In today’s Gospel we see two of Jesus’ closest disciples separate themselves from Jesus, or at least we are told that they will and since we know the rest of the story we know that they do. Jesus has just completed washing his disciples’ feet in humble service and then tells them he is “deeply troubled.” One of them will betray him and when Peter tries to offer support, Jesus tells him he too will betray him by denying that he knows him, not once, but three times.
What I would like to reflect on today is the responses of each of these men, or at least the responses that our tradition holds and what that says about our relationship with Jesus. All four Gospels record Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, and three record that Peter “broke down and wept”. Only Matthew records the reaction of Judas (27:3-5); his remorse and return of the money and his subsequent suicide. Luke does discuss Judas’ suicide in Acts 1:18-19, but attributes it to a fall. I do not want to spend time discussing the validity or the believability of these stories (nor the alternate story found in the newly translated Gospel of Judas), but I do think these stories, as told by our tradition, have great value in teaching us about reconciliation.
Both men were sorrowful for what they had done. Judas seems to have despaired and failed to understand that Jesus’ love and forgiveness had the power to heal even this breach of friendship, this absolute loss of trust. Peter remained and even if he did not believe the power of Jesus’ forgiveness to save, he learned it through experience. Mark’s Gospel makes the point to name Peter along with the other disciples who should hear the news from the women that Jesus has been raised (16:7). Luke says Peter runs to the tomb to verify the women’s report (24:12). John’s Gospel gives us a very detailed description of Peter’s reconciliation (21). In Acts Peter is the spokesperson for the community of disciples. Indicating that the community knew about Peter’s denial and they accepted God’s forgiveness of Peter and forgave Peter as well. The community was open to Peter and followed his leadership.
When we turn away from Jesus and separate ourselves from him, do we believe in his power of love and forgiveness? Or do we despair and lose hope that we cannot be forgiven? When we know of someone’s “sin” do we hold it against them, even though our tradition teaches us that God has already forgiven the person? Do we continue to beat ourselves up about a “sin” even after asking forgiveness? This is saying we do not trust that God has really forgiven the person, even if that person is us. Nothing we do, no breach of confidence, no lose of trust, no sin is greater than God’s love and forgiveness.
It is the power of God’s love and forgiveness that saves; this is what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is about.
Tuesday of Holy Week
Celebrant: My friends, Jesus, God’s Suffering Servant, has been made a light to the nations, the source of salvation for all people. So then let us pray
That those who are suffering for their faith may know that, as it was for Jesus, their cause is with the Father, and their reward is with God. Lord, hear us.
That those who are troubled in spirit and who live with fear may find in the same experiences of Jesus a strength which sustains them and gives them light. Lord, hear us.
That as we share this Eucharist may we, like the Beloved Disciple, rest our head on the Heart of Christ. Lord, hear us
That those who betray a friend may receive the grace to repent, be forgiven and be reconciled. Lord, hear us.
Celebrant: Lord, in times of trouble we take our refuge in you. Let us sing of your salvation, given through Jesus your Son, who is Lord, forever and ever.