“My Lord and my God!”

In John 20:19-31, Jesus walks into a locked room and reveals himself to the disciples, including the doubting Thomas, and sends them on their public ministry.

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked, 
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

All this past week the readings have been about how the Risen Jesus has appeared to the various disciples. First to Mary Magdelene, then to John and Peter, then to others. In today’s passage, rather than on a road as the disciples are headed somewhere in the open, they are in a locked room for fear of the Jews who crucified Jesus. And Jesus walks in and reveals Himself to the group.

Now Thomas wasn’t there and when the others later told him about the encounter, he doubted their story. It is only when Jesus returns the following week and Thomas sees Jesus’s wounds that Thomas sees for himself that the story is true and proclaims, “Mr Lord and my God!” (I do find it curious that earlier in the passage Jesus shows the other disciples His wounds and nothing is made of it.)

This story is often told to doubters and the weak of faith. Look, Thomas doubted and only believed when he saw Jesus’s wounds for himself, and Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Pat myself on the back for believing when you didn’t. Yet, how many of those same people claim faith but fail to act on it or fail to act on what Jesus actually taught us? A hollow victory for them to claim they believe when in fact they only believe in the wounds but not in the essence of Jesus himself. This story is told that you may have real faith in Jesus and life in his name.

Important also in this passage is Jesus sending the disciples out as the Father sent Him, sending them forth with His peace, and giving them the power to forgive or retain sins, breathing the Holy Spirit into them. Their public ministry begins.

Glory to God!

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“Were not our hearts burning within us”

Jesus is Risen and reveals Himself to His disciples in this passage from Luke 24:13-35.

That very day, the first day of the week, 
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, 
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him, 
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning 
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted 
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Happy Easter!

Last night during the Easter Vigil, we celebrated the Risen Christ. Today, we celebrate the many amazing ways the Risen Christ revealed Himself to His disciples, in particular to Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. We learn here that He also revealed Himself to Peter.

Imagine yourself a disciple, three days after Jesus has been crucified, and your whole world has seemingly fallen down around you. Then suddenly, Jesus appears before you, alive and well. You are stunned. At first you are incredulous and you don’t even recognize Our Lord — here it says the truth was hidden from their eyes. You talk with Him and He discusses scripture with you as He consoles you over your deep feeling of loss. But then He joins you for dinner and it is at the breaking of bread — an act He last performed at the Last Supper — that your eyes are opened and you suddenly recognize the Risen Christ. He is revealed! And you remember, “Were not our hearts burning within us?”

What joy they must have felt when they realized it was Jesus, who was among them once again.

Our takeaway from this wonderful story? If we are believers in Jesus Christ, are we not looking for Jesus’s presence in our daily life? And are we not sometimes blind to it, even though it is often right there in front of us? We may not see Him standing or sitting right next to us, but He is there with us when we need Him. But we may feel our hearts burning within us with His presence, and not even realize it’s Him.

Search your heart and soul for Jesus’s presence. Remember those times when He may have been there for you and you didn’t recognize Him. We are told to look for His presence in the face of others — Jesus says, what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me; who have you encountered in whom Jesus has a presence? Or look for a time when you feel your heart burning within you and see if it isn’t Jesus responding to your prayers.

Jesus loves us. He has risen and revealed Himself. And now it’s time for us to look for Him in our lives and love Him back.

Glory to God!

“He has been raised”

In today’s passage from Mark 16:1-7, we celebrate the Easter Vigil. The women are the first to arrive at Jesus’s tomb and are the first to discover He has been raised.

When the sabbath was over, 
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome 
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another, 
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 
‘He is going before you to Galilee; 
there you will see him, as he told you.'”

While you might think we’re a day early, the Easter Vigil service occurs in the evening. The Sabbath is actually a Saturday in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, although Christians today celebrate it on Sunday, and the Sabbath ends at 6 p.m.

In today’s passage, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body, but when they get there He is missing. They are told He is not there and is going to Galilee, where He will meet up with Peter and the disciples. And thus, the good news of the Gospel is announced to the world. “He has been raised.” He is risen.

In the Easter Vigil Mass, a very long but very moving observance, there is great joy. While in today’s traditional mass we no longer hear the bells ring during the consecration of the Eucharist, it returns for this joyous occasion. The Gloria sung during this Mass is stirring. The ceremony of the blessing and lighting of the candle that remains at the altar for the rest of liturgical year is inspiring. And there is throughout this event great jubilation. If you haven’t attended an Easter Vigil Mass, you really should at least once to experience the rejoicing.

The good news of the Easter Vigil Mass is the great news that Mary Magdalene, Mary,  and Salome received at the tomb. They were confused at first, of course, but as the news sank in, their hearts would come to be filled with joy. And over the coming days, Peter and the disciples would finally come to understand as Jesus rejoined them. They, too, would rejoice.

Jesus has not just been raised, Jesus has conquered death. Jesus has not just conquered death, for Himself, but He has opened the door for us to follow Him. We have a path to life in Heaven after passing from this life on earth, and it’s because Jesus died on the cross and then was raised from the dead to eternal life in Heaven. And He did all of that out of love for us.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. But let us celebrate tonight the joyous discovery that the tomb is empty … because Jesus Christ is Risen.

Glory to God!

 

 

“It is finished”

Today is Good Friday and we remember the Passion of Jesus Christ in John 18:1-19:42, as He finishes His earthly mission.

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley 
to where there was a garden, 
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place, 
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards 
from the chief priests and the Pharisees 
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, 
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM, “ 
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
“Whom are you looking for?”
They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
Jesus answered,
“I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill what he had said, 
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, 
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, 
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews 
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, 
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, 
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, 
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus 
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
“I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue 
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, 
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
When he had said this, 
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, 
“Is this the way you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him,
“If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; 
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said,
“I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest, 
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 
“Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, 
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said, 
“What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered and said to him,
“If he were not a criminal, 
we would not have handed him over to you.”
At this, Pilate said to them, 
“Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
The Jews answered him, 
“We do not have the right to execute anyone, “ 
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium 
and summoned Jesus and said to him, 
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered,
“Do you say this on your own 
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered,
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered,
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world, 
my attendants would be fighting 
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him,
“Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered,
“You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, 
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
“I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again,
“Not this one but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, 
and clothed him in a purple cloak, 
and they came to him and said,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them, 
“Look, I am bringing him out to you, 
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, 
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, 
“Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered, 
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, 
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid, 
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, 
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you 
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me 
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, 
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out 
and seated him on the judge’s bench 
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, 
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, 
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others, 
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription, 
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; 
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, 
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, 
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, 
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, 
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another, 
“Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ 
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, 
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, 
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop 
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, 
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken 
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first 
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, 
they did not break his legs, 
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, 
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; 
he knows that he is speaking the truth, 
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, 
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, 
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, 
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes 
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus 
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, 
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, 
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; 
for the tomb was close by.

This day marks the culmination of Jesus’s mission on earth. Of course, He will rise again from the dead and ascend into Heaven, also part of His mission. But after humbling Himself to live among us as we do, His final act of humanness was to die on the cross for us and fulfill scripture. So as Jesus acted out His final hours and minutes, watched humankind bend to God’s plan to completion, He finally announced, “It is finished.”

All along Jesus knew this moment was coming. Sometimes he fretted over it, it being His human side. Other times He steeled Himself to advance His cause to see the moment come to fruition, being His divine side. And in an act of perfect love, Jesus made it happen on our behalf, even though as you see in this passage Pilate gave Him chances to save Himself. Jesus suffered and died for us. On purpose. For you and I.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. So loved the world. Love.

Recently I saw someone on social media say they taught their sons to be “God-fearing young men”. And I wondered how they can know Jesus’s story and His Passion on the cross and not teach their sons to be God-loving young men instead. Why fear God when you can love God? God loves us, every one.

As we reflect on Jesus dying on the cross for us this Good Friday. As we reflect on His resurrection on Easter. May we know in our hearts the true and everlasting love of God.

Glory to God!

“I have given you a model to follow”

In John 13: 1-15, during the Last Supper Jesus gives us a specific direction.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper, 
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power 
and that he had come from God and was returning to God, 
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin 
and began to wash the disciples’ feet 
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him, 
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, 
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him, 
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over; 
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet 
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, 
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, 
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Here we are at the Triduum. From sundown Thursday of Holy Week to sundown of Easter Sunday, is the most solemn part of the liturgical year. And on Thursday, we commemorate the Lord’s Supper. During Mass in Catholic churches around the world, and many other denominations, we practice the washing of the feet, which is mentioned in today’s passage above. In the washing of the feet, Jesus humbles himself to serve His disciples, rather than allow them to serve Him. And then He called on them to do the same to each other. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

All His life, Jesus has served others. Certainly, as we saw in a reading a few postings ago, Jesus allowed Mary to apply oils to his feet. But that was in preparation for the difficult days of his crucifixion to come. But throughout His ministry Jesus has preferentially served others, whether it was turning water into wine for the newly married couple in his first public miracle, feeding the thousands with the few loaves and two fish, healing the sick and lame and blind, or keeping the crowd from stoning the adulteress. Always, Jesus served others. And in this passage from John, He tells us to do likewise.

