“The Dark Side of “The Truth Shall Set You Free”

Mass Reflection from A Catholic Moment

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 49: 1-6, from Psalm 71, John 13: 21-33, 36-38

What were Jesus’ eyes saying when He spoke the truth, “One of you will betray me”? The scene is the Last Supper. Jesus and the disciples are “at table.” Jesus has just washed His disciples’ feet. He has not yet instituted the Eucharist.  Stirred by some inner prompting, I imagine Jesus looking up from His food and gazing around the room at each person. As He moved from one to another, His eyes peered deep into each soul. As His eyes came to Judas, Jesus saw the darkness and truth in Judas’ soul. He saw betrayal.

Did Jesus know betrayal and denial would be part of the Passion before that moment? Perhaps He already knew. Perhaps not. But at that moment He knew.

Jesus did not run from that terrible truth. He confronted it with a profound respect for Judas and his human free will. We know from the Gospel of Mark that Judas had already been to talk to some of the High Priests. What prompted him? We can guess. Some scholars say his vision of Kingdom of God was more militant. Some say he was dishonest and interested in personal gain. If so, perhaps Jesus’ washing feet and saying “Do as I do” was the final straw. We do not know.

The perspective we get from today’s Scripture is very interesting.  It sheds a light on how God responds to temptation and darkness within us.  Today’s scripture pictures Judas still undecided until this final conversation with Jesus.  In this conversation Jesus saw the truth in him and named it. It was a truth just meant for Judas, even though it was said for all to hear. John tells us, “The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned against Jesus’ chest and said to him, ‘Master, who is it?’ Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.’ So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. AFTER JUDAS TOOK THE MORSEL, SATAN ENTERED HIM.”

Apparently Jesus got up from his place at the table and walked over to where Judas was to hand him the morsel. Did Judas lift his eyes to meet Jesus’ eyes? Or did he refuse to look at the gaze and the gift of truth which Jesus gave him? We do not know. We do know that AFTER Judas TOOK the morsel, Satan entered him. AFTER Jesus confronted him with truth, Judas made a choice. It was a free choice, without coercion or social shame. That free human choice of his will opened the door for Satan to enter Judas.

Jesus knew it. What went through Jesus’ mind and heart? What would the effect be of knowing that one of your twelve best friends (chosen by the Father for you) would now deliberately choose to use his position of disciple to work against you? It must have been an earthquake in Jesus’ soul.  Psychologically, it must have been as painful as any of the physical pains of the soon-to-come crucifixion.

Totally respectful of Judas’ freedom, all Jesus said was, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas did. “So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.”

As we pray and worship through Holy Week, it can be easy to view the remembered events as something that happened two-thousand years ago.  We can focus on what Jesus suffered, what God did.  That physical suffering event of Christ’s passion did happen two-thousand years ago.

But the exchange of revealed truth and human response happens again and again and again daily.  It happens like this.  God reveals to us (through prayer, life events, scripture, preaching, words of friend or family, confession, etc) some dark truth within us.  This dark truth may be some great wrong or some tightly-held belief or habit that interferes with our belonging completely to God.  God shows it to us.  Then we have the choice of Judas.

God gives us our freedom, as Jesus gave such freedom to Judas–even though it meant He would suffer and die.  Jesus, as God always does, chose to remain Love, rather than use the tactics, coercion, or lies of evil.

I have often wondered why the Our Father says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Why would God lead us into temptation? Why should we need to ask Him not to? I think today’s Gospel gives us an explanation. Truth is an essential, core characteristic of God. God does not lie. While revelation of truth often comes to us humans slowly and in pieces, each part of revelation fits with what has been revealed before. This is a core teaching of the Church.  But, when God gives truth, along with truth always comes freedom to choose, because truth always serves Love.  Love isn’t Love, unless it is made as a free choice.

This Lent I have learned something I had believed about myself was not true. When God revealed to me through prayer a habit that has limited me, I discovered the truth that what I blamed on others was my own doing.

What do I do with this truth? What is the choice I make now?

What do you do with whatever truth God has revealed to you this Lent?

As we face whatever we have encountered of God this Lent, it seems helpful to look at Judas’ dark side of “The truth shall set you free.” Judas had a choice of what to do with the truth Jesus spoke to him. Jesus gave him freedom to choose. God gives us the same freedom. What will we do?

I pray that you and I will be like Peter or John and not like Judas. Judas did not face God with his dark truth. He did not look up at Jesus and say, “Oh Master, I do not like what you have been saying to the Pharisees lately. I do not like the idea of being a servant to others. I am scared by your claiming God as your father” or WHATEVER was in his mind and heart. He did not give Jesus a chance to allay his fears or plead for him to the Father.

If Judas had not let Satan enter into him when truth led him into temptation, Jesus would still have been crucified. That was the Father’s larger plan. But Judas might not have sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. He might be known as St. Peter and St. Thomas are. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted the resurrection. Both were corrected and FORGIVEN by Jesus. Both made up for moments of doubt and temptation with years of fidelity and faith. Both are comforts and guides for us centuries later. There could have also been a St. Judas who almost betrayed because he did not trust or because he was thinking selfishly.  He could have been a guide for us as Peter and Thomas are. But Judas in his freedom made a different choice.

When God reveals a truth to us, it is for our good. It is to set us free. It is to give us a chance to face the truth and be forgiven. It is an  invitation to God’s mercy.  It is to give us a chance to make up for whatever half-truth or lie we have lived from in the past—and the variations of 30 pieces of silver we have sought. It is to “Deliver us from evil.”

Prayer:

“Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Today, Lord, do not put me to the test. I pray that I may bring to You the truth You have shown me this Lent. Thank You for it. Thank You for the freedom to choose to love You and do Your will. I pray You will help me use both truth and freedom wisely, that in Your mercy I may be again converted and set free. Amen.”

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