Oh, Judas, Where Art Thou?
#OhJudasWhereArtThou is the podcast for April 7, 2019, the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Why are we surprised by evil in the Church? The events leading up to Jesus on Palm Sunday show us that even he had his betrayers. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John12 #Lazarus #Pharisees #Kill #Murder #Jealousy #7DeadlySins #Anointing #Burial #Judas
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/7/2019 The 5th Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 12:1-8.
St. Paul says in Romans 7:21, “So, I find it a law/principle that when I seek to do good, evil is close at hand.” In today’s Gospel, this is so evident. We need to be sober, brethren. There is evil in the world and it is evil that killed Jesus Christ and nailed him to the Cross. The Father in Heaven did not take on evil in this world as we humans would think: that the Earth is the existential center of the universe. It should make us wonder why we think that being a Christian means we would be free of worry, free of pain, free of sorrow, free of dark, gross, incomprehensibly vicious evil.
Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, now Joel Osteen, America has always had its “power of positive thinking” preachers. We like the “easy street”, prosperity gospel preachers. Yet, how do we explain the happenings of John 11 and 12 with positive thinking or prosperity? If you read the Holy Book, you cannot get to the Resurrection without the betrayal, the false accusation, the false conviction, the abuse while in custody, the rejection by the masses who once craved his attention, the mocking by his detractors, the searing pain of thorns, the breath taking numbing pain of nails through his feet and hands. The devil used every mechanism at his disposal to kill the Son of God. That evil is still in the world, defeated, but scooping up as many of us as is possible. In the Gospel of John for today, that evil rears its ugly head in the seeds of betrayal.
Let’s look at the scene of the passage: Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. The word of this amazing miracle has reached far and wide. People are flocking after Jesus. Imagine if this had happened in the media age we are in today. It would have shot around the world in seconds. “Man raised from the dead by would be prophet” could have been the headline. People are leaving the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law in droves to follow Jesus Christ. The leaders hate Jesus because of it. The people are following Jesus to see what he can do for them and the authorities want to kill Jesus because of what his fame does to them.
There is a reason that jealousy is a deadly sin. The authorities planned to kill Jesus right after he raised Lazarus from the dead. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him…” says John 11:48. It goes on to say that they worry that the Romans will come and destroy the Temple if people follow Jesus instead of them. Yet, their response is a simple one: kill Jesus. To this end, Jesus no longer travelled in the open to prevent them from killing him before his time.
Then, after this passage, after they have left the gun and taken the canoli with Jesus, they decide that they cannot leave the evidence of Jesus’ miracle walking about. Even in death, his followers would be legion with Lazarus still alive. Their response is a simple one: kill Lazarus.
According to St. John, the reason that Jesus had a contract on his head was because he raised a man from the dead. He had to die because he saved a man’s life.
In earnest, John’s Gospel is turning toward the end at this point. Jesus is being anointed by Mary as a sweet gesture, but God is using this gesture as a preparation for his burial. She was moved by her love for the Lord and all he had done, raising her brother from the dead and all. It was God’s plan to begin the preparation for his death. As we can see, it is also the Devil’s preparation through Judas.
Why are we surprised by sex abuse scandals? Why are we surprised by financial scandals in the church? Why are we surprised by adultery, fornication, jealousy, sloth, anger, pride, envy, and the like in the church? Wherever there is good, evil is working overtime. We ought to expect that there is going to be failure in the Church. The point of the whole exercise by the devil is to, in fact, do what the leaders of the Jews in that day and time were trying to do: create a scandal that would cause us to not believe.
I have spoken strongly against the scandals in the church. I, myself, have experienced ecclesiastical abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to see me through. Yet, why do we assume that this is the Lord’s handy work? Why do we ask why he allowed evil to hurt us when he did not prevent evil from hurting himself? Without the other option, we cannot choose love, good, and God. Yet, like all impotent beings, who feel they have no power, the devil, satan, and evil rage and exercise the only power they have: to destroy.
“Why would we give money to the poor? They are just going to use it on drugs.” I have heard this through years of ministry. There is always one person who doesn’t want us to help the poor because, well, for a myriad of reasons. Yet, they are no different than the one who wanted to keep the poor fund full so that he could pilfer off the top. All I know is that we were poor and my mother used the money to buy groceries, clothing, pay the utilities, etc.—not on drugs.
Believing in God does not mean you are not going to come face to face with Judas. It means that you will come face to face with Judas, but not alone. You will be given the choice of following God or following Judas and his money grubbing, pilfering ways.
Our pilfering Judases come in many forms: the sibling who mocks us when we do something good, the spouse who decries our attempts at healing from abuse, the boss who sabotages our career, the friend who tells our personal information to get any kind of advantage, the person who kills good idea after good idea on the church council, the parent who failed to say “I love you” or “I am glad you are mine”, or whatever scenario when something good is undermined by evil.
Yet, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, we listen to these serpentine voices and blame ourselves for the evil that is being done to destroy us. We buy into the false reality that is concocted by Judas so that his aims can be accomplished. Jesus and St. John remind us that there is a reality that is beyond what others propose to us. We know right from wrong. We do not have to listen or accept every deceitful argument that is meant to knock us off course. We know God has a plan and a purpose, even if it is for us to do all kinds of good, be blamed for a false “truth”, and be killed. We know this because we know that there is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion. There is no Crucifixion without jealous leaders and Judas’ betrayal. So, even the Father turned evil on its head, and we should too.
Be careful, brethren, that we are not tempted to use the tools of the Devil, hatred, anger, smearing of people’s names, mocking, force, brutality, smug righteousness, indifference, stinginess, and other worldly forms of power in the name of some supposed good. We are called to use the ways of the Father and not be fooled by the false voice of Judas asking us why we are wasting good money on serving God. Yes, yes, when we seek to do good, evil is always cozying up to us, whispering sweet nothings in our ear.
We should, all of us, look at our lives and ask and say, “Oh, Judas where art thou? Where are you trying to spin a narrative of evil that presents itself as good? Where are you trying to get me to serve you instead of the living God? Where are you trying to knock me off the plan that the Lord has for my life? Oh, Judas, wherever you are, I say, “Get. Behind. Me.” Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian