11 April 2017
Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.
He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;
and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:
‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:
‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’
Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later”
In today’s gospel, we are shown the beginning of Jesus’s Passion. Indeed, we are told of the very moment that Satan entered Judas, and the betrayal began. This image of Satan entering Judas is particularly salient to many of us who have struggled with sin. How often have we sensed the beginnings of a sinful act – whether it is an angry thought that has entered our mind or a little excuse we give ourselves for turning a blind eye to a personal transgression – but done nothing about it?
We are often told that it is far easier to nip sin in the bud before it can take root, to deny the words of the evil spirit before they make us do something we may regret. But in reality, we know how hard it is. Like in the movie ‘Inception’, the seeds of sin and doubt can take root so quickly and innocuously, and the consequences of these seeds are often painful not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones as well. Furthermore, we are told that Judas is not the only one who was susceptible to the evil spirit. Even Peter, the chosen ‘rock’ of the church, was plagued with doubt and fear. While he did not betray Jesus, Peter nonetheless denied Him when faced with the fear of persecution.
Such is our human nature, plagued by original sin and often filled with fear and anxiety, that it often does not take a lot for Satan to push us down the wrong path. But such is also the grace of God, that it is not difficult to fight our ways back to sanctity and holiness. All we need to do, as Jesus has told us time and again, is to repent and denounce sin. And should we, having repented, continue to fall into sin, all we need to do, again, is simply to repent once more. Being fully aware of our human nature, Jesus nonetheless chose to love and save us. Indeed, He continued to love Peter and Thomas, despite their denial and doubt, and grant them admittance to His Kingdom.
This is the promise that we find at the end of today’s gospel reading: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later”. Jesus is telling us that where He has gone (heaven), we will also follow. Yet at the same time, He is also telling us that where He was going (to the Cross), we would also need to go. Yes, as Jesus has suffered, we are also called to suffer. But this suffering that we often face is not for naught. Rather, and as St Teresa of Calcutta has taught us, we must see our suffering as redemptive suffering, both for the salvation of our own souls and those of others.
As we face all our fears and doubts this Holy Week, let us remind ourselves that in following our Lord to the cross, we are also following Him to holiness and salvation.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for your grace and guidance, as well face our daily struggles and doubts, and we ask for your patience and forgivness, for the times when we have not loved You enough.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for being the head to the body of our Church. For where the Head has gone, so will the body. May we follow You in faithful discipleship.