The Last Supper and Defiant Desires

 

In his homily today, Father Joseph Mary of EWTN noted that at Christ’s last supper only Judas the betrayer addresses Jesus as “Rabbi” — Teacher. The other apostles address Jesus as Lord.

It’s an amazing moment. Was Judas the Iscariot not with them in the boat when Christ calmed the storm and walked on water? How many miraculous healings, exorcisms, and resuscitations did Judas witness?

This is not a case of, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?” Judas willfully returned to disbelief after witnessing the proof again and again that Christ governs Creation. To forget Christ’s identity was to reject his own experiences, his own life. Judas imagined some satisfaction apart from truth and grasped desperately at that easier fiction.

This is a story not just of Christ but of human nature. In this, we recognize the will as master over reason, rather than its subject. A person is not a mere consequence of experience. There are choices until the very end.

We are meant to see ourselves in both Peter and Judas the Iscariot. Both betray Jesus, though Peter’s surrender to fear is perhaps of a milder nature than the obstinance and resentment of Judas.

Peter denies Jesus as his Lord and his friend three times. But he admits that fault, repents, and renews his devotion to Christ. He acknowledges his need of Christ’s forgiveness and His sacrifice. Peter begs for truth, love, and beauty while admitting he is not owed such wonderful gifts.

Judas does not return to Jesus after his betrayal. He flees, hiding his shame, and hangs himself — perhaps in self-condemnation, or perhaps in desperation to escape the graceless depravity he had embraced. Judas does not seek forgiveness. He does not proclaim Christ as Lord and himself a sinner. Jesus says “it would have been better for that man if he had never been born.”

Sometimes the hardest thing is to start the way back home. We must look at God in the eyes and ask to be forgiven. We must accept truth and love as a choice, not an inevitability.

There will be moments in life when you witness the impossible or the ineffable. Distant memories are easy to doubt. Resolve to believe for evermore what you know when revelation comes. From life, persistent willful faith must carry us ever forward; lest dim memories lead back into the darkness from which we once were saved.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    God is always right there. We sometimes turn away and forget it.

     

    • #1
  2. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    There is a hymn sung in the Orthodox services during Holy Week (next week for us) that ponders Judas.  I’ll have to remember to look it up when I get home.  I don’t know how old it is, and how long it has been part of the services, but I do know it has been there for a very very long time.

    The hymn asks Judas whether he was denied some healing gifts the other disciples had, or whether he felt slighted at some point.

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  3. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    The hymn asks Judas whether he was denied some healing gifts the other disciples had, or whether he felt slighted at some point.

    I’ve seen it suggested that he couldn’t get past his expectation of an earthly ruler. 

    He might have been the apostle who objected to the “waste” of perfumed oil on Christ’s feet, preferring that it had been sold for donation money. That apostle was so focused on earthly needs that he forgot the divinity in their midst. He sought the usual earthly remedies even though the miracle worker, the Creator, was at hand. 

    Whatever the reasons, Judas is revealed as the first of the damned. That such a one was among the apostles reminds us that one’s adoption by the Lord remains in our power to reject until death. Baptism is an invitation full of graces, priesthood a high honor, but free will is not negated. 

    • #3
  4. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    The hymn asks Judas whether he was denied some healing gifts the other disciples had, or whether he felt slighted at some point.

    I’ve seen it suggested that he couldn’t get past his expectation of an earthly ruler.

    He might have been the apostle who objected to the “waste” of perfumed oil on Christ’s feet, preferring that it had been sold for donation money. That apostle was so focused on earthly needs that he forgot the divinity in their midst. He sought the usual earthly remedies even though the miracle worker, the Creator, was at hand.

    Whatever the reasons, Judas is revealed as the first of the damned. That such a one was among the apostles reminds us that one’s adoption by the Lord remains in our power to reject until death. Baptism is an invitation full of graces, priesthood a high honor, but free will is not negated.

