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!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Homily: Wednesday of Holy Week

Readings Is 50:4-9a; Ps 69; Mt 26:14-25
Have you ever been betrayed? Betrayal’s a horrible, destructive thing, isn’t it? It hits at the very core of our humanity, and jeopardizes those essential relationships based on trust and love.
And yet look how Jesus handled betrayal. Even though He was fully aware of Judas’ plans, He invited His betrayer to recline and dine with Him. And He questions Judas as if He were trying to force him to admit what he planned. Would this lead Judas to confront his sin and be repelled by its inherent evil? We simply don’t know. And neither do we know why Judas betrayed Jesus. Was it greed, impatience, disillusionment, even hatred? We don’t know for certain. 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.” What a difference! Sin is so much easier when we distort and limit our understanding of who Jesus is. This is our great temptation as Christians: to create a Jesus in our own image.
It’s easy to do. Just look in the mirror and say, “Hi, Jesus!” And then, whatever I do or say, well…that’s not me. That’s Jesus talking, that’s God talking. It sure makes things easier when we need only look to ourselves for all the answers.
In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, one of the brothers, Ivan, is visited by Satan who persuades him that with the death of God “everything is permitted.” The devil isn’t suggesting here that the world will slide into the chaos of anarchy – not at all – for the world can be very “civilized” while still believing in nothing.
No Satan means that once we eliminate God from our lives, from our society, from our civilization, then nothing is absolute, nothing is always wrong. Once we remove God from the picture, we fall prey to what Pope Benedict calls “the dictatorship of relativism” under which the clear distinctions between what is morally right and wrong dissolve into a kind of amoral putty that we can form into whatever shape we like.
Yes, once we believe that God is no longer in charge…well, someone has to take control. And that’s when men try to usurp God’s responsibilities for defining the moral order. Once we do that, we need only reshape the putty, forming acceptable reasons to do and to believe absolutely anything.
This, I suspect, was Judas’ sin. He wanted Jesus to change; he wanted God, the unchangeable One, to reshape Himself to become just like Judas. But, of course, Jesus isn’t about to change, for His entire mission is the fulfillment of the Father’s will, the Father’s plan.
Like Satan, Judas saw Jesus’ ministry as a failure, and decided that he would have to take charge. But poor Judas, and those among us today who are like him, have 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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