Homily for March 23rd, 2016:
Matthew 26: 14-25.
“One of you will betray me,” Jesus tells his twelve apostles gathered in the upper room for the last supper. The gospel writer tells us that they were “deeply distressed” – and no wonder. And no wonder too that they ask, one after the other, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Even Judas asks that question. To which Jesus replies: “You have said so.”
Why did Judas betray the Lord? People have speculated about that question for two millennia. One theory is that Judas expected a Messiah who would come in power and glory, throw off the hated Roman yoke, and lead his people to new triumphs. When Jesus proved to be a very different kind of Messiah, Judas was angry and decided upon revenge.
Writing about John’s account of Judas’ betrayal, which we heard in yesterday’s gospel, Pope Benedict XVI says: “For [the gospel writer ] John what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. [Judas] has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his ‘easy yoke’, does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it another way, he betrays that friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself.” (Jesus of
vol. 2 p.
How important it is for us to know that, and to reflect on it. One of the most effective lies that Satan, a liar and the father of lies, has in his armory is the seductive lie: ‘Throw off the yoke of the moral law. Come with me, and you will be free, free at last.’ Exactly the opposite is true.
Judas’ betrayal has yet another lesson for us. Whatever harm the open enemies of Christ and his Church do, the damage done by the Lord’s friends is worse. As we stand on the threshold of the Triduum, the solemn three days before Easter, we pray that we may not be among those unfaithful friends; and that when, like Peter, we do fall, we may repent, as he did, and receive the Lord’s forgiveness and the embrace of this best of friends and passionate lover, whose love will never let us go.