Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
John 13:21-33, 36-38
At this time of war many of us in the United States are thinking about love of country and loyalty to our country as well as loyalty and love of God. We want to be good citizens and loyal followers of Christ. But the war makes us think about how we can best be loyal to God and country.
The twelve apostles were chosen to follow Christ in a special way, and were taught and trained by Christ himself. Christ certainly had a right to expect great loyalty from the apostles in return. Yet, as we see during our observance of Holy Week, they failed a test of loyalty at a crucial time. When Our Lord needed them during his sufferings and death, they weren’t there. We read that 10 of the apostles fled at the first sign of trouble. Only Peter and John remained to witness the terrible events of the passion, and they kept their distance. Peter on three occasions denied that he even knew Jesus.
Today’s gospel reading focuses on the tragic figure of Judas. Like the other apostles, Judas was chosen by Jesus. Like the other apostles, Judas was instructed by Jesus himself. Like the other apostles, Judas witnessed the miraculous deeds of Jesus. Judas was also chosen by Jesus to have charge of the common monies the apostles and Jesus used for their daily needs. This was a position of responsibility and Judas seems to have done it well. But it also proved a source of temptation for Judas. He was tempted to use some of the money for himself. And when the chief priests offered him 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus, Judas succumbed to the lure of money. John and Luke both tell us that when Jesus foretold his betrayal at the Last supper, Satan entered Judas and made a bargain with him. The betrayal of Jesus was a grave sin, and after betraying Jesus, Judas realized how badly he had acted and was terribly sorry. But then Judas did something else that was very wrong.
He refused to ask Jesus to forgive him. He was overwhelmed with grief and guilt, and he fell into despair. He felt that he had done something so terrible that it could never be forgiven. He forgot that Jesus had repeated over and over again that he was ready and willing to forgive no matter how great the sin. He failed to seek the mercy and love of God. And so, in grief and despair, he took his own life.
The story of Judas can be a powerful lesson to us. How often do we act like Judas in thinking that we have done something so terrible that Jesus cannot forgive us? How often are we tempted to lose hope and be overwhelmed by our sins? How often do we fail to ask the Lord for forgiveness? When we do things like this, we are acting like Judas. And yet, none of us wants to end our lives like Judas. And so we must learn from the story of Judas. We must learn the lesson that Jesus taught Judas and the other apostles. That he is willing and ready to forgive no matter what the sin or how horrible it seems to us. We must learn that Jesus is really and truly willing to forgive us right now. All he asks is that we seek him out and seek his forgiveness.
This week marks the conclusion of Lent. It is also one of the
times when most Catholics are ending their Lenten observance and preparing
for Easter by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What better
way to learn the lesson of forgiveness than to seek out the Lord in the
Sacrament of Reconciliation and beg his forgiveness for all our sins.
If we approach him, he will help us to seek forgivenss.
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