The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homily: Wednesday of Holy Week

Readings Is 50:4-9a; Ps 69; Mt 26:14-25

John Anthony Walker – You might not remember the name, but in 1985 he was arrested by the FBI. His crime? For almost 20 years he spied for the Soviet Union. Walker was a chief warrant office in the US Navy, a communications officer who had access to some of our military’s most classified information. And he gave it all to the Soviets, over a million documents.

I didn’t know him, but a close friend of mine did. In fact, they worked together for two years. When Walker was arrested my friend was flabbergasted. “I didn’t like the man,” he told me later, “but I never imaged he’d betray his country. Almost as bad was the sense of personal betrayal I felt.”

Betrayal really is a horrible thing, isn’t it? It’s so destructive. It hits at the very core of our humanity, where we establish and maintain those essential relationships based on trust and love. For one who’s been betrayed, it can undermine their willingness or ability to trust others.

And yet look how Jesus handled betrayal. Even though He knew Judas’s plans, He invited His betrayer to recline and dine with Him. It’s as if He were trying to prevent Judas’ betrayal by questioning him and forcing him to admit what he planned to do.

Was Jesus hoping that Judas, by openly admitting what he intended to do, would confront it and be repelled by its inherent evil? After all, Jesus certainly did much to win Peter back after his three-time denial. Wouldn’t He have tried to do the same for Judas?

We really don’t know why Judas betrayed Jesus. Was it greed, disillusionment, hatred, impatience? We don’t know. But whatever the reason, it all boiled down to Judas being unable to accept Jesus as He is.

Notice how Judas responded to Jesus. He called Him, “Rabbi,” while the apostles, each in turn, called Jesus, “Lord.” And that’s the difference! Sin is so much easier when we distort and limit our understanding of who Jesus is. Unable to accept the real Jesus, Judas leaves to carry out his betrayal.

This is the Christian’s great temptation: to create a Jesus in our own image. It’s easy to do. Just look in the mirror and say, “Hi, Jesus!” And from then on, whatever I do, or think, or say, well…that’s not me, that’s Jesus talking, that’s God talking. It sure makes things a lot easier when we need only look to ourselves for all the answers.

This, I suspect, was Judas’ sin. He wanted Jesus to change, to be like him. He wanted to use God for his own purposes. But poor Judas got it all backwards -- for it’s not God who must change; it’s we who must let ourselves be changed by Him.

As we enter this holiest time of our liturgical year, let’s make that our prayer, to allow ourselves to be changed by God’s love, by the Good News of His Son’s redemptive act. For when we abandon ourselves to God’s holy will, He will send His Spirit to lead us and guide us, to deliver us from evil, the evil of betrayal that we call sin.

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