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Posts Tagged ‘Judas’


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tissot: The False Witness

James Tissot: False Witness before Caiaphas

Luke 22 – The Plot to Kill Jesus

Over and over again we read frightening lines like this one: The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.   The leaders see that they will lose influence and power because to Jesus offers compassion and healing to those who suffer.  The leaders also worry that Jesus’ actions might attract the attention of the overlord Romans, and they do not want to encourage another Jewish rebellion.  They search for a way to do away with this troublesome rabbi who asks piercing questions.  Jesus – who presents a way of finding timeless peace and healing restoration – is eliminated by those who offer far less.  The paradox is that this cornerstone that is rejected becomes a salvific force which redeems not only friends but enemies – if only these adversaries might put down their weapons and return to the goodness to which they are called.

Today we continue with our theme of dark schemes and wicked conspirators, and we look at how events around Jesus’ last hours unwind . . .

While Jesus and his followers prepare for Passover, the shadowy plot of murder unwinds; these two activities coil around one another in a twisting dance of darkness and light.  This serves to remind us that in this world goodness and evil often walk side by side unremarked . . . almost accepted.  We fool ourselves into believing that all around us must be perfect.  Who is the reaper who knows to sort the grain from the chaff?

A foreshadowing of Peter’s denial sends a frisson of consciousness through us . . . we too have denied Christ when we are under pressure.  Jesus reminds us that we need nothing for our journey save his protection and guidance.  We fool ourselves into believing that we make our own way and earn our own bread. Who is the source of our talents?

Jesus prays.  Judas betrays.  The faithful scatter.  The powerful take over.  The odd dance of inversion continues as those with arms believe themselves to be the strongest.  We fool ourselves into believing that we can exert pressure to win arguments by overwhelming knowledge when overwhelming goodness is the true strength.  Who allows himself to be made weak so that he might be strong in the creator?

Arrest, denial, rejection.  Jesus stands innocent before Pilate and Herod.  He is beaten and sentenced to death.  He carries his cross, he is crucified and dies . . . and he awaits the resurrection he has been promised by the Father.  We fool ourselves into believing that this story was lived once by a man two thousand years ago.  Who suffers each day with each of his billions of sisters and brother?

There is no plot Jesus does not comprehend.  There is no darkness he has not experienced.  There is no pain he has not suffered.  There is no mockery, no betrayal, no rebuffing, no murder he has not survived.  Jesus experiences all, and Jesus wants to save and restore all . . . if we only rely on him.

When the situation is bleakest, when the plot is thickest, when the hour is darkest . . . this is where Christ stands.  This is where he waits . . . for he knows that we will need him because we take nothing else with us on this journey – no purse, no bag, no sword.  We take only Christ, for he is all we need against any evil, against any plot . . . against even murder.


Adapted from a Noontime written on November 18, 2009. 

Image from: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/tis-trial-caiaphas/

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Easter Monday, April 13, 2020

John 18:12-27

The Difference

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of the Apostle Peter

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of the Apostle Peter

What makes Peter different from Judas? Why is Peter “The Rock” and Judas “The Betrayer?”  When we begin to reflect on this question we see how the Easter story holds so much importance for us.  Looking closely we find that Peter repents and allows himself to remain open to Christ. Judas slinks away, suffers remorse, returns the money he received to the chief priests and elders and then hangs himself. (Matthew 27:3-5) He does not seek God. He is so paralyzed by the sudden truth which he sees that he takes his own life. For whatever reason unknown to us, he is unable to allow his pain to bring him to God through purification. He cannot suffer.

Peter moves through his pain back to Christ. He believes Jesus who says that when we repent we are forgiven and restored. Always. Without fail. Judas does not. Judas suspects that Jesus is false. Why?  We have no way of knowing but modern psychology tells us it is likely because Judas himself is false. Judas cannot believe the words of Christ because he himself lies, so he expects that Jesus lies as well.

The restorative part of this story is found in the last chapter of this same book which we have examined all week.  We may want to return once more today to read this portion of John’s Gospel as one full story for when we do it becomes more than a story.  It begins to come into focus as our own story and as an expectation of all that is in store for each of us.

