The Gospel reading for today from John is painful on two fronts. First, Jesus said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (Jn 13:27). Did their eyes meet at that moment, was there an unspoken appeal from Jesus to Judas, or had that already been settled in Jesus’ full surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane? Judas aligned himself with Satan and set his course, and removed himself from Jesus and his companions and it was night.
The second front appears at the end of today’s reading. Despite Peter’s apparent full endorsement of Jesus and promise to even lay his life down for him, Jesus predicted that “the cock will not crow until” Peter will deny him “three times” (Jn 13:38). The momentum of utter betrayal builds. Judas will agree to turn Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver. He will betray the Son of God, yet in so doing, Judas will play his part in salvation history.
Judas will set in motion Jesus’ arrest that will culminate in his crucifixion. Peter will come to deny Jesus three times as Jesus predicted. I cannot think of any experience worse than the pain of betrayal. Yet, how is it that we betray Jesus each day? Remember what he taught us, “What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt 25:45). Who and how have we betrayed Jesus in our lives? This is an important question to ask, and what is even more important is that we not only answer it honestly but seek forgiveness and resist the temptation of isolating ourselves in our sin and pride.
Judas separated himself, cut himself off from Jesus and his companions. He came to realize his sin, though he did not seek forgiveness, but isolated himself further and in his despair took his life. Peter, also regretted his sin, his cowardice, he wept when he heard the cock crow, but he also trusted, and later affirmed his love for Jesus three times, atoning for his three denials and was forgiven.
This Holy Week we can choose to walk the path of Judas or Peter. With each humble step may we come to see how our spirits are often willing but our bodies are weak, that we have been wounded by others and acted in kind, so falling short of who God has called us to be in what we have done and what we have failed to do.
Through our awareness of our unworthiness though, we must resist isolating and beating ourselves up, but instead recognize that Jesus has not come for those who are worthy, but for those who are willing to be forgiven and to be healed. In this way, we can learn from Peter, that we have betrayed Jesus also, but he is willing to forgive us too so that we will become wounded healers as well!