For me Holy Week is often a time of anguish. On Ash Wednesday I was reminded how I think about Lent. I cannot remember what the person distributing the ashes said, but I remember they were words of hope. I realized instead I wanted to hear the traditional “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent brings me to terms with my human weaknesses. I find myself insubstantial in body and frail in will. Today’s Gospel reinforces my sense of human weakness in general. We read about the events preceding two of Jesus’ own apostles turning against Him. Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial.
I think Judas and Peter were people who were finding themselves in difficult situations. I think about how I respond when I am challenged. I try to avoid trouble. One could argue this is a natural and perhaps even a healthy human reaction. I think both Judas and Peter were exhibiting this type of response. These were the men closest to Jesus, yet they turned away. Were these acts of pure evil? The Gospel seems to suggest that at least in Judas’ case it was. I am not sure. These would be dangerous and even life-threatening circumstances for these men. I need to admit that when I face serious challenges I consider the alternatives. Judas was clearly concerned about the events of the week. He likely was worried about how the authorities would respond to the Jesus situation. He may have felt pressure from his religious leaders. Peter would be challenged in the presence of the civil authorities. It is not clear how much time Judas had to reflect about his actions. My impression is Peter had very little time. In addition I think Peter’s personality would likely encourage him to respond before he was completely ready. My feeling reading the Gospel was that these were two men hurled into situations that would challenge most of us as humans.
The Holy Week and Easter stories do offer hope from the perspective of salvation history. The first reading reflects a Divine call. In a Holy Week context we see Jesus fulfilling the role described in this call. Nevertheless the promise of the Easter Season does not bring much resolution to my Holy Week feelings or to the questions of human response posed by today’s Gospel. More than in the things that will transpire in the next few days of Biblical chronology, I find greater hope in that which is still two months away in the New Testament. The events that draw out my faith will be the events of Pentecost. I believe that it is the arrival of the Spirit that truly offers some resolution to the human conflicts that Holy Week presents. It is in the Pentecost experience that we find hope for overcoming the human weaknesses we find in today’s Gospel. It is through the Spirit that Peter becomes the man that will lead and it is through the Spirit that the words of Isaiah become words that can fit all Christians not just the Christ. The Spirit gives us the same confidence in the Lord that the psalmist expresses.
My prayer today is for a better awareness of Jesus’ special role in the Good Friday and Easter events. I further pray for the Lord’s patience with all of us who show human weaknesses. I finally pray for the strength and renewal that the Spirit will bring.
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