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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Wednesday in Holy Week

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spy Wednesday. Judas, and his 30 pieces of silver. It is, rightly, one of the first details we learn and remember when as children we encounter the story of the Passion. A little bag of coins was all it took to betray Jesus.

We usually respond by looking in utter disbelief, adding to our condemnation of the act further criticism of how cheaply he was bought. The other response, which I seem to have come across more in recent years, is to make excuses for Judas, to seek to justify the betrayal. Maybe he thought the authorities would simply drive Jesus from Jerusalem, not execute him. Maybe Judas’ loyalties lay with a revolutionary group who were worried Jesus’ pacifism was infecting the people. Maybe he really believed Jesus was the Messiah and wanted to spark him into life, to force him to show his power and take on the Romans, as the Messiah surely couldn’t allow himself to be dragged away under arrest. 

Either response, loudly condemning his foolish cheap price, or trying to make excuses for Judas, seem to me to be motivated at least in part by our own guilt. After all, it was our sin that Jesus would carry to Calvary. And when we see people hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or alone and do not help, when we betray people in need and choose not to see the suffering human being in the least of Jesus’ brethren, we do it to Christ. So we should ask ourself, “What is my price?” What does the world offer me that stops me helping Christ when I encounter him in the people around me?

When I see someone on the street asking for help, what is it that makes me pretend I don’t hear them and walk by with my head turned away? What do I think I will lose by acknowledging them, even if it’s to honestly say I can’t help, but at least talking to them like a human being? I let the presence of others around me, strangers on the street who might give me strange looks, put me off. Or I tell myself that the person would be difficult and awkward and would only waste anything I gave them. I tell myself a story to assure myself I’m doing the right thing by ignoring them.

What is my response when I see the story of refugees fleeing from their homes and livelihoods, left with nothing? Do I really want them safe, or do I insist that they stay in their own country, insist they should not come here, that they don’t belong in my back yard? My comfort, my safe societal and domestic bubble might be challenged, and that is my price, so I choose not to see the humanity of these people, I choose to shut myself off to empathy, I choose to betray Christ in them. 

In a world where politics is so often increasingly hostile to those of faith am I willing to stand up in public and say that these things are wrong? Will I say to my friends that I believe all human beings have a right to life, that there’s always a better alternative to abortion. Maybe I fear how they will respond, I fear being marginalised. It’s a real fear, but Christ warned us this would be the price. Or maybe I have accepted society’s view, maybe I have decided that my faith isn’t going to form my opinion. I might need to ask myself if I have been telling myself stories to justify my definition of human, my definition of right and wrong.

On many levels, on many occasions we are all capable in our own minds of the same reasoning we apply to Judas. We tell ourselves we’d never take money for a life, yet we are bought at such cheap prices, not being willing to give a moment of kindness, a moment of dignity, a moment of love. Then we tell ourselves stories, justifying what we’ve done, telling ourselves it was right, that it made sense, rather than face the fullness of our action, because we know if we did we’d be facing guilt.

Hopefully we have all already been to or are about to go to Confession this Holy Week. It is easy when examining our conscience to recognise when we’ve been a bit selfish, dishonest, gluttonous or short-tempered. But do we do enough to acknowledge that we betray Christ each time we fail to acknowledge the humanity of every human being and each time we put our pride, our comfort or our will over and above an act of love? 

Of course, Christ’s love is enough that even this will be taken to the Cross. Even this will be forgiven, and our whole fallen nature will be transformed by Christ, so even if we see faults in ourselves we live not in darkness, but in hope. Nothing delights Christ so much as the repentant sinner. So let us acknowledge our fault, approach the Cross humbly seeking mercy for our betrayals and know that come Easter morning all will have been transformed.

Br Cuthbert Hartley O.P.

Br Cuthbert Hartley O.P.

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