    It is often taught that Judas’s chief and ultimate sin was not the betrayal, but lack of repentance, and then suicidal despair afterward.

    • #4
  5. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    He might have been the apostle who objected to the “waste” of perfumed oil on Christ’s feet, preferring that it had been sold for donation money. That apostle was so focused on earthly needs that he forgot the divinity in their midst. He sought the usual earthly remedies even though the miracle worker, the Creator, was at hand. 

    As I said before, we are meant to see ourselves in Christ’s wayward disciples like Judas.

    In this example, consider how often we turn to prayer as a last resort, rather than our first step. So often, Christians live as any agnostic would, acting without reference to the Light of the world. 

    Jesus cannot be a mere rabbi. I think it was C S Lewis who said Jesus must either be God or a lunatic. A madman who falsely claims to be God cannot be a teacher. We cannot base our lives on someone so fundamentally wrong. 

    If Christ is indeed God and is with us always, then we are the lunatics for ignoring Him. We say He is the Light not only because He is the source of Creation but also because by Him the true nature of all things is revealed. He is the key to wisdom. 

    In the creation story of Genesis, the Lord rests on the last day. Yet we have placed Sunday, the Lord’s day, at the beginning of the week. God belongs at the beginning. 

    • #5
  6. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Yet we have placed Sunday, the Lord’s day, at the beginning of the week. God belongs at the beginning. 

    Actually this is something of a misconception due just how long Sunday has been the chief day of worship.  For more details I would suggest Alexander Schmeman’s Introduction to Liturgical Theology, which is an examination of how and when services evolved, and why (it mostly covers the Eastern Rite, but the seeds of the Western Rite are identical).  If you go back to early Christian society, Saturday was kept as the Sabbath (makes sense, the earliest Christians were Jews).  But the Eucharist and its gathering would also be celebrated on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), which was called The Eighth Day, the day of the Resurrection, when Creation was truly complete.

    It wasn’t until Constantine (I think, though it could have been Theodosius) decreed it so that Sunday became the new official imperial day of observance, relegating the Sabbath to something of a 2nd fiddle.  But liturgically Saturday is still supposed to be the Sabbath, and Sunday is both the First and the Eighth Day.  In either case, liturgically speaking, it wasn’t moving worship to the beginning of the week in the sense that we’ve since come to think of it.

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    The hymn asks Judas whether he was denied some healing gifts the other disciples had, or whether he felt slighted at some point.

    I’ve seen it suggested that he couldn’t get past his expectation of an earthly ruler. 

    He might have been the apostle who objected to the “waste” of perfumed oil on Christ’s feet, preferring that it had been sold for donation money. That apostle was so focused on earthly needs that he forgot the divinity in their midst. He sought the usual earthly remedies even though the miracle worker, the Creator, was at hand. 

    Interesting stuff. In the TV mini-series, Jesus of Nazareth, Judas (the guy from LoveJoy) thought that once Jesus got in front of the priests he would be able to win them over. Sort of a good intentions thing, but Jesus went to the Temple and was heard by some of the priests.

    We don’t know what went through his head. But the comparison you make between Judas and Peter is an important one. We all mess up. Maybe not getting the Son of God killed bad, but we all have done bad things. It comes down to, then what?

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    If you go back to early Christian society, Saturday was kept as the Sabbath (makes sense, the earliest Christians were Jews). But the Eucharist and its gathering would also be celebrated on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), which was called The Eighth Day, the day of the Resurrection, when Creation was truly complete.

    It wasn’t until Constantine (I think, though it could have been Theodosius) decreed it so that Sunday became the new official imperial day of observance, relegating the Sabbath to something of a 2nd fiddle. But liturgically Saturday is still supposed to be the Sabbath, and Sunday is both the First and the Eighth Day. In either case, liturgically speaking, it wasn’t moving worship to the beginning of the week in the sense that we’ve since come to think of it.

    My memory of that history is vague and was never deep. But my understanding was that the Sabbath wasn’t moved so much as extended. 

