One of the beautiful things about Catholic liturgy, with each of the different seasons, is how the scriptures come alive in a unique way. When we were in Holy Week just a little over a month ago – you could feel the tension of the Passion of Jesus Christ so front and center all week every time we gathered for Mass. You felt the heaviness, the weight of all those events each day. Now that we’re in the joy of the Easter season, we experience in yet another way how the resurrection of Jesus Christ does in fact change everything. Here we are reading from the same Gospel – the same chapter that we heard in Holy Week: it is Holy Thursday, the Last Supper. But the sadness of Jesus’ explaining what’s about to happen to him, the betrayal of one of his closest sitting in that room doesn’t feel the same. The Gospel sounds more poetic… we’re not fixed on that timeline of events walking with Jesus on the road to Calvary. We can go back into that Upper Room into that sacred of spaces and revisit maybe things we missed that Jesus was saying in that sacred moment. What we find ourselves having to do today is revisiting Judas. Jesus says – He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me. Judas is sitting at the table of the most intimate and sacred of meals and Jesus sees, knows this man sitting in front of him is about to betray him.
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Not too long ago, I was hurt, feeling betrayed and taken advantage of by someone I considered a friend. While it had far less deadly consequences than Jesus’ experienced, the emotions that emerge when I learn of another insult, or somehow find myself revisiting painful events can be difficult to contend with. I can’t imagine looking at this person, let alone sharing a sacred meal with them. Too often we tell ourselves “well Jesus was fully human and fully divine” to kind of explain why Jesus is able to do something we can’t even imagine doing: forgiving Judas.
Here Jesus sees the hypocrisy of Judas. This man is sitting right there, having been in this inner circle for an extended period of time, listening and witnessing all that Jesus was saying and doing. Jesus reminds them all “I know whom I have chosen…” He saw the potential within each of them – the positive and the negative for that matter – and allowed them to utilize the God-given gift from Adam and Eve to us here and now, of free will to see how they would respond. Just because He knew Judas was going to betray Him, doesn’t mean that Jesus wanted it to happen, that Jesus had made peace with that decision like “it’s all good Judas, because Good Friday will lead to Easter Sunday.” It doesn’t mean that what Judas’ does won’t hurt Jesus. Judas betrayal was another deep wound that Jesus would suffer through His passion.
Yet Jesus wouldn’t let that hurt change Him. Jesus wouldn’t let the horrendous things that Judas was going to do; to dilute the love, diminish the hope He had for Judas. Even a hope that remains at this moment in the Upper Room- a hope that Judas will recognize Jesus’ love is greater than his betrayal. History looks at Judas as the ultimate of villains and traitors because of his actions – but for Christians, what’s sadder is that he couldn’t or wouldn’t accept Jesus’ forgiveness for him.
For us, this season of Easter is 50 days of joyfully reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. How this singular event changed everything. How the seemingly impossible is made gloriously real – a man tortured, killed and left for dead is alive – present tense intended. One way that the resurrection can continue to change everything is our allowing it to change us. For me that has meant trying to let go of the hurts, not return in kind, praying for the desire to forgive – and pausing every time I don’t want to do that, to meet Jesus in this upper room. It’s here that I’m invited to yes, see His example. To remember His pain. To recognize the times I’ve betrayed Him too… and more importantly, His joy that I didn’t make the same tragic mistake of Judas in not thinking forgiveness for me was possible. It’s from that experience that I know Jesus wants me to not quit trying to imitate that example until it’s possible. It’s how Jesus wants to move each and everyone of us from our Holy Week experiences into the joy of the resurrection and truly being an Easter people