Tuesday Holy Week 2011

Mass Readings for today are here

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.

                                                    Judas betrays by James Woodward
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.

Judas leaving by James Tissot

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.”


Ron Rolheiser gives us a great insight into the betrayal of Jesus by Peter in this reflection where he says this :

"First, Peter’s initial brash, over-confidence.... He had sworn that he would never betray Jesus, even if everyone else did. 

Second, he made this promise in utter sincerity, with deep love in his heart, fully intending on keeping his word. Third, he broke his promise quickly in the face of adversity. Fourth, perhaps most important, he wept at his sin when Jesus looked at him with love.

What’s to be learned from this? First, that sincerity and good will aren’t enough to keep us from sinning. 

Sin isn’t always the product of malice or hypocrisy. More often, we sin out of simple weakness.

Moreover, because we sin out of weakness, we have a tendency to rationalize: “It wasn’t so bad! There was nothing I could have done!” But sin is still sin, betrayal is still betrayal, and the damage we do is still real, even when we act out of weakness. 

Peter didn’t want to betray Jesus, he just wasn’t strong enough not to. And that’s generally too our problem when we don’t hold out against temptation, whether it be to bitterness, sex, gossip, slander, jealousy, hatred, or anything else we sell out to or run away from in order to get through an ordeal, a loneliness, an insecurity, a fear, a season, or a night. 

Even when we give in out of weakness we’re still betraying, still (in essence) saying: “I do not know the man!”

But while sincerity doesn’t necessarily save us from sin, it does help us hear the rooster crow. As long as we remain sincere, we will soon enough admit our sin and we will know too that God still looks on us with love, even in betrayal.

A very important part of this picture of Peter betraying Jesus is the look that Peter sees on Jesus’ face when he catches his eye in the crowd. The text tells us that “Jesus turned around and looked straight at Peter.” 

Whenever the gospels tell us that Jesus “looked at” someone, generally that means that he looked at the person with love and understanding, with a look that blesses. 

What Peter saw on Jesus’ face (in Jesus’ ultimate moment of humiliation and Peter’s ultimate moment of betrayal) was not, as we would expect, a look of disappointment and reproach (“How could you!”) but something Peter had likely never seen or experienced before in his whole life, namely, a look that holds you in warmth and understanding even when you sin and betray.

No doubt this was a defining moment in Peter’s understanding of Jesus because, at that moment, he experienced something that releases a different kind of tears, unconditional love.

The tears we weep when we are loved despite weakness are very different from the ones we weep when we feel judged and humiliated by our weakness. 

To experience love when we don’t deserve it is the one grace that cleanses us of sin and gives us strength against sin.

The image of Peter betraying Jesus teaches us that we are loved sinners, all of us.

Our sincerity and good-hearts don’t keep us from sinning. We still betray, break our word, and too easily give in to temptation. 

But, that’s not the whole story: What’s shown here too is that God doesn’t give us that look of disappointment and disapproval that we’re all too familiar with when we do this. 

God still looks at us with understanding and continues to hold us solidly in love and blessing.

However we struggle with both sides of this, namely, to admit we’re sinners and to recognize that we’re still loved. 

But appropriating both of these truths is the key to knowing Jesus and knowing ourselves.

As John Shea says: The false self will crack when the rooster crows. There are many ways to wake up!"

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claire said...

Thank you for the John Shea quote. I like it very much. It feels so very true.
Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

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