April 16, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Wednesday of Holy Week


Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a)   Gospel (St. Matthew 26:14-25)


In the Gospel reading this morning, Our Lord tells His disciples that one of them is about to betray Him. Now we know that Judas certainly is the one who ultimately betrayed the Lord, but we also know that Peter betrayed Jesus and so did the rest. They all ran away from Him when He was in the garden; they all fell asleep on Him while He was trying to pray; they were not faithful to Him at that time.


Neither have we been faithful to the Lord, and that does not necessarily mean that we have betrayed Him the way that Judas did. So there is a distinction that is made. Every last one of the disciples said exactly the same thing, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” All of them said it. Judas, knowing, of course, the dastardly deed that he was about to perform, waited until the very end. And he probably said it in a little bit of a different tone of voice, but the Lord answered Judas in a different way than He answered everyone else. So when we look at our own selves and we put ourselves into this particular scene, we recognize that the Lord looks at each one of us, sinners that we are, and says, “One of you is about to betray Me.” All of us could raise our hands and say, “It’s probably me, isn’t it? Because I know that I have betrayed You so many times already and I know that in my weakness I’ll probably be unfaithful.” None of us wants to say that. We want to say what we heard Peter say yesterday, “Even if I have to die for You I will never deny You!” Well, we know better than that, don’t we? Would that it were true that we would be willing to do that. And perhaps for a few who are here maybe it is true. But most of us probably, if push came to shove, we would doubt, waffle, deny, betray, whatever it may be. Not necessarily like Judas, who would plot against the Lord and seek to turn Him over to the authorities, but more like Peter and the other disciples for whom it would seem more convenient at that point not to acknowledge the Lord.


But we also see God’s mercy: how the Lord forgave Peter, how the Lord forgave the other disciples, and even how the Lord would have forgiven Judas if he would have accepted the Lord’s mercy. So no matter what our betrayal has been and no matter what it may be in the future, we know that God in His mercy will forgive, that this is the reason for which He came into this world, and as we heard in the first reading, He is not put to shame. God is with Him. So too for us, if we are willing to be faithful to the Lord in the midst of the difficulties of life, if we will not betray Him and we will remain steadfast in the midst of the troubles and the sufferings and all the problems, then we too can say with Him, “I gave my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I gave to buffets and spitting.” And with all of that He could say, “I have not been put to shame,” because God is with Him. And so He is with us.


So we see these three different ways of being able to deal with things. We see the total betrayal by Judas. We see the unwitting betrayal by the other Eleven, wanting to be faithful but not. And we see the fidelity of Jesus. We can look at the saints and we see their fidelity to the Lord in the midst of the suffering. We have plenty of examples of how to do this. That is obviously what all of us want to be able to do, and yet getting there is the problem. So it would be a very good thing for us to meditate upon this as tomorrow we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and we listen to each of the disciples as the Lord says, “Surely one of you is about to betray Me.” Judas had hidden what he was going to do so well that the other disciples did not even have a clue, and so they all felt the dagger go right into the heart. So must we, as we look right at Him and in a pleading way we say, “Surely, Lord, it is not I?” We hope and we pray, but we also know our weakness and we know that it could be us. With that in mind, we need to humble ourselves. We cannot go forward in our arrogance and think that we will be faithful no matter what. We acknowledge our weakness, we recognize that it might be us, and we hope and pray that it is not.


As long as we remain humble then we will remain faithful. As long as we are united with the Lord, even if we fall like the Eleven, we will be okay. We have that example already before us, but we need to have the same attitude as those Eleven, not knowing who it might be, knowing that it might even be them, and hoping and praying that it would not be. So as we go through the Passion, we recognize and we remember how often we have betrayed Him, and we come back to Him now and we beg His forgiveness so that like the other Eleven, who all betrayed Him in a lesser way, we, who have betrayed Him so many times, will be able to return to Him, be faithful, and maybe this time even be willing to suffer with Him and not betray Him again.


*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.