NB. The last bit of this homily is a repeat of last Sunday's homily.
5th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
Judas leaves the room. . .and then Jesus says what he needs to say, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Why does Judas leave? And why does Jesus wait for him to leave? Judas leaves because he is on an urgent mission, a mission to sell Jesus to the temple guard. Jesus waits for Judas to leave because he – Jesus – is also on an urgent mission, a mission to die for the sins for the world. A vital part of that mission is to leave his disciples a legacy of love. They are to become preaching and teaching witnesses to his death and resurrection. Judas, who cannot love, cannot be part of that legacy. So, Jesus waits. Judas leaves. And Jesus commands his witnesses to love one another. Why love one another? So that all will know that we follow Christ. Judas does not follow Christ. He does not love Christ. He cannot bear witness to what will happen in Jerusalem on the cross and near the empty tomb. He, literally, walks out on love. He walks out on Christ to betray him for money. Judas is what happens to us when we betray Christ for money, power, popularity, standing in the world, or all of the above. He eventually hangs himself. Judas is what happens when we sell Christ to the highest bidder at the Auction of the Spirit of the Age.
So, how do we sell Christ at the Auction of the Age? Easy. First, we accept that anything and everything is for sale. Loyalty. Land. People. Our souls. We accept that anything and everything has a price. An exchange value. Then, second, we calculate how much whatever it is we have is worth to the world. Our loyalty. Our family and friends. Our immortal souls. What's it all worth? Judas calculated that Jesus was worth thirty pieces of silver. He took the deal. Upheld his end of the bargain. And decided later on that his own life wasn't worth his betrayal. Next, we find a way to think/feel our way to justifying the deal we've made. I needed that promotion. My family deserves the best. It was a small compromise, just a minor concession. I can do a lot of good in this position of power. With all this praise. I have a platform. So did Judas. His platform was a rope and a tree. Finally, we try to convince ourselves that our betrayal is what Jesus would've really wanted. He really wanted us to kneel to lies, confusion, death, and the powers of the world. He really wanted us to rebel against his Father and pretend to be gods. He really wanted us to put Now over Forever and hold ourselves up as idols of human perfection.
No! None of this is love. All of this is idolatry and pride. None of this is the Good we are made to pursue nor the Good we are made to become. It's the gospel of Judas, the Bad News of Me First, Me Last, Me Always. What Divine Love requires is that we always and everywhere will the Good of the other. Friends. Enemies. Family. Persecutors. Neighbors. Even those who intentionally do us evil. Dying, from the Cross, Jesus pleads, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” So, yes, we sell Jesus to the highest bidder when we compromise doctrine, or dilute moral teaching, or corrupt the liturgy. We sell him every time we commit a mortal sin and call it Good. These are all common enough temptations in the world. But we can also sell him and our love for him when we take up the tactics of the world to fight the world. When we put on the armor of convenience and expediency. Sure, we can win a political battle here and there. We might even win a decisive, worldly victory. But we have done so by accepting cash or applause or power in exchange for Christ. Is this the love he calls us to? No. It isn't.
We have a huge test of Christ's love coming very shortly. It seems likely that the SCOTUS will release its opinion tomorrow overturning Roe v. Wade. We can and should rejoice, if this is so. Here's the challenge to those of us who have prayed for this outcome for decades: Know who the Enemy is! Pro-abortion politicians are not our enemy. Planned Parenthood and NARAL are not our enemy. Women who get abortions are not our enemy. Not even the abortionists themselves are our enemy. Our enemy is the Spirit of the Age, the spirit that convinces them and us that death is a solution to suffering. That dark spirit feeds on anger, misery, violence, and self-righteousness. It feeds on pride and hatred and rage. As followers of Christ, we do not and cannot respond in kind to those who see themselves as our enemy. Meeting this spirit's anger with our own, or its intolerance with our own, or its violence with our own is an exercise in failure on our part and a triumph for the Enemy's recruitment program. The Enemy wants/hopes/counts on us to meet its tit with our tat. To go round by round blow for blow. Why? Because when we do so, we provide it with everything it needs to accuse us before God. To bring us before the Father and say, “See! Your sheep are no better than mine!” We respond by doing the work Christ has given us to do. We continue offering adoption services as we have for centuries. We continue providing free pre-natal care as we have for centuries. We continue supporting families as we have for centuries. And we help those women who have had an abortion recover and heal. Our response is to starve the Spirit of the Age, feeding it nothing but Christ's love, his mercy, and his peace. Without Judas the Betrayer present, Jesus says to those who follow him, “Love one another as I have loved you.”