Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prayers today: False witnesses have stood up against me, and my enemies threaten violence; Lord, do not surrender me into their power! (Ps 26:12)

Father, may we receive your forgiveness and mercy as we celebrate the passion and death of the Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Peter Regalado (1390-1456)

Peter lived at a very busy time. The Great Western Schism (1378-1417) was settled at the Council of Constance (1414-1418). France and England were fighting the Hundred Years’ War, and in 1453 the Byzantine Empire was completely wiped out by the loss of Constantinople to the Turks. At Peter’s death the age of printing had just begun in Germany, and Columbus's arrival in the New World was less than 40 years away. Peter came from a wealthy and pious family in Valladolid, Spain. At the age of 13, he was allowed to enter the Conventual Franciscans. Shortly after his ordination, he was made superior of the friary in Aguilar. He became part of a group of friars who wanted to lead a life of greater poverty and penance. In 1442 he was appointed head of all the Spanish Franciscans in his reform group. Peter led the friars by his example. A special love of the poor and the sick characterized Peter. Miraculous stories are told about his charity to the poor. For example, the bread never seemed to run out as long as Peter had hungry people to feed. Throughout most of his life, Peter went hungry; he lived only on bread and water. Immediately after his death on March 31, 1456, his grave became a place of pilgrimage. Peter was canonized in 1746.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (13.21~33.36~38)

After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me." His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask Him which one He means." Leaning back against Jesus, "He asked Him, Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish. Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into Him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, but no-one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come." Simon Peter asked Him, "Lord, where are you going? Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for Me? I tell you the truth, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!

The gaze of Christ
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

On March 15 (the Ides of March), 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by some Roman senators, including Marcus Junius Brutus, Caesar's close friend. Caesar's last words are not known with certainty. Those most famously attributed to him are “Et tu, Brute?”, placed in his mouth by Shakespeare in his drama, Julius Caesar. Some understand Caesar’s final words as expressing shock at his betrayal, others see in them a curse and a threat. In any case, the great Caesar knew nothing of the conspiracy and, surprised at the last, went to his death at the hand of a friend. The words, “Et tu, Brute?” have come to signify betrayal by a friend. A little less than seventy years after Caesar, there was a far more heinous betrayal in a corner of the Empire. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord addressed his betrayer as his friend. “Friend,” he said to Judas, “would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Our Lord had personally chosen Judas from among his disciples to be one of the Twelve, a patriarch of his Church, to be with him as his special companion and to be sent out with a special share in his mission. It was an extraordinary vocation to friendship with Christ, a unique choice, and Judas could have been a great saint like the rest of the Twelve. As such he would have been celebrated with his own feast day in the life of the Church till the end of time. He could have died a martyr for Christ and reigned forever with Christ in heaven. But what do we notice? In chapter six of St John’s Gospel, after our Lord made his stunning announcement of the doctrine of the Eucharist in the Synagogue of Capernaum, many of his disciples left him. Turning to the Twelve, he asked if they too were intending to go, for there was no turning back from what he had just revealed. No indeed, Simon Peter answered, for he, Jesus, had the words of life. “Have I not chosen you Twelve?” our Lord replied. “Yet one of you is a devil.” Caesar knew nothing of his betrayal, but our Lord knew his betrayer exactly.

Our Gospel today (John 13: 21-33.36-38) opens with our Lord’s expression of heartfelt disappointment, which undoubtedly was an oblique appeal to the soul of his chosen companion. “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” An absorbing feature of this scene is that the entire body of disciples had not the slightest suspicion of the apostasy of the heart of Judas. They had no idea that one among them had given up on Jesus, let alone had entered into relations with his very enemies. Judas had been with them for the best part of three years, living with them, going out on missions with them, associating with our Lord freely and constantly. It must have been a community life of the first order with our Lord as its heart and soul. If there is one good way of getting to know a person, live with him. They lived with Judas, and yet over this period of constant association they suspected nothing. They would have known various of his faults just as they would have known various of the faults of one another. But nothing of seriousness was suspected. We read that when our Lord made his startling announcement, “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, Ask him which one he means. Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, Lord, who is it?” Simon Peter had no idea, nor did John the beloved disciple. Our Lord had associated Peter, James and John with him in special ways, but nothing whatever was divulged to them. The complete disaffection by Judas was one of Christ’s most serious burdens. Judas attempted to disguise himself even from Christ. But his heart was in full view to our Lord’s loving and sorrowful gaze. Our Lord did not unmask him, nor expel him, nor take him to task. Undoubtedly by all sorts of discreet ways our Lord attempted to shield and dissuade him from the approaches of Satan. But Satan won, and at the Last Supper, entered him.

The story of Judas is, among other things, the story of a heart that became more and more sunk in serious sin, but which was constantly open to the gaze of Jesus Christ. Let us think of that divine gaze. No one, not even Satan, can plumb the depths of our hearts and see what is happening at bottom. Not even do we see to the very depths. But one assuredly does, and he is our brother and our God, Jesus Christ. He knows our heart through and through, and its very first starting points are laid bare before him. Let us ask him to give us a heart which right to the very foundation is good soil for the word of God, a heart that will produce a harvest with the aid of God’s grace. In a word, let us live before the gaze of Jesus Christ, always trying to please him.

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