We Can Never Trust Ourselves
March 26, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 49:1-6) Gospel (St. John 13:21-33, 36-38)
In the readings today, the Church gives us again the second of the Suffering Servant Songs and then places in the Gospel the context of the Last Supper. In fact, that is what we will see now for the next few days; the Church will place us at the Last Supper with Our Lord. And today we hear about the betrayal of Judas. There are a couple of things that are very important in this reading to be able to recognize.
First of all, the disciples had absolutely no idea who was going to betray Our Lord. Now that is pretty astounding when you think that for three years they had been together going every place with Our Lord, learning from Him, and being with Him in everything He did. First of all, they did not notice anything different in Judas; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they did not notice anything different in the way Jesus treated Judas as opposed to the way He treated any of the other eleven. But to think that they would be at the Last Supper, when Judas had already been to the high priests and had been paid off to turn Him over, and they still had absolutely no clue who it was.
The second thing that is very important to recognize is that the Eucharist was the point that Judas could not accept, that the betrayal came because Judas could not accept that Jesus would give us His Body and Blood. At the very moment that Jesus entered into Judas in the Eucharist, Judas rejected Him, and we are told that Satan entered his heart. Jesus gave him the morsel of food; He gave him the Blessed Sacrament. Rather than accepting it in faith, and accepting and believing that Jesus Christ had just entered into him in the Blessed Sacrament, he pushed that away from his heart and opened it to Satan - and indeed "it was dark", as Saint John says.
The other thing is then to see what happens with Saint Peter. Peter tells Jesus that he will follow Him wherever He goes and, in fact, he would be willing to die for Him - which Peter eventually did. But that night, Peter denied Jesus. We can look at Judas and see what he did, but we have to look at Peter and see also what he did. This must be a lesson to each one of us because, first of all, if it was not recognized that there was anything different in Judas, that means it may not be recognized that there is anything different in one who would betray Our Lord now. One could be very zealous for the Lord. One could be standing up right now and saying, "Lord, if I have to die with you, I will not deny You!" and within hours, we could be denying the Lord.
So it tells us a couple of things that are very important. First of all, we can never, ever, ever trust ourselves – ever. We must rely only on the grace of God. The minute we try to trust in ourselves, we are going to fall. I tell that to people constantly in the confessional. The minute that a thought crosses your mind like "I finally have gotten this sin out of my life, and I will never do it again!" be careful, because you are about to fall flat on your face. That is when you have now let the wall down; you have dropped your guard because in arrogance you think that you have overcome it. And that is just what Satan is waiting for. The same thing happens on the other side. If we think we are so zealous for the Lord that we would not ever betray Him in any way, once again, the same thing happens. We are relying on our own strength and not on His. We are failing to recognize our own weakness, convincing ourselves that our external zeal really demonstrates some kind of depth that is there – that may not be the depth that we think it is. There is no doubt Peter loved Jesus. There is no doubt that his intent would be to even die with Him if he needed to. But when push came to shove, Peter’s love and faith was not as deep as he thought it was.
And so we must all beware lest the same thing happen to us. That is not a pleasant thought for any of us to think about. But with the events that are going on in the Church right now, and with the events that are going to come, all of us are going to be put to the test, and not one of us is going to be able to stand, even for a minute, on our own strength. If we do not rely on Jesus, we will fall and we will betray Him. It is the time [of which] Our Lord said, "If it were not shortened, even the elect would fall astray". Do not fool yourself or let Satan fool you into thinking that you will be able to do this by yourself. You must turn to Jesus. You must rely on Jesus. And you must keep your eyes and your heart on Jesus. Do not worry about what goes on around; just keep the focus on Jesus Christ. Only in that way will we be able to stand firm and not deny Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.