Homily for April 19, Tuesday of Holy Week
The scene from the Last Supper described in today’s Gospel reading is very moving. Jesus was deeply troubled, but the Evangelist doesn’t tell us if it was because of fear of His coming betrayal and death, or because He saw that His apostles continued to be oblivious to what was about to happen, despite all of Jesus’ warnings. In fact, it was probably both.
We see how both Peter and Judas set themselves up for a fall, and neither realized the danger they were in. Only Jesus fully understood what was going on, and He gave them both messages that He hoped would help them when they came around. By giving Judas a piece of food dipped by His own hand and then dismissing him, Jesus implied that He was fully aware of what Judas was about to do, and yet still loved Him and could forgive him. He promised Peter that he, Peter, could follow in Jesus’ path later on, even though Peter would not have the strength for it that very night. Those words must have encouraged Peter after He denied Christ and remembered this prophesy.
The Lord’s words and actions here should also encourage us. He knows us as well as He knew Judas and Peter. He knows our weakness and our good intentions. He also knows that we don’t always have a clear and complete picture of how we should act and what the consequences will be – both because of our ordinary human limitations, and because of our sinful tendencies. He deals with us as He dealt with His apostles: with love and willingness to forgive. He often sends us warning signs to help us avoid sin, as He did for them, but He also wants us to turn back to Him when we fail. That was what made the biggest difference between Judas and Peter. Judas didn’t believe he could be forgiven, so he fell into despair and suicide; Peter remembered the Lord’s loving words, and turned back to Him trustingly with tears of remorse and shame.
May God grant us clarity, objectivity, and a firm decision to avoid sin. When we fail, may the Holy Spirit also increase in our hearts the same kind of humility and trust that helped Peter to turn back to follow Christ on the road to heaven through the Cross.