What have we come to understand in this week of Easter?  Not only does Jesus return to sustain the weary disciples as they struggle to more fully understand the real meaning of his Easter resurrection, he returns to sustain them in this life and in the eternal next.  Yet not only does Jesus restore us, he gives us each an assignment: “Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.”  Jesus returns to renew the promise of liberation, the assurance of salvation, and the gift of eternal love.

We may balk, as Peter did, at the requirements of our covenant with God, but God will patiently await our turning with openness.

We may be anxious about how or if we will fulfill God’s hope in us but God is waiting to restore; God wants to fulfill our heart’s desire; God asks us to live in intimacy with him.

We may worry, we may doubt, and we may fail; yet God does not reject us for God is determined to love us into goodness.

We may rest in the Lord, believe in the Christ, and remain in the Spirit.

Betrayal or return; this choice is ours to make.  And this choice makes all the difference in the world.

Tomorrow, coming up with nothing . . . 


Adapted from a reflection posted on April 13, 2013. 

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Psalm 55: An Intimate Companion

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of Judas

It was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, you whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

For they will not mend their ways; they have no fear of God.  They strike out at friends and go back on their promises.  Softer than butter is their speech, but war is in their hearts.  Smoother than oil are their words, but they are sheathed swords. 

Treachery, deceit, mischief and evil.  Oppression and fraud.  Death.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest. 

Rocked with grief, his heart pounding, the psalmist retreats, full of fear, shuddering and trembling into himself.

Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert.

No one goes to the wasteland. Surely there will be no one to betray him there.

I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.

The horrible events that encircle the psalmist will not follow him to the wilderness.  Perhaps there he will be able to collect himself into prayer.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

On this Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper of the Lord, a meal in which he shares himself most closely with his most intimate friends.  And yet one of these has already made the decision to betray Jesus.

If my foe had viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide.  But it was you, my intimate friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Jesus faces his foe head on, sharing a meal with him on the evening before his death, handing a morsel of bread, of himself, to this close companion (Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:21-23, John 13:21-30).  The evangelist John closes his accounting of the exchange with these four word: And it was night.  Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

Jesus withdraws to the gardens on Gethsemane in prayer.  Jesus hands himself over to the plans of his creator.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

It is likely that each of us will suffer an act of betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Perhaps we have been the betrayer in a trusted relationship.  God does not promise that he will keep us from such deep deception but he comes to each of us in the person of Jesus to instruct us how we might act and how we might behave.  He remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to teach us wisdom.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest.  Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert. I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.  At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

And so we pray.

When trouble stalks us, let us retreat into the Lord.

When we suffer at the hands of an intimate friend, let us pray at dusk, at dawn and at noon.

When we believe that all is lost, let us remember that our prayer will be heard.

Amen.


This week we have been looking at the story of Jerusalem to see what the events of the city’s life might tell us about our own. Today we spend time reflecting on the effects of betrayal and how we might recover from both internal and external division.

Image from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/fyodor-bronnikov/the-head-of-judas-1874

For other reflections on Betrayal, enter the word in the blog search box and choose a Noontime. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

John 13:21: Collapse from Within

Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.

Jesus and his apostles

Jesus and his apostles

Not all betrayals come from alien people or places.  Not all deception arrives from beyond.  Often, perhaps too often, betrayal springs from within, from the roots of denial we plant early in life, from a core of duplicity and infidelity that we consciously or subconsciously nourish.  We are quick to blame others for our downfalls, slow to admit responsibility for our actions.

The southern kingdom of Judah took in refugees from the north when the kingdom of Israel was overrun by infidels from the north.  They foolishly did not see their own fall that the prophet Micah predicted for them; they stayed their course of iniquity and kept to their corrupt ways believing that their vices were well-hidden.   Jerusalem’s walls expanded to take in the exiles; the city welcomed home those they judged as fallen yet even this apparent act of generosity did nothing to soften hard hearts or weaken stiff necks.  The people of Jerusalem ignore all the warning signs that she will become uninhabitable once their southern kingdom is taken.  Like us, Jerusalem is quick to criticize others for their misdeeds while we quickly ignore our own.

