My dear friends, today's Gospel recalls an unusual event. It is not the usual episode of Jesus healing or teaching. It is the unusual story of Jesus openly praying to his Father in heaven. Moreover, the person or persons who overheard Jesus praying recall a prayer which for the most part is not only unusual, but -- more importantly -- intense, filled with strong opinions and feeling.
The unusual and intense nature of Jesus's prayer takes many forms. For example, as regards the unusual, Jesus seems to have mentally transported himself back to his Father in heaven. And so we hear words like: 'And now I am no more in the world.' Additionally, the prayer is unusual because Jesus pats himself on the back, so to speak, and assures his Father that he has done a great job with the words: 'I have kept those you had given me true to your name.'
But the intense nature of Jesus's prayer is evident when Jesus begins to give reasons as to why he has such a confident report. Jesus says: 'I have watched over them and not one is lost, except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfil the scriptures.'
These words are intense because in one breath Jesus exonerates himself of blame. Yet in another breath, Jesus seems to also exonerate the one (Judas), by saying that though Judas chose to be lost, 'this was to fulfil the scriptures.' In other words, the statement implies that the only reason Judas made that choice was because he had to.
But if Judas had to do what he did to fulfil the scriptures, we must therefore focus on the actions of Judas and what brought him to such a state. And so the actions of Judas are representative of the reason Jesus had to suffer and die in the first place, and that is our desire to act against God.
Yes! Since from the time of Adam and Eve prospects have always looked greener on the other side. The chief culprit therefore seems to be not Judas, but our desire to sin.
We may want to focus on Judas's act of betrayal, but we need to remember that Judas's actions fulfilled the scriptures because it was the perfect example of us human beings who always have the desire to sin. He is a representative of how we human beings constantly betray Jesus for the things of this world that we falsely believe will make us happy and give us the peace and security that we desire.
The noted Belgian portraitist Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) gave distinct personalities to each of the twelve disciples in his portrayal of the Last Supper. Our friend Judas is seen in the foreground grasping his tell-tale money bag. And like Judas, we keep on grasping.
We grasp our bags of possessions. We grasp our bags of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. We grasp our bags of prejudice and hatred. We keep on grasping at so many unprofitable bags and we do not have the courage to let them go. No surprise, part of Jesus's prayer was: 'protect them from the evil one ...[and] consecrate them in the truth.
As Christians that should be our prayer: that we may be consecrated in the truth so that we may learn to love and to live as God desires.