Surely it is not I, Lord?
March 23, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a) Gospel (St. Matthew 26:14-25)
When we hear these words in the Gospel about Our Lord telling His disciples that one of them is going to betray Him, they look around completely puzzled. They have no idea which one it is going to be. This tells us two things: number one, how smooth Judas actually was, and number two, how completely charitable to Judas Our Lord was, that here He knew who was going to betray Him and the Lord never let on that there was anything different about Judas than there was about Peter, James, John, or any of the other apostles. None of the apostles had a clue who it might have been.
Now the difficulty for all of them was that when Our Lord mentioned to them that one was about to betray Him, they all had to go around the table and say, It’s not me, is it? So you realize when that happens that this can happen to anyone. None of the apostles really knew. They all hoped that it was not them, they did not think they were going to betray Him, but they did not know. And so they went around with that terrible question in their mind: “Is it me? Is it me that He is talking about?” We realize that if that is the case with the apostles, it is also the case with us. To this day, people continue to betray the Lord, and we all have to be able to look at it and say, “If this can happen in the lives of other people, it can happen with me as well.”
We see the humility of Our Lord when He tells us that He gives His back to those who beat Him, His face to those who hit Him, His beard to those who pluck it. He is here in a very passive way. He is not going to strike out; He is not going to send lightning to wipe us out if we betray Him; He will allow us to take care of ourselves if that is the case. And so what we have to do is be so exceedingly careful because when we hear what Our Lord said about Judas, the same will be true of anyone who betrays Him and does not repent: It would be better for that man if he had never been born.
When we know that we have salvation in Jesus Christ, when we know where the forgiveness of sin comes from, when we know Who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, and we choose to turn our back on Him and we choose to betray Him, then we are the ones who bear the full responsibility for our actions. If we have chosen against Him then why would we ever want to spend eternity with Him? It would be our own choice to choose hell over being with Christ for eternity, and He would be able to look at us and say, “It would be better for you if you had never been born because you knew the truth and you chose the lie. You had life right in your grasp, but you chose death. You chose Satan over God.”
That is something each and every one of us is completely capable of doing, and that is what is so important about this for us today. If any one of us is sitting here thinking to ourselves, “I would never do that,” look out! That means the devil has ripe pickings to be able to choose from because the minute that we think we cannot fall is when we let the guard down, and that is exactly what Satan is watching for. He sits back in the weeds and he lies in wait, and as soon as he sees that we have let the guard down, he pounces.
What we have to be able to do is be humble, to be able to admit the truth – “I am perfectly capable of doing this” – and to be able to turn to Our Lord and beg Him, “I do not want to betray You, I do not want to do anything that would violate You, and I beg for the grace to never do it.” It is the same point that has been made so many times: Never, ever, ever trust yourself – NEVER. Every time you have been in the confessional line, you have proven to yourself how trustworthy you are. When left to yourself, it is very evident what you are capable of doing: sinning. That is the only thing we can do all by ourselves. So we need to trust the Lord. We need to turn to Him, we need to count on Him, and never trust ourselves; we cannot.
This needs to be an important lesson for us. As the Lord looks around the world and sees one person after the next betraying Him, one person after the next giving Him lip service while their actions demonstrate where their hearts really are, it could be us too. Like the apostles, we could all go around the table and say, Surely, it is not I? but what we ultimately have to be able to do now is to pray for the grace to remain faithful, to pray that no matter what happens in our lives, no matter what happens in the world, that we will not betray our Divine Master, because if we do, the words spoken to Judas will be spoken to us: It would be better for that man if he had never been born.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.