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Message for Tuesday of Holy Week 2020

purpriest

April 7, 2020

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Responsorial: Psalm 71:1-2,3-4,5-6,15 & 17
Gospel: John 13:21-33,36-38

Homily:

Today’s Gospel reading is John 13:21-33, 36-38. The scene is the Last Supper. Reclining at table, we are told that Jesus is “deeply troubled.” This would seem understandable as Jesus knows the religious leaders are plotting his death and he has prophesied about what is coming. But is this the only reason he is troubled. What he next says probably indicates the true source for his emotional discomfort. He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Remember, this is Jesus— he always puts others before himself. We see this in the garden when he tells the guards to leave his apostles alone, that he is the one they want. It is the coming betrayal that immediately distresses him. While the assembly will question, he knows full well who it is. He quietly points out the betrayer by taking a morsel of the bread, dipping it and handing it to Judas. Is the bread consecrated? Is this Holy Communion through intinction? Our Lord tells his friends, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (John 13:20). Christ is generous with his saving gifts and yet we must be disposed to his presence. The Church tells us that while the Eucharist can bring a share in the mercy and life of Christ, if a person is ill-disposed then it can convict us before God. No matter if it is the sacrament or not, the Lord is still extending himself to Judas and his response is betrayal.

Simon Peter nods to “the beloved disciple” who is generally known to be John and he leans against the chest or heart of Jesus, asking the identity of the betrayer. Note that it is Peter who really wants to know or maybe who has to know. He is well aware of his own weakness. Such will be realized when in fear he will deny Christ three times. The posture of John is one who shares the Lord’s sorrow. He will be the one apostle to follow Jesus to the hill of Calvary. While Judas will flee the scene, John is drawn to Christ in love. This scene may be more poignant than many realize. It has been theorized that John was not originally the “beloved disciple.” Our Lord is particularly drawn to the weak, the poor, the suffering, the afflicted, and to sinners. Who among them is the most broken and vulnerable? We are told in yesterday’s reading about the supper in Bethany that Judas is a thief. This truth would be fully realized when he would trade the Savior’s life for the price of silver. Why is Jesus troubled? Could it be that Judas is among the most loved of his apostles? He knows he is dishonest and wants to force his hand. We are not privy to all their conversations and all the times of bonding and fellowship. Judas is one of the twelve. How difficult it must have been to allow Satan to enter him when he has delivered so many others. While the providence of God is what it is, Judas makes his choices and closes himself to the intervention of our Lord. He could have repented as Peter would; instead he is on the course to despair and death. Our Lord weeps in the garden but I suspect the weeping begins here. He loves Judas but Judas does not love him enough in return.

Our Lord leaves little in the way of hope for Judas saying that it would have been better had he never been born. The providence of God has never been so mysterious. And yet, with his prophecy of the passion and death, there is a glimmer of hope for Peter who would deny him three times. Jesus says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.”

The tragedy of sin would have us all play the part of traitor. But let us be like Peter and not Judas. Peter is swayed by fear but love would bring him back to Jesus and merit for him a share in eternal life. During this coronavirus we are also tempted by fear. Maybe it has caused us to be selfish or angry or afraid? Like Peter, we can come back to the Lord and affirm the one who has conquered sin and the grave. Stay safe. Keep the faith.

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