As we continue our Holy Week journey, let us ponder how we can fully give ourselves to Jesus’s teachings. In this case, how can we serve others? And not just those close to us, our family and friends and colleagues, but also those with whom we are not familiar. Equally, those with whom we may not be close to or with whom we may be angry or in disagreement. If Jesus can forgive those who crucified Him, cannot we forgive those who crossed us? Cannot we reach out to the “others” whom we fear or who owe us or whom we owe? Just as important, cannot we reach out, serve, those in need, who are weak, who cannot speak for themselves? The sick, the elderly, the disabled, the disenfranchised, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the widowed, the orphaned, the poor, the unemployed, the quiet, the bullied, the abused, the divorced — everyone who suffers. That’s what Jesus would do.

Glory to God!

“Surely it is not I, Lord?”

In today’s passage, Matthew 26:14-25, we get version of Jesus identifying who will betray him, from different eyes. It gives us an opportunity to think about it in a different way.

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, 
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; 
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
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.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

Yesterday, I asked if you were a Judas or a Peter. Today, looking at this story from a different writer’s perspective, I ask you a different question.

Reading this passage in print, we can’t hear the inflections in Judas’s voice. “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Was he surprised — surely it is not I, Rabbi? Was he sly — surely it is not I, Rabbi? Was he panicked — surely it is not I, Rabbi? We can’t know. But we can imagine.

One thing we can do as Christians is try to empathize with Jesus as he approaches His darkest, most fearful time, a time He knows He must endure for the sake of us all. And to do that, perhaps we can relate to times when we have been betrayed. Times when we have been betrayed by someone close to us, perhaps someone who is sly, conniving, untrustworthy. Surely it is not I, Rabbi? Can we forgive them? Or perhaps by someone who doesn’t realize they did it. Surely it is not I, Rabbi? Can we believe them? Even maybe someone who was manipulated into the betrayal or has deep regret. Surely it is not I, Rabbi? Can we feel pity for them?

As we ponder Jesus’s road to crucifixion, and think of His anxiety and pain, give some thought to His knowledge of His betrayal and how He reacted to it. On the cross, He forgave those who took His life. Can we forgive those who have injured us? Can we ask Jesus forgiveness for the times we have betrayed Him, intentionally or not? Can we seek the forgiveness of those whom we have betrayed or injured, intentionally or not?

Life is full of betrayals and when faced with accusal, people often say, “Surely it is not I?” Jesus calls on us to forgive. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love. It is the ultimate gift of love. And love, as we know, is the greatest commandment.

There is a scene in a movie — I wish I can remember which one — where a child is happily riding on her father’s back. The verbal exchange goes something like, “I love you.” “I love you more.” “I love you most!” God loves us most. Loves us so much, He made this difficult journey for us.

Glory to God!

“Master, who is it?”

We continue our journey through Holy Week with a reading of John 13:21-33, 36-38.

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
Master, who is it?
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now? 
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

Are you a Judas or a Peter? Do you outright hand over Jesus, or do you deny Him? Before you answer, think about your faith life.

According to John in this passage, Satan entered Judas and then Judas left to do his deed. He was influenced by Satan, perhaps tempted by Satan. Was it for the thirty pieces of silver — after all, in yesterday’s passage we were told that Judas was a thief and stole from the group’s bag of money. So are we tempted by Satan to disregard Jesus’s teachings, are we tempted to turn a blind eye to others in need, are we tempted to sin, even to go against Jesus’s commandment to love for other gain? Are we a Judas?

Or are we fearful and deny our faith when we are confronted by others? Perhaps we say we are Christians, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t really know what Jesus teaches or we simply ignore what he teaches — we deny Him by our very acts. In that way we deny Him at the foot of the cross as we watch Him take His last gasps of breath. We deny Him when confronted by the least of our brothers and sisters and we ignore them or deny them. We deny Him when we are angry with others and fail to love them. We deny Him when we fail to love God fully. There are so many ways we may not even think we deny Him.

Saying we believe, saying we are faithful is easy. Being so is hard. There are so many distractions and temptations and dangers. It’s so easy to betray, even without intending to. Peter asked, “Master, who is it?” Who would betray Jesus? Is it me?

As we contemplate the coming crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, we should reflect on our relationship with God. Not to condemn ourselves or others. We don’t betray Him in the sense that Judas did. But do we give ourselves fully to Him? Do we listen to Him? Do we act on His teachings? Do we seek His wisdom and His love? Do we love Him? He loves us, enough to die on the cross for us.

Glory to God!