesus operates out of and it’s one he invites us into.”
Archbishop Fabre closed by saying that he can “never cast a stone because I am certainly not sinless” and called his listeners to “recognize the bridge that is Jesus Christ.”
A reception followed the Mass in the parish hall.