Judas, called Iscariot

Kiss of Judas Caravaggio 1602

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.

Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.

Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.

So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.

It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.

Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.

Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.

That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.

There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.

Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.

In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.

Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?

It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?

I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.

He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”

One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.

Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.

But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart. 

Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.

Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.

Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.

The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.

No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.

Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.

Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.

However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.

If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.

Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.

Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.

Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.

The other went out and hanged himself.

They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.

Pope Francis: Jesus’ Suffering was not a Mistake

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I’m Not Feeling Politics Right Now. It’s Holy Week and I Want Jesus.

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I’m not feeling politics right now.

We’ve got wars and rumors of wars over a large swath of the world. Pro life people are battling killer legislation in Colorado and corporate raiders are raiding the public treasury everywhere and in every way they can. There are runaway bishops to write about, as well as a stand up bishops who are trying to fight the fight.

We’ve got cowards, brave people and martyrs.

There is no end to the politics I could write about.

But I’m not feeling it.

What I am feeling is a deep, aching hunger for the balm of Gilead, the peace that passes all understanding, the comfort of the everlasting arms.

It’s Holy Week, and I want Jesus.

Do you ever feel the aloneness of this life? Does it weigh on you at times that we are, each of us, the heroes of our own stories, but that we don’t matter much in the great scheme of time and history?

Even great people, on whom the fulcrum of the human story turns for a while, are, as Shakespeare said, just actors on a stage that play their parts and then go on to be forgot.

How many times today have you thought about Euclid, or Elizabeth I, or Franklin Roosevelt? When was the last time George Washington or Robert E Lee crossed your mind?

These people made us what we are. The 300 who died at Themopylae, provided a gasp of time that allowed the Greeks to win the war and save Western civilization in its seed. But what are their names to us now?

I am not writing this to convince you that Solomon was right when he moaned “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Because he wasn’t right.

What he was expressing is the hopelessness of a world that ends at the grave, where the good we do is washed away by the harm we do and the harm we do is accounted to us without mercy forever.

Solomon was describing a world without second chances and without transcendent hope. Eat, drink and be merry he told us, for all is vanity. Nothing we do matters. We are but a passing vapor.

That is life without Christ. It is a futile, hopeless round of good times, bad times and diversions that end in dust and nothing. If we are animals in a world where the biggest and the meanest make all the rules and winning and triumphing over one another is the only thing, then life itself is both cheap and useless.

What does it matter if we exploit the weak and reduce their lives to suffering, poverty and shame? Why is there any reason to object when we kill the innocent for our convenience?

After all, we are just animals, animated things, who are passing through and then will be no more. In a world without transcendence and forgiveness, anything is possible except peace.

I’m not feeling politics right now, because politics is, like all our other human endeavors, doomed to fail as an answer and an antidote for our hopelessness. There is no balm, no peace, no second chance, without Christ.

It is as simple as that. Only Jesus Christ and His Passion, His suffering, His willingness to bring ultimate transcendence into our world and our lives by taking on our finiteness, can open the door for us to more than the nothing we are without Him.

Christ not only saves us from our fallenness and offers us eternal life, He redeems the dailiness of our lives and the bottomless despair of ultimate meaningless of which Solomon spoke.

Instead of a plaintive cry that “all is vanity,” we are lifted by the sacrifice of Calvary onto a level of existence where everything we do matters in the halls of eternity.

Even the birds of the air fall under God’s loving eye. The hairs of our heads are numbered in His sight. We are not just animated things, carrion flesh waiting to rot. We are eternal beings, made in the image and likeness of the God who breathed all existence into existence with a single word.

I’m not feeling politics right now. I’m feeling a deep yearning for Jesus. I am longing for the balm, the peace, the hope that lies on the other side of Calvary.

But first, I must traverse the painful path of Holy Week. I need, to the bottom of my sin-sick soul, to walk the ugly path of human shame that is the crucifixion. We killed God. We murdered our Creator. We lied about, tortured, mocked, shamed and did our best to destroy the only Hope we have.

The ultimate stain on humankind was also its salvation. We murdered God, and He used that act of damning depravity to redeem us from ourselves.

Politics is one of our pitiful attempts to transcend our fallen state. But, given our fallen state, politics always becomes corrupted by our venalities and cowardices. I’ve written about the cowardly acts of men in high places quite a bit these past two weeks. The truth is, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the weaknesses of princes.

But nothing I have known can touch the combination of cowardice and cold-blooded corruption that led to the final sacrifice of the last Passover Lamb.

We need to bow down before the cross this week. It is, as Scripture says, the Lord’s Passover. It is the door opening on the way out. The cross is the price of our sins. It is the Lord’s ultimate Passover by which we are saved from the absolute and final death that we deserve.

Pope Francis: Preaching the Gospel Through Word and Deed

Pope Francis new coat of arms Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office CNA US Catholic News 3 18 13

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.- Pope Francis will celebrate a full schedule this Holy Week, including washing the feet of youth detainees and leading the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum.

His six main events are: Chrism Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday morning, followed by Mass at a youth detention center that evening, a Communion service and Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and Easter Mass on Sunday morning.

Pope Francis will start the week by celebrating Chrism Mass on March 28 with cardinals and other clergy from Rome at Saint Peter’s Basilica. During the Mass, the Pope will consecrate the oils that will be used throughout the year for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.

