April 17 - 30 Pieces of Silver
Apr 17, 2019
Scripture: We see again the reading from Isaiah detailing the Messiah as someone who will be a suffering servant. I think it is important for us to consider that the pains that Christ felt during his passion were both actual present day physical pain, actual present day social pain, and the empathetic connection to the suffering of the whole world. Have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus called out Judas before he left? He made it obvious to Judas that he knew. It was like a parent that already knows the crime committed, knows exactly who did it, but lines up the children and asks them to tell the truth. The parent receives from the kids sincere denials and one lie. So it was with the Apostles that night. Judas denies it in a question, "Surely it is not I?" Jesus replies, "you have said so." This language is too dull for such an event. We need to imagine the true dynamic to understand. Judas hears the Lord call out the betrayal? A cold chill runs through Judas and he begins to put up his defenses and calculate if he had been discovered in his earlier meetings with the Pharisees. He did ask the price. Was there another, like him, ready to betray Jesus? What if Jesus names him, what will the brothers do? They'll kill him. What should he do? Play it cool, deflect. "Surely it is not I?" He says trying to read Jesus' reaction. The Lord met his eyes and Judas knew that Jesus knew his intention, of course he did, yet, he had hidden so many other things from him, like his stealing and skimming. Maybe it was a test to see if someone might confess, maybe Jesus is fishing for a confession. When Jesus says, "You have said so," I am willing to bet that this phase is idiomatic (I don't know for sure), but I believe they are words that confirm testimony (putting someone on the record); This is where someone would amend anything for fear of bearing false witness if it were proven. Another way of saying this was, "I'll take your word on that." Soon after, Christ gives the command to "Go, do what you have set out to do and be quick." The scripture says the devil entered him at that point. (I am late with this blog, I might as well go long). Why? Because the Apostles were always protected by Christ and the devil could not enter his heart. Judas' sins of theft and betrayal came from Judas' own human nature, in my opinion, the Lord also had been protected by providence (he escaped many attempts on his life) until his time has come. As a sinless man, no harm could come to him that he did not will. So in order for the scriptures to be fulfilled, Jesus had to release Judas from his protection and give him over to his own sin. Paul would write about turning someone over to Satan who refuses to confess his sin and repent. Jesus gave Judas that chance when he called him out, Judas did not betray himself with repentance, rather he chose to hold firm his course and betray the Lord. Jesus allowed it to happen at a great cost to himself as he knew he lost one of his own, he knew his friend did not love him, he knew his friend would betray him for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
Core Faith Principle: We have lost our reverence for the commandment that we "Shall not bear false witness." Great evil pervades our culture when our politicians say one thing and do another, when our news reports interpret instead of report news. We see the damage of false witness when reputations are so quickly and easily destroyed over false allegations. I am sure you can find your own examples but I think of the Covington Catholic kids or the Duke Lacrosse team. We also have people inventing stories and then trying to manifest destiny by pushing a narrative. We of course know that Jesus was lied about and falsely accused. This lead to his death. It wasn't just the leaders standing out to watch Jesus get crucified. They passed the narrative, bearing false witness against Christ, to convince the crowd with their God-given authority that this man was really a blasphemer and a villain. They yearned for his death and they did everything in their power to undermine his credibility, message, and reputation. So if you were standing on the street that day, a person who trusts your leaders, those who have taught shared so much knowledge with you, which side would you have been on? It would have been really easy to be obedient to the chief priests and the scribes and believe them about Jesus, for they wouldn't be the chief priests if they did not know better about such things than me. And so we see the Chief Priests on television all the time telling us what is true, the Scribes write the articles we read, they have authority, but is it safe to assume they know better? Is it safe to assume that there aren't narratives that are trying to destroy our faith, like the narrative that destroyed our Lord? I say it is not safe. Be constantly vigilant in what you hear, see, and receive especially from those with power and authority. "The eye is the lamp unto the soul." Filter everything through the gospel, don't except conclusions without hearing the testimony, and be on guard about drawing your own conclusions. One reason this country is so divided is that we don't honor the 8th Commandment to not bear false witness.
Living this at Home: If we want our children to be honest and true, we must set the example. Do we apologize to our children if we lose our patience? Do we apologize when we are late? Forget to pick them up, or don't uphold a promise? It is okay to testify against ourselves when we know we have done wrong. This does not mean we confess ALL of our sins to our children, but just the ones that affect them. Give them the opportunity to practice mercy with you and with other members of the family. Judas destroyed himself, it wasn't for a lack of mercy in our Lord. Judas was protected, but his nature was not one that chose to accept mercy. God did not make him that way, he hardened his own heart through his own vice. Just so, each household should practice virtue and mercy. This does not mean there should not be punishment in a household, because discipline is at the heart of virtue. However, that discipline can be applied with love restored (very much like purgatory).
The Last Blog: Thank you to all who read along. I hope these thoughts have been interesting to you. It has been a blessing for me to write this as my Lenten practice. I wish you all a Happy Triduum and a Happy Easter!