This is a week of tremendous graces as we head into the sacred Triduum. In the readings at the start of Holy Week, we see the unfolding of the glory and promise of Jesus’s mission. In today’s first reading, Isaiah touches on the seeking and waiting for the Messiah that has been the preoccupation of Israel throughout the Old Testament – “You are my servant, He said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” (Is 48:3)
Then Isaiah adds a radical expansion of God’s promise to Israel – “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 48:6) In John’s account of the establishment of the Eucharist, Jesus reveals more and more clearly the incredible sacrifice He will make for the salvation of the world.
And, as always, hampering God’s perfect plan for us is our unfaithfulness and the mystery of human evil. Even as Jesus prepares to make us inheritors of His Kingdom at the Last Supper, our dysfunction dramatically enters. First, the shocking betrayal of Judas. Judas, for years an intimate friend of Jesus, is now prepared to hand Him over for a few pieces of silver. Perhaps even more heartbreaking to Jesus is the foreshadowing of Peter’s denial – “Amen, Amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” (Jn 13:38)
At first, I recoil from these seemingly alien acts of faithlessness. However, on reflection, I see the many times in my life when confronted with evil my response was not to turn to my faith but to give into my ego—my desire for acceptance, comfort, and to belong to the things of this world.
When I start to become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame, I see wise council in the Gospel account of the divergent paths of Judas and Peter after their respective betrayals. Both felt remorse. Judas turned his remorse inward. He knew he had sinned but hugged his guilt tighter and made it even more about his ego and needs. Even at the moment of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ forgiveness and grace were available. Jesus was “deeply troubled” on behalf of his errant disciple. Judas refused to see this and his refusal to accept forgiveness led to the ultimate despair and finality of suicide.
In contrast, Peter’s remorse leads him outside of himself. He turned to Jesus in humility and sorrow, knowing he could not manage on his own. Peter sought Jesus’ help and forgiveness. As a result, Peter was showered in abundance with the grace of the Holy Spirit. All of salvation history foretold in the Old Testament teaches us that God forgives our sins and desires nothing more than our love and companionship. In the Passion of the Lord, we see the true depth of this promise.
I know that through my fragility I am vulnerable to sin, and sin more often than I desire. My willingness to seek forgiveness from God and from those I have harmed will have an enormous impact on my spiritual health. It will help to lessen my future occasions of sin. We are fortunate to have the sacrament of Reconciliation to help us in this process. I pray God will give me the grace to make my Lenten confession a humble and true examination of conscience. Amen.