In keeping with his practice in Buenos Aires, he will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo youth detention center, instead of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

When he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated the Mass in a prison, a hospital or a hospice for the poor and marginalized people. This time around he will be with youth offenders and will wash their feet.

On Good Friday, March 29, he will preside over a Communion service and the Veneration of the Cross in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. local time.

The pontiff will then go to the Coliseum to lead the Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. The prayers for the 14 stations were written by two Lebanese youths with the help of Cardinal Bechara Rai.

The Vatican chose the young Arabs to highlight the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and the growing urgency of their situation.

After the procession around the Coliseum, Pope Francis will give a speech to people gathered there and impart his apostolic blessing.

On Holy Saturday, the Pope will celebrate the first of two Easter Masses when he holds the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He will bless a fire in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica and enter in a procession with the Paschal candle singing the Easter Proclamation.

The Pope will then concelebrate Mass at 8:30 p.m. local time with the cardinals and impart the sacrament of Baptism, which is traditionally done in churches worldwide at this time of year.

On Sunday at 10:15 a.m. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Square, which will finish with his “Urbi et Orbi” greeting and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. (Read the rest here.) 

Holy Week, March for Marriage and Two Days with the Supremes

Priests processing for chrism mass

Priests processing for Chrism Mass

This is Holy Week.

It is also the week in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The potential is there for a major change in the way American law defines marriage. This could have far-reaching effects which none of us can predict for foresee.

What better week to issue a call to prayer than Holy Week? Tuesday is the day we have the Chrism Mass. Priests renew their vows at this mass and the holy oils which will be used throughout the upcoming year are blessed. It’s a beautiful mass and I urge anyone who can to attend.

Blessing of the oil

Blessing the oil

History is coming at us so fast it’s hard to keep up. But we need to remember that this week, above all weeks, is a time for extra prayer and penance. I don’t want to make too much of it, but it seems poignant that so many points of history are converging on this one week. Proponents of traditional marriage are also staging a march in Washington, DC on Tuesday. 

The cross, which defines this week and the life of the world, is not just a point of history. It is history. The cross is the fulcrum of all history. There was the world before the cross and the world after it, which is to say that there was the world without hope and the world without despair.  Despair is impossible to anyone who understands the power of the cross.

We suffer in this life. We experience loss, setbacks, pain, loneliness, failure and grief. But we are never without hope because our hope is in the One who died for us on Calvary.

We need to pray this week, and not just for ourselves and our families, but for all the world that this light of Christ will shine in the darkness of the human heart everywhere.

This article, by our brothers and sisters at The Baptist Press, has details of the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court:

NASHVILLE (BP) — On Tuesday and Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases regarding the issue of same-sex marriage. Few issues rise to this level of importance. 

These two cases will do much to answer the question for how marriage is going to be viewed in the United States for the foreseeable future. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8). In this case, the court is being asked to decide the fate of Proposition 8 in California. At stake is whether or not the people of California can define marriage in their constitution as only the union of one man and one woman. In a worst-case scenario in deciding Hollingsworth, the court could rule unconstitutional the definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, repudiating two and a quarter centuries of American jurisprudence in which marriage has been defined and regulated by each state, not the federal courts. Every state that has passed such laws would be affected. It would also be going against several millennia of the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor. That case deals with the constitutionality of section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Windsor case creates the possibility that the court could overturn DOMA in its entirety. DOMA is important at many levels. For one, it protects states that do not support same-sex marriage from being required to recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed in states where the practice is legal. For another, it provides a standard definition of marriage for all federal programs, assuring that only heterosexual marriage is recognized across all federal government programs. It also provides protections for federal workers from being forced to violate their consciences regarding marriage. If DOMA is overturned, military chaplains will be especially vulnerable to pressures to accommodate an expanded definition of marriage in their ministries. (Read the rest here.) 

Palm Sunday: The Road to the Cross Begins

Holy Week begins; time to begin our annual journey to the foot of the cross, where we stand in solidarity with all humankind, convicted of our sins.
This is an excerpt of an article from CNA:
Pope Francis urges Christians to have joy over Cross
By David Uebbing
Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass on March 24 2013 in St. Peter’s Square. Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.

.- Pope Francis declared on Palm Sunday that Christians must not be sad or discouraged but filled with joy because Jesus conquered evil and every sin “with the force of God’s love.”

“Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection,” he said March 24.

“Dear friends,” Pope Francis told the thousands of pilgrims filling St. Peter’s Square and the street leading to it, “we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good!”

The liturgy began with the Pope touring through the crowd in the open-air popemobile and finishing at the obelisk that stands in the middle of St. Peter’s Square.

Accompanied by cardinals, bishops and laity holding palms, he listened as the readings were proclaimed. The group of clergy and faithful then made their way to the altar in front of the basilica and heard the reading of the Passion of Christ from Matthew’s Gospel.

Pope Francis reflected on three elements in his Palm Sunday homily: the joy that comes from meeting and knowing Christ; the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem to redeem the world with his loving sacrifice on the Cross; and that young people can teach everyone to embrace the Cross with joy and to live lives of self-sacrifice.

The first word that came to the Pope’s mind as he reflected on the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was joy.

“Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement!

“Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable,” he said.

The Pope then turned to his second point of reflection – the way Jesus entered Jerusalem, as a king who was received “by humble people, simple folk.”

But even more, he entered “to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision.

“And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross.

“And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross,” he underscored. (Read the rest here.) 


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