I am always stunned by the candor with which Jesus speaks about Judas’ impending disloyalty. (John 13, Matthew 26:14-25) He mentions no names but hands a morsel to Judas, plainly giving the apostle permission to follow his corrupt heart.  Jesus knows that this closest of companions has already turned against him.  Betrayal cuts deepest that cuts so close.   Disgruntled with the kingdom as he sees it, Judas is quick to blame Jesus for what appears to be a lack of willingness to take a stand . . . and slow to see the mystery of the kingdom in the person of Jesus.

Hezekiah's Jerusalem

Hezekiah’s Jerusalem

We have signs before us each day, telling us where to go and what to say and do; yet we – like the people of Judah – pride ourselves for not falling away from the rules as they believe the Israelites have done.

We are given warning signs regularly, recommending that we mend our ways, and soften our hearts and minds; yet we – like the people of Judah – believe our defenses and resources are formidable as the Israelites do.

We are given permission to hate or to love; we are treated with tenderness and care, and yet – like the apostle Judas – we choose the quick and comfortable route to temporary comfort . . . while we leave behind genuine and infinite happiness, while we too frequently betray the very love that would save and protect us.

Today as we reflect at noon, we might choose to spend time with the story of Jerusalem following the fall first of Israel in the north and then Judah in the south.  Or we might choose to spend time with John 13 to contemplate our own potential for collapse from within.


Images from: http://sortlab.blogspot.com/2011/04/tuesday-of-holy-week.html and https://thelonghaulwithisaiah.wordpress.com/tag/pekah/

To read another Holy Tuesday reflection, click on the image of Jesus and his apostles above or go to: http://sortlab.blogspot.com/2011/04/tuesday-of-holy-week.html

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John 13:21-30: Betrayal

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Often during our Noontimes we have explored the theme of infidelity and the effects it has upon our intimate relationships and our collective experience as a people of God.  We have spent time thinking about how an act of betrayal never has a single secret effect.  We have prayed for those who deceive and harm us.  We have pondered how to handle an act of betrayal when it slices through our lives.  Today we see God himself allow each of us to make a choice for freedom and life or slavery and death.  Judas has become a slave to an idea which leaves his soul open to darkness.  Jesus allows him to proceed along the path he has chosen: What you are going to do, do quickly.  Yesterday we reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Today we explore John 13 more closely.

Today’s citation comes from the portion of John’s Gospel often called The Book of Glory; Chapters 13 to 20 tell the story of the passion, death and transformation of Jesus.  Here he has just delivered his discourse on the relationship he has with the Father – one of deepest intimacy.  And he has just told his followers – his followers of that evening and his followers today – that the same intimacy is open to each of us, that God yearns to hold us and to possess us more than anything we can imagine from our human experience.  Yet this citation begins with: Jesus was deeply troubled . . .

Able to read our inmost thoughts, Jesus understands that Judas is disappointed, disgruntled, and about to act on his envy and anger.  Judas Iscariot, despite so much time spent with the Master, is unable to enter into this intimacy offered.  And so he strikes at that which he cannot experience.

Jesus dipped a morsel and handed it to Judas . . . extending an ultimate invitation . . . knowing that it and he will be rejected; for after Judas took the morsel . . . Satan entered him. 

Who and what are Satan?  I believe that this force of negativity cleverly appeals to the narcissistic child in each of us; and I believe that it is present always.  Only through our fidelity to God and the light . . . do we evade that which relishes the night.  The risen Christ offers this invitation to unity constantly.  How do we respond?

Jesus shares a last meal with a man who believes that he operates in secret and who has likely convinced himself that his actions are for some greater good.  Judas’ actions will set a course of events into motion which cannot be recalled.  The calculus has been set much earlier than this through a series of moments of discontent, of wounded pride, of self-importance.  Judas resists the call to goodness and falls to the darkness.

So he took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

In an understatement of fact, the writer John tells us all we need to know about betrayal and the evil on which it feeds.  Envy, willfulness, desire for control of self and others, attendance to our own needs at the expense of others . . . these are signs that lead only to darkness.  And it was night.  Goodness, mercy, kindness, gentleness, prudence, courage, openness, perseverance . . . these are the signs that lead to light and life.

