Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen April 2, 2023
Today's Gospel, which we have just heard, begins with these words: "One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said: 'What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?'" It all begins with fear, a fear that will lead to betrayal.
Fear grips the hearts and minds of men and women alike. We are worried and frightened about many things. We are unsure of our future, we don't trust our boss, there may not be enough money to pay the bills, I don't know where my child is, has everyone betrayed me? Today our Churches are full, men and women, many who no longer take their faith seriously. It is easy to just let our faith slip away from us. What could have made Judas do what he did? What could he have been thinking? Why did he give up on Jesus? What drove him to betray the Master? He probably imagined he had some cause, some good reason, but he doesn't seem to have thought it through.
Many Catholics imagine they are justified leaving the Church or just not coming anymore. "The Church has let them down; the priest was rude to them; the principal at the school didn't listen to them, all they want is your money...." But in the end, when all is said and done, this is a way in which we betray Jesus. The Gospel sums it up neatly when it tells us that Judas "went to the chief priests"; while on the other hand, "the disciples came to Jesus." Judas asks the priests, "what will you give me?" while the disciples ask Jesus, "what can we do for you, how can we help?"
Jesus celebrates a meal with all his disciples, even with those who will betray him. Jesus speaks about how he will be betrayed, according to the Scriptures, and how his disciples will lose their faith. Peter and the rest of the disciples contradict Jesus; they claim they will never lose faith. They contradict not only Jesus but also the Scriptures!
But let me make this clear, every betrayal is redeemable. No one ever needs to be lost. The road back to Christ is open to us all - to Peter, to the other disciples, even to Judas. You must reach out, again and again, to your spouse, your children, your family members, and friends who no longer attend Church. We must invite them back; they need to be here with us, and we need to be with them.
Jesus must have felt very lonely at that table. On the one hand sits Judas, who would betray him, and on the other hand, sit the disciples who would desert him. Even now, they reject his words, which is, even though they do not realize it, essentially a rejection of Jesus himself, who is the Word of God.
Judas has now left the company of the disciples; he has betrayed their fellowship, the community of the Lord, the Church. But Jesus has a work to complete. He heads off to a Garden, followed by his dazed and disheartened disciples. Let us go too, in all our weakness, fear, and hesitation. Perhaps we will, with other disciples, learn what Jesus wishes to teach us. Perhaps we will become what he wants us to be.