Monday, May 20, 2019

Waiting for Judas - Homily for the 5th Sunday in Easter (C)

As I have loved you, so you should love one another.

We have heard these words before. In fact, so often have we heard these words that I was tempted to preach on something else. But there was a detail in our reading today that struck me and changed how I understood Jesus’ words—and I think I need to share that with you today.

The detail that struck me was this: it’s from the first line:

When Judas had left them, Jesus said…

Why is that detail important?

Because we are being told exactly when Jesus tells His apostles (and us) to love one another. And the exact moment isn’t while on the road between Jerusalem and Galilee. It isn’t at Peter’s house. It isn’t even in the synagogue. Jesus is telling His apostles to love one another at the very first Mass; namely, the Last Supper.

And this command to love isn’t at the Washing of the Feet. And it’s not at the moment of the Bread and the Wine being changed. No, Jesus tells His apostles to love one another at the very moment that Judas leaves to betray them.

This is huge.

*          *          *

Here is why this is huge. When Judas leaves at the Last Supper, no one (except Jesus) really knows why. The Apostles think he is going off to buy supplies. But later in the evening, they realize what Judas has done: Judas has betrayed them!

Take that into your heart for a moment. ... How would you feel if you were betrayed?

I would be angry. And then, knowing that it was breaking apart my friends and family (as the Apostles were to each other), I would be extremely grieved. And angry some more.

Now take that anger for a moment and hear Jesus' words again:

          As I have loved you, so you should love one another.

In other words: Jesus is getting the Apostles ready for this. You are going to be angry, but love anyway.

And why?

Well, because, first of all, the betrayal will not be the end of the story. There will be glory even in this hardship:

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
             Now is the Son of Man glorified.

Now is the moment of glory. Now—even among the hardship of the betrayal and the subsequent crucifixion—now is the moment when the glory will enter in (and immediately-- “at once”). So you need to remember that. Remember this because it will bring you hope.

Because, if you are angry and holding on to the resentment about Judas, you’re going to miss the glory.

Paul, having learned from the Apostles, knew that in such times Jesus was

[strengthening] the spirits of the disciples
And [exhorting] them to persevere in the faith, saying
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."

*          *          *

But Jesus tells them to "love..." not simply for the glory, but also for Judas.

Let me explain that for a moment.

At this stage in the game—at the Last Supper—there was still hope for Judas. We often equate him as having lost hope-- and he does-- but, at this stage in the game, Judas still had decisions to make—not only about the betrayal, but, after it, Judas had a decision of whether to repent or not.

And here’s the thing: Judas could have repented. Just like Peter, Judas could have repented and become a great saint.

That possibility was still a possibility at this moment of the Last Supper.

Jesus was getting the Apostles ready for that possibility.

That is to say, when Jesus was telling them to love, Jesus was in effect saying, “Peter, you and the other Apostles: Judas is going to betray me now. But I want you to love him as I have loved you.”

And they could have asked: “How is that, Lord? How are we to love him?”

And Jesus responds: As I have loved you.

“And how is that, Lord?”

When you betray me, I will forgive you. I will not even get angry. I will continue to love you through it all. I want you to do the same for Judas. Don’t get angry at him. Love him through it all. And, should he repent, forgive him.

Until hope is actually lost, do not despair about his conversion.

*          *          *

Ok, so... Can I make this a little personal? ...

Who is the Judas in your life?

And not simply the one who has hurt you—who is the one who you are angry at? The one, or even the group of people, that you think will never change?

In our polarized world, it is so easy to be angry. But, here’s the thing, by being angry at people, it is so easy to fall into the trap—the lie—that says: “This person—or that group-- they will never change. They will never follow the Truth.”

And it’s easy to live like that. Easy to just chalk it up to fact—and to despair.

It is so, so easy to become a Judas—about Judas.

*          *          *

Instead, we must have great confidence. Have confidence in the power of God’s transforming grace. Yes, some people never change. Some will always remain Judas. But you must have hope. Until their last breath, there is hope. So don’t lose hope while the game is still on. Wait for Judas. Hope for his return. Pray confidently for his return!

Because, if that person—that Judas in your life—if he does actually repent, you need to be ready.

You need to be ready to forgive. And that means that you have to put away the despair. And the anger.

And yes, this will make you different than the angry, polarized world.

In fact, you must be different than that world: for,

This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

If you have love not only for the ones at this Last Supper, but love for the ones who have left. That's the hallmark of our faith!

Dear children! We must be known for Jesus' kind of love! Be known not for anger, but for the ability to hope for the conversion of the sinner! Be known for your confidence in God's transforming grace! Be known for the ability to forgive!

Jesus told His apostles this at the Last Supper—the First Mass. It was so important then.

Isn't it just so important now?

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.