Heavenly Father, keep us always open to Christ, your Word among us.  Count us among your faithful.  Create in us a spirit that will always recognize you and welcome you . . . even in the most surprising places and unexpected people. 

Today we receive you; we receive your word.  Keep us ever mindful of your love for us.  Call us always to the light that is you.  Amen.


Written on January 27, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvggo_taking.html

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2 Corinthians 1:3-11: Encouragement

I am so touched by the number of times Paul uses the verb encourage and the noun encouragement in this citation.  As I read through the opening of this second letter to the group in Corinth, I am struck by the idea that as Christians we need to be encouraging one another as we move along the path of life – this is the mark of a Christian: to exhort, to pray, to urge, to praise, to support, to bolster . . . to encourage.  How many times do we browbeat, do we demand, do we undercut, do we deceive, how often do we judge?  Perhaps we put distance between ourselves and others because we are afraid of betrayal at an intimate level.  Perhaps we are afraid to trust.  If this is so . . . we have a place to turn for understanding.  We can examine John 13.

Picture1Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.  The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.

Perhaps we have sensed when someone close to us was about to turn against us.

One of his disciples . . . was reclining at Jesus’ side . . . He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, Master, who is it?”

Perhaps we are too afraid to look closely at circumstances; we may be too anxious to begin a conversation that needs beginning.

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it”. So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. 

Jesus teaches us that we must remain calm in the face of treachery.

After he took the morsel, Satan entered him.  So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly”.

Jesus shows us how to remain open and honest in the midst of our enemies.

Now none of those reclining at the table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. 

We understand that betrayal is deep-rooted and far-reaching. 

So he took the morsel and he left.  And it was night.

We remember that even for Jesus . . . there is darkness.

Picture3When we are betrayed we find relief and support in the encouragement of others.  We find compassion and mercy in Christ’s example.  Psalm 55 describes the anguish of betrayal at the hands of intimate friends; Jesus teaches us how to withstand the pain brought by this betrayal.  Christ brings us encouragement.

And so we pray . . .

We look for healing and restoration in others . . . let us give healing and restoration in all we do and say.

We look for openness and honesty in others . . . let us act openly and honestly in all our actions and declarations.

We look for constancy and fidelity in others . . . let us be constant and faithful in all our deeds and words.  

We look for justice and mercy in others . . . let us live justly and mercifully all our days and all our nights in Christ.

And let us give thanks for the encouraging companions God sends to us as we journey on our way.  Amen.


First written March 18, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

To explore words of encouragement for children, click on the image or visit: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/words-of-encouragement-for-kids_00402209/#gref

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1 Chronicles 23: The Levitical Classes

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A re-post from April 3, 2012.

Aaron

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently received a letter from the Archbishop letting us know that the clergy were aware of the shortage of priests and they understood that the laity would be taking more authority in their parishes.  It seems that the Levitical classes of this church have so isolated themselves as a group that this fact is just dawning on them.  Those of us in the pews have seen this coming for quite some time.  Priests can barely genuflect, seminarians are scant, and more of the daily running of the parish is overseen by lay people.

There is an interesting article in the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER (April 15, 2011) describing the “hidden exodus of Catholics from their faith”.  Thomas Reese writes: “Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why.  But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus.  Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening.  Thankfully, although the U.S. bishops have not supported research on people who have let the church, the Pew Center has”.  Then Reese describes the report results.  They are fascinating.  http://ncronline.org/news/hidden-exodus-catholics-becoming-protestants What do the people want?  They ask that liturgy be more pertinent.  They ask for more opportunities for Bible study.  I cannot find a reason that these requests go unanswered.

As I pray, I juxtapose David’s acknowledgement of his own mortality and his good shepherding of the people with the apparent benign neglect of present day Catholic Church leaders.  And I do what I always do when I am perplexed . . . I go to God.

