Grace to you!
We continue our reflections on the personalities who were part of the last events leading to Easter. Today, we focus on Judas’ façade of social gospel and Peter’s excessive zeal; and how they could be a stumbling block to a virtuous life of true worship.
We could visualize Jesus during the Last Supper speak of his betrayal. First, he says the one to whom he will give the morsel after he dips it, will betray him (see Jn 13:26). He gives the morsel to Judas. Second, Jesus predicts his betrayal by Peter, the leader of the apostles.
So, what do we glean from these two characters, Judas and Peter? How would the roles they played help us to grow and love the Lord more?
Judas was an apostle. If we are to use contemporary language, he was a top Church hierarchy, such as a bishop, archbishop or a Cardinal. He was expected to know better, but did he? The story suggests the contrary.
His was an example of a social gospel fanatic who does not seem to appreciate the value of true devotion to the Lord. He implied that “worship” or service must be first for the poor and not to God in objection to Mary of Bethany’s gesture of true worship which we discussed yesterday. Mary broke and generously poured a costly ointment on the feet of Jesus. Judas saw her gesture as wasteful just like some see money spent in building a church, adorning a place of worship or for liturgical events as wasteful. By so doing, Judas seems to suggest Jesus was enabling Mary to be wasteful of her resources.
Judas quickly forgot that throughout the life of Jesus, ample time and resources were spent taking care of the poor. The Lord was and is all for the poor. Judas misplaced true worship with social works, pitching one against the other. As if to suggest one could not be generous to the poor and make offerings for worship as well.
It is unfortunate we notice such attitudes with a baffling frequency in the church today, beginning from the Church hierarchy to the least. The character of Judas must be watched and shouldn’t be the right disposition for the Holy Week.
There is time for everything. In my opinion, making worship only a matter of social concerns takes the focus away from Christ to somewhere else. For a Christian, true service for the needy springs from true worship of God and love of neighbor, and not the other way around.
Similarly, I see Judas as an example of people who approach Jesus and his Church with misguided, wrong intentions. His was a sneaky concern for the poor, then greed, fraud, and finally, betrayal for money, leading to the arrest of Jesus. These evils are still recurrent in every church today. It’s unfortunate that many of us in church leadership betray the Lord for love of money, wealth or fame. “The love of money,” the bible says, “is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Holy Week should be a time for us to ask ourselves: What is my intention for following the Lord, for being a clergy, a Christian, for working in the church or even for the practice of virtues? We should examine our intentions.
Peter is another character to examine. Excessive zeal was his undoing. Zeal is good, but excessive zeal could be a challenge to the spiritual life. How do we balance our spiritual life and exercises with moderation?
In addition, we see in Peter too, an ego which must be overcome. His three times denial of the Lord was a humiliating experience that may have brought him to the reality of human weaknesses. Do we see our weaknesses as a call to action; a call to seek the face of the Lord for grace, healing and strength?
One of the best ways to identify with Christ of the Paschal Mystery is to approach him in the most unassuming way and show him how much we need him and how ready we are to be part of his cross, a necessary step to his glory.
Pray: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday of Holy Week: Is 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .