Wednesday of Holy Week(Click here for readings)
by Stephanie Juarez
And while they were eating, He said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.”
Tonight as I was waiting in line for confession I read a quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said, “Judas felt let down by Jesus and decided that he, in his turn, would betray Jesus. Judas was a zealot and he wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus had not measured up to these expectations.”
Wait…who was the Pope really talking about, me or Judas?
As much as I would like to say that I am more like Jesus and less like Judas, I know that would be a lie. Jesus gives without measuring. His love does not calculate anything, but endures all things. Jesus forgives and forgets. Judas and I- we like to calculate. We want to know the rate of exchange for everything. We measure exactly how much we are willing to give. And we definitely don’t forgive and forget as easily as the Lord. This is the reality of my sin. I don’t like it nor am I proud of it. But I know that I have to face the ugliness of it all if I am going to become another Christ.
I see now that the very thing that led Judas to betray Jesus is the very thing that has led me to betray Jesus. It’s that feeling of being let down. It’s the feeling you get when you pray and pray and pray but nothing happens…nothing seems to be changing…nothing seems to be getting any better.
You let me down, Jesus. So now I’m going to let you down!
As selfish, immature, and shallow as those words sound, I have to admit that I have thought them more times than I care to remember. Looking back though, I can see that my first mistake was thinking that the Lord owed me anything at all!
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist- the sacrament in which He constantly gives His whole self to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity. There is nothing else apart from Him that we will ever need. And yet the Lord still wants to give us more! He wants to fulfill all the desires of our hearts! But most of all He wants us to be holy. He want us ALL to become great saints! That means He can’t always give us exactly what we ask for, at the moment we ask for it. And it is in those times that we have the opportunity to really grow in our faith. It is in those times of feeling let down like Judas that we have a choice to make. We can either choose to trust in Him and believe that “as the heavens are higher than the earth” so are His ways higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (cf. Isaiah 55:9). Or we can choose to sell Him out and crucify Him with our sin. The latter is the easy way out. There is no risk there - no sacrifice, no leap of faith- only desperation.
I don’t know about you, but when feel desperate I start to grasp for control. Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is what happened to Judas and to Eve. They both felt like God was holding back on them in some way. Things were not going according to their plans so they tried to take control. But in the end they just ended up betraying God and hurting themselves. The irony of sinning in order to try to gain control of your life is that sin kills- physically, spiritually, emotionally- sin slowly destroys every part of you.
How many times have we sinned because we wanted to take control of our lives?
How many times have we sinned because we felt that God wasn’t measuring up…that He wasn’t holding up His end of the deal?
How many times have I chosen to sin in an effort to “get revenge” on God for letting me down?
If we are honest with ourselves, I think that we will find that we have all done those things way too many times.
“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Love always gives; it never seeks to take from the beloved. As we will see on Good Friday, love is a sacrifice. It is a total submission and a total gift of self. To be completely vulnerable and willfully bound to your beloved even through immense suffering- that is real love- that is the crucifix. The opposite of love, according to Blessed (soon to be saint) John Paul II, is not hate but use. Our Mother Mary knew what real love is- she gave herself fully to God knowing that one day her own soul would be pierced with a sword (cf. Luke 2:35). Even in her worst moments she did not think of abandoning her cross. She made it all the way to the foot of the cross, and that is what we should all be striving to do. We should all be carrying our crosses to the foot of Jesus’ cross. Judas ditched Christ and cross for thirty pieces of silver, but in the end he ended up paying a much heavier price.
My prayer for each and every one of us as we enter the Triduum is that we receive the graces to persevere with our crosses, especially in the moments when we feel that God has let us down in some way. I pray that we hold our crosses even tighter than ever before so that we have no hands free to grasp for silver- no hands with which to betray our Lord. But I also pray that if and when we do betray Him that we would run to seek His forgiveness and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I pray that we would all have humble and contrite hearts filled with the sorrow of Good Friday and the hope of Easter Sunday. I pray that we would not give in to the temptations of despair like Judas but that we would be like Peter the rock, always trusting in God’s infinite love and compassion.
Grace and peace be with you.
P.S. I humbly ask for your prayers as I will be going on a pilgrimage this Good Friday with a group of other young adults from the diocese. We are teaming up with some of our Protestant brothers and sisters from a local Evangelical church to literally carry our crosses from downtown Dallas to Plano. It is a 25 mile journey so we would very much appreciate your prayers for guidance, safety, and protection. Thank you!!