In today’s Gospel we read about Judas’ betrayal of Christ.  This seems significant to me.  In a perfect world, spiritual leaders actually tend to peoples’ souls rather than to their own needs.  In our world, the closest to us are often those who betray us most quickly . . . and always this kind of unfaithfulness cuts deeply.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer is full of guideposts for those who are betrayed by those closest to them.  This also seems significant.  We cannot suppose that just because people wear the trappings of office that they perfectly fulfill the duties they are bound to perform.   In a perfect world, our spiritual leaders concern themselves with real people in real time . . . and they are aware that they lead by serving.

Psalm 55: My heart is stricken within me . . . and so I must trust God with my fears.

John 13:21: Jesus was deeply troubled . . . so I cannot be upset with my own turmoil.

Jeremiah 20:10: Yes, I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! . . .  Yet God is with us always.

Job 19:19: All my intimate friends hold me in horror . . . Still I remain faithful to God. 

We know the story of Peter’s denial of Christ and his later confession of faith when the Resurrected Jesus asks, Do you love me? (John 21)   We know that Christ offers Peter this opportunity for conversion and opens the door to newness, honesty, and a deeper fidelity than had before been possible.

Our question on this Holy Tuesday is this . . . Does our love in Christ and for Christ call us to forgive all those who have harmed us in big ways and in small ways . . . even as Christ has forgiven us?


Image from: http://webspace.webring.com/people/up/pharsea/PeopleOfGod.html

For more information on Aaron, and the Levites, go to: http://eastonsbibledictionary.com/a/aaron.htm and http://eastonsbibledictionary.com/l/levite.htm

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.19 (2011). Print.  

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John 13:21-38: Betrayal in Jerusalem

Holy Tuesday, March 22, 2016judas

One of you is going to betray me . . . [And] as soon as the bread was in Judas’ hand, Satan entered him.

We have become too familiar with the story of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus the Christ. Today we focus on small details as we read various translations, watching Jesus as he firmly, boldly, patiently and even gently steps into the betrayal he knows awaits him.

What you must do, says Jesus, do. Do it and get it over with.

A crust of bread dipped in wine.

Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.

Thirty pieces of silver. The Potter’s Field. Murder Meadow.

Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’

The prophet Jeremiah’s words fulfilled to the letter.

“Master,” says Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!”

Gerard van Honthorst: The Denial of St. Peter

Gerard van Honthorst: The Denial of St. Peter

Denial in the courtyard.

“Really?” Jesus replies.  “You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times”.

The faithful disciples scattering in terror, gathering in hope.

Today we reflect on heroes, heroines, fidelity and betrayal and how Jesus, Judas and Peter bring us the message of the Gospel. For a video message from musician Matt Maher that reflects on the role of Judas in God’s plan, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnibI0Vac0w

Matthew 26 & Matthew 27 tell the story of Peter’s denial and Judas’ end. If there is time today, we reflect on these verses using the scripture links.

For more reflections on betrayal, enter the word into the blog search bar and explore.

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Mark 14:17-21: The Betrayer

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

During Holy Week we often reflect on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper. Today in our journey through Mark, we open scripture to the moment when we hear Jesus announce that his betrayer is quite close by. As we read varying translations of these verses, we ask ourselves if we have suffered betrayal at the hands of someone close to us . . . or if we have been the betrayer. In either case, Christ understands the piercing pain of this intense suffering that comes when we arrive at the end of our strength.

From MAGNIFICAT: In the suffering of Christ, we hear the depths of God’s love spoken in a language we can understand. (Cameron 78)

From Psalm 69: More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me without cause.  Those who attack me with lies are too much for my strength . . . You know how they taunt and deride me; my oppressors are all before you.  Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength.

God says: Life will include sorrow but you are not expected to cry alone. Life will include joy. Remember me as you celebrate. When you are betrayed, remember that my son has walked this Way before you, and he walks with you today.

This is the dreadful beauty of the story of Christ.  He suffers with us . . . so that we might believe.  If we can but stay with him a little while.

When we spend time with Psalm 69 and Mark 14:17-21, we find the gift of Christ’s company. If we can stay awhile with him. Choose a face in the image above and focus on the emotion Caravaggio communicates. Who are we in this moment of betrayal? And what does Christ say to us? 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 20 March 2008: 78. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 20, 2008.

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