Saturday, April 23, 2011
Standing in the garden....
During the Good Friday Liturgy, we read the Passion according to John. This version contains the description of Peter striking and severing the ear of Malchus, a high priest’s slave (Jn 18:10-11). Jesus rebuked Peter for trying to defend him. In Luke 22:50-51 we learn Jesus also healed the ear of Malchus, a member of the party arresting him, a party formed by Judas.
As he stood in the garden, on one side Jesus had one of his apostles, Judas, who profited from betraying him, leading the gang to arrest him. On the other side, Jesus had another apostle, Peter, incorrectly assuming Jesus needed his human protection, incorrectly equating his human thoughts with the will of God. Two apostles are deluded with self-importance while the truly important person is getting ready to die on their behalf. I know what I would be thinking if I were in Jesus’ sandals that day but I know I’m not Jesus and he probably had much more loving and charitable thoughts than I could have conjured in the situation.
Scripture actually lends insight into Jesus’ thoughts. Just hours before this scene occurred, Jesus, fully aware of their future actions, had dined with both apostles. He had served both apostles, washing their feet, cleansing them so they could share in his inheritance. Both had been charged by Jesus to imitate him, serving others with a willingness to act as humble slaves performing the lowliest most unpalatable of tasks (Jn 13:1-15). Within a few hours of being so charged, both apostles profoundly failed Jesus.
Yesterday I found myself fixated upon that scene from 2,000 years ago and how we continue to repeat the original apostles’ mistakes.
We have apostles and laity who profit as they betray Jesus by merchandising their faith in him, merchandising their gift of grace, merchandising their salvation. We have tele-evangelists and other entertainers who profit betraying Jesus, taking on iconic personas and celebrity statuses. We have politicians who betray Jesus as they profit by marketing their Christianity to gain votes. We have people who profit betraying Jesus through lies and deceit. We have people who believe they profit from self-preservation as they betray Jesus by remaining silent in the face of injustices.
We also have apostles thinking they defend Jesus. We have an entire practice of apologetics attempting to defend Jesus. We have groups like the Catholic League thinking they defend Jesus. We have orthodox groups like the Order of Peter, Opus Dei, Legionnaires for Christ, etc… trying to defend Jesus. But Jesus does not need their protection now any more than he needed Peter’s in the garden. Like Peter, they unnecessarily rip other people apart, injuring the Body of Christ they believe they protect.
Where are the apostles who serve others with a willingness to perform the lowliest of tasks? Where are the apostles who bathe wounds, or mop fevered brows and vomit from floors? Where are the apostles who change dirty diapers, sweep floors, and wash dishes for others? Where are the apostles who cook for and feed the hungry? It seems currently many diocesan clergy believe their willingness to offer sacramental care at appointed times of their choosing fulfills Jesus’ instruction to humbly serve. It seems a larger quantity of priests in religious orders passionately follow this instruction than do diocesan priests.
Let us not lay all burdens for humble service upon the apostles’ shoulders. Jesus actually charged his disciples not just apostles with this instruction for humble service. On the cross in his dying moments he reminded his mom and the disciple whom he loved to take care of each other. Therefore, how are we humbly performing the duties of the lowliest of servants as we care for each other?
As importantly, where are the apostles who follow Jesus’ example gently healing those who attack them? Can we follow this example? Where is the radical forgiveness of others as we heal, abide with and forgive people even before they commit sins we know they likely will commit?