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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Judas In Us?

I was at daily Mass yesterday. Father had a great homily.

He discussed the two ways to sin against Hope - presumption and despair, about which I am sure we are all familiar. Presumption, of course, is to believe we are saved no matter what our actions may be, or to sin intentionally believing that God's Mercy is certain -"I'll just do this one thing, and then hit confession at 2." Or, "Hey, God surely wouldn't condemn me for this one sin, I'm generally good otherwise." Certainly a belief that we need not attend Confession as Catholics can fit this category as well. We miss the whole "God is Just" part of reality.

Despair, the sin against Hope that most believe Judas committed in killing himself after betraying Christ (Hope springs eternal for a final second conversion even with Judas), is on the other end of the spectrum, but is perhaps something of the flip side of the same coin.

Despair is to believe that one's sinful life (or individual sin) is so grave that it can never be forgiven by God. We abandon Hope rather than decide it is unnecessary for our salvation as we might with presumption. We replace certitude with complete loss of trust in God's saving Mercy.

We, of course, are called to the middle path of anxious Hope and trust of the saving power of Christ through His Church and its Sacraments. But here's what struck me most about Father's homily. He said what we are all thinking during Holy Week - don't we all secretly believe that we could never do what Judas did? I mean he betrayed the God become man, that's HUGE, right? But think about it. Reflect on that betrayal for just a moment.

Does not our sin cause us to do what Judas did? When we entertain temptations - whatever temptation has our number - we meet with the chief priests to ask the question Judas asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" (Mt 26:15). We may ask the question differently - "Temptation, what are you willing to give me if I choose you over Christ, our God, in this instance? A moment of pleasure? A temporary satisfaction from gossip or a nasty retort? A drunken moment to lose my worldly cares, when Christ offers another path for that? An ability to avoid that family duty when I really should be tending to it?" Pick your poison, it's foolish to pretend we don't all have them. Then the wheels start turning in our minds, causing us to see the sin as the good, and the real Good, our God, as secondary.

On this Holy Thursday, hours before Judas will betray our Lord with a kiss, let us reflect on our role in causing the beads of sweat to become like drops of blood on our Savior. Let us spend a moment acknowledging that we really are part of that crowd shouting to "crucify him!" And although Judas is no sympathetic figure for us, let us realize that there is something of him in our fallen nature. For, in some sense, we daily choose our worldly silver in the small betrayals of sin, don't we?

In our reflections, however, let us not lose our Hope. Father stressed that the key is to arm ourselves with small weapons against moments of temptation ("Jesus, I believe in You, help me to conquer Sin!," "Lord, Your Will not Mine be done!," "All for You Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!"), and to do all in our power to not let those moments become sinful ones. If we fall, as we all surely will, let the sinful moment not turn into a moment of presumption or despair, as we return always to the eternal Source of saving Grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have a blessed Holy Week, folks.