March 27, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a) Gospel (St. Matthew 26:14-25)
In the Gospel reading today, there are, once again, two points that we need to consider. First of all, the point of Judas: Jesus tells us that it would be better for him had he never been born. Yet, I think if we were to really look at it from the point of view of Judas, in his own mind, skewed as it was, he probably thought he was doing something that was good. In other words, it was not simply that he was plotting against Jesus and trying to destroy Him. But as we will sometimes do, for instance, if you think of the way that people deal with alcoholics these days: You have an intervention; you try to shake them into reality and get some help for them, perhaps that was something like what Judas had in mind. After all, here is this Man who is saying, "Unless you eat of My flesh and drink of My Blood, you have no life in you." He is saying things like this that were a scandal to so many, and perhaps Judas thought, "If I can just do this, maybe it will bring some reality back to this man." Maybe he was not thinking that they would actually put Him to death.
We need to be very careful of the subtlety, the way that the devil will work on our own minds to be able to convince us that something which is not good [really] is. And he starts a long way in advance, putting little ideas into our heads and just twisting them, little by little, until all of a sudden we have an idea that what we are doing is really a worthwhile and good thing - when, in fact, it is something that if it were simply presented to us outright, we would reject it completely. And so, again, the necessity to remain rooted in prayer so that we can catch the vile working of the Evil One. Otherwise, if we are not keeping our focus on the Lord, it will be very easy for us to allow the mind to run and to get ourselves into all kinds of trouble.
But the other side of the story is Jesus. We note in this that Our Lord knew He was going to be betrayed. And how many times in the Gospels the people were not able to touch Him: They tried to apprehend Him in the temple; they tried to apprehend Him in Nazareth; they tried to apprehend Him in a number of other places; and yet, because it was not His hour, no one laid a hand upon Him. But now His hour had come, and He knew the time had arrived so He freely chose it. It was not merely that He was betrayed and He had been tricked; but rather, it was His own choice. When we couple this with what we heard from the prophet Isaiah this morning (the same reading that we heard on Sunday), the prophet, speaking in the voice of the Lord, says, "I have not rebelled and have not turned back. 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. I have set My face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame." You see that it is freely done. He did not try to keep Himself from it; He did not try to shield Himself; He freely chose it and He gave Himself to it. Not that He was forced into it; He gave Himself to it for our sake.
We have to understand that is the same way the Church is going to be dealing with things. The Church is being destroyed, and the Church is giving Herself freely to this, to allow Herself to be beat, to allow Herself to be flogged, to allow the beard to be plucked and the face to be spat upon and so on. The Church freely embraces it because She needs to be crucified, and that is the direction that She is going. So we must be very careful not to allow the devil to plant the seeds within our own minds to turn the Church over or to abandon Her in the time of Her need; but rather, [we need] to be one with the Church, to be one with Jesus, to allow our backs to be beat, to allow our beards to be plucked, to allow our faces to be spat upon, knowing that we are with the Lord. Therefore, no matter what happens, no matter how disgraceful it may be, we will not be disgraced because it is the Lord who upholds our right, and as long as we are with Him, we will not be disgraced.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.