Wednesday April 11, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a) Gospel (St. Matthew 26:14-25)
As we enter, over these next few days, into the Triduum, the most holy days of the entire year, we ponder these mysteries of Our Lordís Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We need to keep in mind, as we look at all these things, the way Our Lord dealt with all of this. He spared Himself nothing. If you look at all the different things that happened, you could say, "Well, maybe if it was just the chief priests who did this..., or maybe if it was just the Romans who did that..." but notice in todayís Gospel, and as we heard yesterday, it was even one of His own twelve.
Think about the pain, interior as well as exterior, that Our Lord endured. It would have been one thing to be crucified; it would have been one thing to be flogged; all that is external. But think of the fact that He is betrayed by one of His closest friends, and the interior pain that would cause. In fact, to be betrayed, as we hear in the reading of the Passion, by a kiss. The closest sign of friendship, at that time in the world, is what would betray Him; the sign of intimacy, the sign of close friendship. He is going to be betrayed in that manner. Think of what a betrayal like that would feel like in our own life: If there is somebody who is really close to you, and they would turn on you, and betray you in this kind of way. Just think of the price that he was willing to turn Jesus over for: thirty pieces of silver. That was the price of a slave in the ancient world. Hundreds of years before Jesus, a slave was thirty pieces of silver. By the time of Our Lord, Judas was willing to sell a human being for thirty pieces of silver. When we put these things all into context and think about it, it helps us to understand the depth of the agony Our Lord was feeling. It was not only all of our sins and betrayals, but the betrayal of one of His twelve.
Think about it, and then take it down to our own selves. We are the ones who claim to be His close followers. How many times have we betrayed Him, in our words, in our actions, in our attitudes, in our thoughts? We need to see that all of that agony in the garden is partly due to us. We need to remember that. His carrying of the Cross, His Crucifixion, all of that was for us, collectively, but also individually. As we go through these next few days, keep in mind always, not only that He did this for everyone, but that He did it for me. Let us all remember, individually, that He did this because He loves me as an individual person. Keep in mind that if you were the only person in the entire world who would have accepted what He did, He still would have done it just for you. If we can think about it that way, we can see the betrayal as our own; we can see His suffering as being caused by us; we can live Holy Week and the Triduum, in a much deeper and profound way. It is a whole lot easier in our humanness to put it out at an armís distance and say, "They did this. He did that." But if we keep in mind that it was I who did this to Him, and He did this for me, it will help us.
In the midst of that, we may be tempted to despair a little bit, but we cannot. Remember what we saw yesterday from Isaiah Chapter 49. We see it again today in Isaiah Chapter 50: "I gave my back to those who beat me; and my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced." Jesus Christ is not disgraced because He took on our sins. He is not disgraced because He took on the punishment for what we did. All the stuff that we heaped upon Him, it is His glory. If we can unite ourselves with Him in His Passion, it is our glory as well. That is the amazing thing about what He did for us; the most shameful things that we have ever done, in a way, become our glory. When we see Godís mercy and that He has forgiven us these things, we should glorify God more profoundly than anyone in the world because of what He has done for us. Therefore, we need not be ashamed any longer. Rather, we should glorify God and be glorified with Him. That is the beauty of this. We need to always keep that balance in mind now, as we go through these next few days. If we can make this personal, we run the risk of going too far to one side and getting into despair. But apply everything that Jesus did to yourself; see the love, rejoice and be glorified with Him. This is His glory: The fact that He took on our suffering. So, we need not be ashamed any longer. Rather, give Him all of our sins, put it all at His feet. Bring your sins to Jesus. If you havenít been to confession, bring them to Him. Give them to Him and let our shame be transformed into the very glory of God.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.