    Our modern Mass combines the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The former resembles the Sabbath as practiced by the Jews, our “elder brothers” in the faith. Christ added to that the Eucharist (“Do this in memory of me”), which Christians practiced on Sunday. Like you said. 

    It’s further complicated by our continuation of Jews’ measurement of days from sundown to sundown. Thus, “Sunday” Mass is first offered on Saturday evening. Of course, that means modern Christians are tempted to cheat on fasts by reverting to secular time. 

    God is eternal, so I’m sure all this fuddling about time amuses Him. 

    • #8
  9. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Our modern Mass combines the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The former resembles the Sabbath as practiced by the Jews, our “elder brothers” in the faith. Christ added to that the Eucharist (“Do this in memory of me”), which Christians practiced on Sunday. Like you said. 

    It’s further complicated by our continuation of Jews’ measurement of days from sundown to sundown. Thus, “Sunday” Mass is first offered on Saturday evening.

    This is mostly the same in the eastern rite as well: The liturgy of the Word then the Anaphora and Eucharist.  And this all goes back to the synagogue services.  The roots of the surviving eastern and western rites are the same, and the structures broadly similar.

    But the Sunday service for us is not an extension of the Sabbath, but the 8th day of creation.  By all rights (and rites) Saturday liturgies are their own thing and still celebrated at some churches.  Like in the west, though, the liturgical day begins and ends at sunset, but only one Eucharist can be celebrated per day, so there are not multiple masses.

    • #9
  10. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    What caused thee, O Judas, to betray the Savior?  Did he set thee aside from the other Disciples?  Did he deny thee the gift of healing?  Did he eat with the others and send thee away from the table?  Did he wash the feet of the rest and then pass thee by?  How much goodness hast thou forgotten?  Yea, thine unpraiseworthy mind hath been exposed.  But his incalculable long-suffering which is beyond all measure and his great mercies are proclaimed with praise.

    Kathisma in the Orthros Canon of Holy Friday, read just before the 3rd (of 12) Gospel Readings.

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I’m reminded of how the evils of socialism are not believed in spite of the evidence, especially with the most recent test case of Venuzuela.  People who come to a particular belief automatically reject claims to the contrary, even with solid evidence backing up said claims.

    Even if Judas still believed Christ was only a teacher, I wonder why he hung around . . .

    • #11
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’ve always thought the root of Judas’s sin was revealed in the anointing oil incident — pride. He just knows better how the money should be distributed and he’s enamored of his good intentions to help the poor. Of course, this is a cautionary tale for all of us — not just socialists. 

    • #12
  13. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I’ve always thought the root of Judas’s sin was revealed in the anointing oil incident — pride. He just knows better how the money should be distributed and he’s enamored of his good intentions to help the poor. Of course, this is a cautionary tale for all of us — not just socialists.

    And it is his pride that prevents him from repenting. That’s the real difference between Judas and Peter. Peter was regularly rebuked by Christ for not getting it – most forcefully in Matthew 16:21-23. But Peter did not suffer from the sin of pride and always returned to Christ in repentance. All this is beautifully foreshadowed when Peter is first called by Christ and drops to his knees saying “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

    • #13
  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I’ve always thought the root of Judas’s sin was revealed in the anointing oil incident — pride. He just knows better how the money should be distributed and he’s enamored of his good intentions to help the poor. Of course, this is a cautionary tale for all of us — not just socialists.

    And it is his pride that prevents him from repenting. That’s the real difference between Judas and Peter. Peter was regularly rebuked by Christ for not getting it – most forcefully in Matthew 16:21-23. But Peter did not suffer from the sin of pride and always returned to Christ in repentance. All this is beautifully foreshadowed when Peter is first called by Christ and drops to his knees saying “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

    I was listening to Bishop Barron this week and he said the sin against the Holy Spirit is to reject God’s mercy. That’s Judas, in a nutshell. 

    • #14