“I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” /v.24b -Mark 1:21-28
Happy Wednesday of Holy Week!
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They reply, one by one, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”
I’m so tempted to make a joke — to claim that Jesus said, “Yes, it’s definitely one of you… and don’t call me Shirley.”
Tempted… Judas was tempted and fell victim to the desire for the 30 pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus. We all face temptation daily. See how I was tempted to share a bad joke a few sentences ago, and couldn’t resist? So much for having gone to confession last night…
Poor Judas – forever known as The Betrayer… Judas planned a betrayal, and did so without any of the other apostles knowing. But we just can’t judge Judas — Pope Benedict XVI said, “Even though he went to hang himself (Matthew 27:5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God.” Matthew’s Gospel goes on to say how Judas repented afterward, even going to the chief priests and elders to bring back the thirty pieces of silver, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:3-4)
Jesus, though, knew what was in his heart, and even though he could have had his “Father send more than twelve legions of angels” to fight on his behalf, (Matthew 26:53), instead he responded with the same love he had always shown to Judas — and he allowed Judas the freedom to choose. And he does the same for us. Jesus asks for us to come home to him, no matter what, but always respects our human free-will.
Perhaps it’s more palpable after so many weeks of trying to adhere to our lenten observances, but we’re also bombarded with temptation the entire rest of the year. We can find ourselves desiring things that make no sense whatsoever — small things like that chocolate or coffee we gave up, or larger things like a new car or better clothes, a more prestigious job or lofty status. We even may be pulled down horribly destructive paths such as an addiction of some kind, or betrayal, or hate…
“Surely it is not I, Lord.”
I truly don’t believe any of us plan to hurt others, or ourselves. But still, in our humanness, we do. Here’s the thing… we can always come home to God. Even as Judas arrived, walked up to him, and betrayed him, Jesus still loved him and called him “Friend.” (Matthew 26:50)
We’re so very blessed to have Jesus’ love us no matter what. I can only hope that I would still be loved and forgiven for all the times I’ve failed.
Where is our temptation?
How have we failed?
Are we ready to come home?
Dear God of compassion and understanding, thank you for always calling us “Friend.” Help us to not condemn. Just as you invite us to follow you — willingly, freely, lovingly — help us love one another, just as you have loved us. Amen.
Peace and love to you today, and forever.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.