Reflection for April 7
Readings: Is 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
The readings we have today represent one step beyond what we read yesterday. In the first reading we have the second of the “Suffering Servant Songs,” this one from Isaiah 49. The readings as it is given to us today cuts off the song at verse 6, but in verse 8 we read, as we did yesterday (Is 42:6) that God would make the Messiah a covenant to the people. Recall that covenants are normally sealed in blood. Since God is not making a covenant with the Messiah (after all, the Messiah is God) the covenant is not sealed in the blood of an animal. Rather, the Messiah is the Covenant; therefore, the covenant is sealed in His Blood.
The second connection we see to the readings from yesterday has to do with Judas, the man who betrayed our Lord. In both readings we are told that Judas held the money bag. In the reading yesterday we are told that he was a thief and used to steal from the money from the communal account. Imagine, spending three years with Jesus, and becoming a criminal?! While the other Apostles frequently demonstrated their own problems and weaknesses, they all became Saints. Judas became greedy and dishonest.
If nothing else, this serves as a warning to us. Just being around Jesus is not enough to become a Saint. I guess we can say we do not become saints by osmoses. The Apostles had to learn from Jesus, but they also had to have a relationship with the Lord. It was necessary for them to desire to become like their Teacher. It seems Judas was more in it for himself. If Jesus was popular, this might work well for Judas. It could prove to be lucrative or, at least, open some doors. He could use his association with Jesus for his own gain.
This is not to say that there was not a great deal of selfishness among the other Apostles. We know about James and John and the antics of their mother to try to get them places at our Lord’s right and left in the Kingdom of God (Mt 19:28; Mk 10:37; Lk 22:30). We also know that after Jesus spoke to them about His impending death, they ignored Him and argued about which of them was the greatest. Jesus had to upbraid them and remind them that the greatest was the one who served the rest (Mt 18:1-5; Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48).
Unfortunately, many of us also begin our walk with the Lord with selfish motives. We want to be with Him, we want to learn from Him, we want to change our lives. All of these things are good and necessary, but the motives are usually far from perfect. Our Lord told us that we are to love God. Selfishness is the opposite of love, so we have to maintain all of the good desires and intentions, but we have to adjust the motive so that it is charity and not selfishness. This is what the Apostles had to learn and, other than our Lady, it is what every one of the Saints had to learn. We are no different.
If we are unable to make this adjustment in our motive, we are doomed to follow the pattern of Judas. When something arose that was not to his liking, he harbored hatred toward the Lord and, looking out only for his own perceived good, sought to find a way to save face, or worse, to become the hero by denying the Lord. In today’s Gospel we are told that it was when he received the morsel from our Lord that Satan entered his heart and he left to perform his dastardly deed. We need to be reminded, as we hear about the timing of Satan entering into Judas, of why Judas betrayed our Lord. St. John tells us twice in chapter six of his Gospel (verses 64 and 70-71) why Judas betrayed Jesus; this chapter, recall, is dedicated to our Lord’s teaching on the Eucharist. He could not accept the teaching of Jesus regarding the Eucharist, and, at the moment Jesus gave Him the morsel, rather than opening his heart of receive Jesus, Judas opened his heart to receive Satan. St. Paul speaks about what was happening to some of the early Christians who received Holy Communion unworthily in 1 Corinthians 11:27ff. Another warning to us.
There are two other points we need to consider. The first is St. Peter who with great zeal and intent tells Jesus he will lay down his life for the Lord. Jesus answers that Peter will deny Him three times before the cock crows. So, here we see the love Peter has for Jesus growing and developing, but there is still a fair amount of selfishness present because his love was not strong enough to remain faithful when things turned difficult. Another reminder to us not to ever think we love enough or, especially, that we are strong enough on our own. We need the help of God to remain faithful and, as long as we are alive, we can and must continue to grow in love for God.
Finally, we must consider the actions of Jesus. It is nothing short of astounding that He is able to speak of His impending crucifixion as being glorified and God being glorified in Him. All of what we read in today’s Gospel reading follows immediately after Jesus washed the feet of His Apostles. He makes Himself the lowest, He shows what true charity and selflessness is all about, then tells His Apostles one of them will betray Him and, as His betrayer walks away from our Lord, Jesus calmly states that this will result in His glorification.
All this is impressive, but the point I really wanted to highlight comes toward the beginning of today’s Gospel. When Jesus tells His Apostles that one of them will betray Him we are told the “disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom He meant.” Jesus knew from the first moment He called Judas that this man would be His betrayer. Yet, it is quite obvious from the reaction of the other Apostles, that Jesus never let on. He treated Judas with the same charity with which He treated the others. Judas was like the bruised reed or the smoldering wick we heard about yesterday. Jesus did nothing to reject him; rather, He gave Judas everything he needed to heal and to become a Saint. Judas rejected God’s love and betrayed the One Who loved him. This, too, serves as a warning to us. Pray for the grace to open your heart to receive our Lord’s love. Pray also for the grace to love Him with your whole heart, and soul, and strength. Only by the charity and humility that come from having the selfishness striped away will we be guaranteed that we will never betray the One Who loves us.