Grace: Ask for the grace of being able to tell God, “not my will but yours be done.”
Text for Prayer: John 18:1-27
Reflection: In these scenes we see the betrayal of Jesus by two of his apostles: Judas who betrays him for money and Peter who denies him for fear of his own life. Judas appears two times in the Gospel of John before the Last Supper. On both occasions (John 6:70-71 & John 12:4) he breaks the general atmosphere of celebration, of community, of solemnity, and sacredness that Jesus had created. On the first occasion John makes sure to show how Judas is a victim to the will of the evil spirit. On the second occasion, when Judas protests the use of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus, John uses the word “pure” to describe the perfume. In Greek this word for “pure” could also be used to express fidelity and authenticity. Perhaps St. John’s use of the word is an invitation to reflect upon Judas’ desire to sell his own fidelity and authenticity, and that divided reality we experience in our own hearts when we sell our identity for much less.
The mystery of evil in Judas as told by St. John is present in more than just the man who betrayed our Lord. It will always be a symbol of a more profound and ancient rupture, at first glance an impassable fissure that even communion with God seemingly cannot mend. The Evangelist perceives that even among Jesus’ closest friends the spirit of evil, of division, and of hate works its way into the communion of the group. For Judas the reality of this evil is too much to bear, the fissure to deep to overcome, and he loses hope. How could he have known that what Jesus was going to undergo and endure would end with his glorious resurrection? Perhaps if Judas only believed in Christ’s words and deeds would things have gone differently?
In Peter’s circumstance, evil takes on a different face. Not the face of division and betrayal, but of complete denial. When confronted Peter buckles. At the Garden he was able to fight with his blade–and now? What has changed? Where is the brazen and brash fisherman from Galilee? Why is he now too terrified to fight? His denial is rooted in his unbelief. When things were going well it was easy to believe that Jesus did have “the words of everlasting life.” But now when everything has gone south belief is the first thing to go. Peter clings to his life with everything he has–even if it means betraying his best friend, the man who has changed his life forever.
Peter’s ultimate reaction, however, is one that still holds on to hope despite unbelief. He weeps bitterly for he knows that what he has done resounds far more loudly than every single word of bravado he spoke to Jesus over the course of their friendship. But Peter hopes against hope and does not despair. The “light of the world” has not been overcome by the darkness in Peter’s heart. Jesus, Peter wants to believe, still has more to reveal about himself.
How many times have we betrayed or denied Jesus because he did not do as we thought or planned? Both Judas and Peter would have preferred armed conflict as a path towards liberation. Yet their Master chooses a different path: a path that more perfectly reveals who he is–not a raging lion on the prowl, but a lamb led to the slaughter.
Questions: What kinds of emotions arise when I think about how Judas and Peter respond to evil in their hearts? What is the reality of the spirit of untruth and division in my own heart, soul, relationships, and spiritual life? How often do I tell Jesus how I want to be saved, or how he should save the world, instead of listening and learning from him? What gives me hope to continue to walk in the light of Christ despite my own limitations and imperfections?