Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
We become what we worship; that is, we change into that which we love most. Ps 115 teaches us that the makers of idols and those who trust in them will be just like their own creations—with eyes that do not see, noses that do not smell, ears that do not hear, and throats that do not speak. If you love a thing of this passing world, your love will be passing as well. If you love God—eternal and boundless—your love will be eternal and boundless; you will become a partaker of the divine love that makes and sustains all of creation. Judas is an example of a man who loved passing things instead of God; he loved money, power, influence, and his own skin—all of which betrayed him when he died. Judas' betrayal of Christ is the most egregiously treacherous act in human history. But do we understand why he did it? Do we understand the nature of his betrayal? We must understand if we are to see this temptation heading our way. Judas' treason was rooted in his worship of the things of this world. He was an idolater. He became the thing he worshiped. And died in its service.
I don't mean to suggest here that Judas was transformed into a lump of silver. Money is simply a way to evaluate the relative value of things in order to make commercial exchanges more convenient. We use phrases like “he sold his soul for a drink” as a way of saying “he committed murder in order to get the money to feed his addiction.” Now, think in more spiritual terms. Judas sold Christ to the temple for 30 silver coins. To be more precise, he sold the temple information on Christ's whereabouts. But in doing so, he sold his soul for that bag of coins. Why did he do it? Judas served a lesser god while pretending to serve our Lord. He worshiped at the Altar of Temporary Things. We could call it avarice or lust for power but it amounts to the same thing: he did not love the Lord; instead, he loved his possessions and he wanted more. To satisfy his god, he sacrificed his friend and teacher. And, in the end, his god made good on its promise—Judas himself became merely a means for exchanging one thing for another. His coins bought him a hanging suicide and a name forever linked to the betrayal of one's friends. For all his infamy in our history, Judas was just a man, an ordinary man tempted to the limits of his willingness to love.
This week—especially the next three days—we delve into the darkest moments of our faith, and the limits of our willingness to love are tested. No one is going to offer us 30 silver coins for information on the whereabouts of the Lord. Nothing so spectacular as that. Our tests will be smaller, more precise, and much, much sharper. Will we fail to speak up in defense of the faith at a party? Will we deny being a follower of Christ at work? Will we secretly give our time and money to causes that undermine the Church? Will we teach theological and moral error to the children in our care? Will we fail to forgive, to love, and to hope each time the chance arises? Will we pray for those who hate us? No one will ask us to stab our Lord in the heart. However, we will asked to give him a nick here and there, nothing too big, nothing too dangerous. But one little nick from each of us here will add up to a very large, very deadly slice. Watch for the temptation to betray your Lord, listen for that jingling bag of coins, and remember the prophet Isiah: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint. . .the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?”
Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans! ------->