Monday, 11 April 2011

Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) - Year A

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14 - 27:66

The Gospel of our Lord's Passion which we have just heard read began with these words: One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said: What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?

It all begins with a betrayal. It has to begin with a betrayal. Jesus has done nothing wrong so the only way to get him is to betray him. And so he is betrayed, and by one of his own.

No one knows better how to betray than a disciple, one of the trusted inner sanctum. No one knows how to hurt the Church better than an ex-Catholic. St Bernadette Soubirous was once asked what frightened her most and, surprisingly, she answered, ‘A bad Catholic.’

Have you noticed that a seemingly disproportionate number of the world’s great villains of history are former Catholics? Our prisons are full of Catholics; men and women who, by and large, no longer take their faith seriously. They have let it all slip away from them.

What could Judas have been thinking? And all for thirty pieces of silver. What could he have been thinking? What drove him to betray the Master? He probably imagined he had some cause, some reason, but he doesn't seem to have thought it through.

Many Catholics imagine they are justified leaving: 'The Church has let them down; the priest was rude to them; the principal at the school didn't listen to them, all they want is your money....' But in the end, when all is said and done, it is betrayal of Christ. St Paul's words in other circumstances (Gal 5:4) can fittingly be applied here: You are separated from Christ ... you have fallen from grace.'

Everyone who turns away from Christ loses much more than he can ever hope to win. When Judas realised what he had done all his so-called 'reasons' came to nought and he went out and hanged himself. What unkindness from a priest, what hurt, real or imagined, from a fellow Catholic, could ever justify walking away from Christ?

When they handed him that money, from that moment he became a traitor; from that moment he looked for a way of handing him over. Judas was bought and paid for; no longer free. He had sold himself. He was a slave.

The Gospel sums it up neatly when it tells us that Judas 'went to the chief priests'; while on the other hand, 'the disciples came to Jesus.'

Judas asked 'What will you give me?' - The disciples asked what can we do for you?

Jesus, from whom nothing can be hidden, is fully aware of Judas' betrayal and he announces that betrayal to the Apostles, not only to let them know that his time is near but to give Judas a chance to repent. Instead of humbly thinking the matter through and recognising his mistake Judas continues to pretend: Not I, Rabbi, surely! Judas has made up his mind. He no longer loves the Master.

Jesus sets about celebrating the Last Supper and despite the now sinister and ugly presence of the betrayer in their midst there's a kind of unstoppable serenity in his words. He knows exactly what he's doing. Judas hears the words of Consecration but is unmoved.

The betrayal of Judas is a betrayal of the Eucharist. Every bad Catholic betrays the Eucharist.

Jesus speaks of Judas' betrayal in terms of the Scriptures and now, after supper, he speaks of his disciples' loss of faith 'in accordance with the Scriptures'. Peter and the rest of the disciples contradict him; they claim they will never lose faith. They contradict not only Jesus but also the Scriptures!

But let us hasten to acknowledge that every betrayal is redeemable. No one ever needs to be lost. The road back to Christ is open to all - to Peter, to the other disciples, and even to Judas.

Jesus must have felt very lonely at that table. On the one hand sits Judas who would betray him and on the other hand sit the disciples who would desert him. Even now they reject his prophetic word which is, even though they do not realise it, essentially a rejection of Jesus himself, the Word of God.

Judas has now left the community of the disciples. He has become the first bad Catholic. He has betrayed the fellowship, the community of the Lord, the Church.

But Jesus has a work to complete. He heads off to the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by his dazed and disheartened disciples. Let us go too, in all our weakness and hesitation. Perhaps we will, with the Eleven, learn what he wishes to teach us; to become what he wants us to become.


Anonymous said...

God just spoke to me through your reflection. I hope and pray that I will be one of those who will love and accept and guide the 'bad Catholic" whom I will encounter in my journey towards the fullnes of life....God bless us Church with holy priests and lay people.

Anonymous said...

Very good reflection! It is very touchable!

Anonymous said...

AS I see it reading the first ANONYMOUS comment, here is a sincere Catholic responding to Fr John's REFLECTION...of the Passion
of Jesus..
I was however saddened by his choice of the term 'bad catholic' to describe those baptised catholics in a state of darkness that he might meet on his pilgrim journey to the Father. I would suggest that He reads his Bible, Matthew 7 1-5 scripture where Jesus warns us not to ' judge not lest you be judged' and 'take the splinter out of your eye......
It is the Christian response..ok

My dearest Brother in Christ, please be still!
and simply 'live the gospels' on your journey...
I wish you long life.
In this evident fullness of your Love of God, I believe your 'example' will help more searching souls to turn to Jesus for the Grace of salvation...




Fr John Speekman said...

Dear Frank,

I'm a bit puzzled by your suggestion that I am 'judging' by using the generic term 'bad catholic'. (I assume you would make the same judgment of St Bernadette Soubirous when she says bad catholics frighten her?)

If I were to say that you, Frank, were a bad Catholic then, yes, I would be laying myself open to the charge of judging. But I speak only in broad, general terms about bad catholics, and don't mention anyone specifically. Surely one is entitled to do this?

On the other hand, Frank, you speak in very specific terms. You accuse me of being judgmental. I find this puzzling.

Anonymous said...

Fr. John,
Sorry for delay in replying to your query on my comment Re: Bad Catholics',
but I had an unexpected encounter with a cardiac examination...

You introduce St. Bernadette of lourdes ( Bernadette Soubirious) into your query and her alleged 'being frightened by Bad Catholics'
Do I presume she was referring to the Sisters in her convent in Nevers when they mocked her in the terrible distress of the pain of the disease of her tubercular leg saying, 'Go bathe in the waters'
Were these Nuns Bad Catholics?
This was a term frequently used by priests and Laity in the Pre Vatican Church..I can only remember this judgementalism from that period..and YES i believe YOU were WRONG to use that erroneous description of a Baptised Catholic in any term general or otherwise.....
Christians have moved on from this wordage.
Father Flannigan (Ireland) founder of BOYS TOWN in Nebraska 1920's immortalised the goodness of all Gods Creation of Humanity when he cast the words in stone:
" There are no BAD BOYS"

I rest my case!




Anonymous said...

There is such thing as a conceptualised 'bad catholic'. I am in no position to judge individuals, but there are bad catholics and bad people alike. Its a fact. Fr John meant no offence to anyone. He was merely pointing out the fact that it is our responsibility to help draw people back into the flock of Jesus by proclaiming the good news.