Thursday, 30 April 2009

4th Sunday of Easter - Year B

Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

Have you ever wondered why Judas betrayed Jesus? Like the other Eleven he was chosen by the Lord; he heard the same instruction, saw the miracles, and experienced all the love that the others Apostles did. It was not even his betrayal that made him different. Peter sinned too, and in much the same way as Judas. Both men came to recognise their sin and admitted it. Judas plainly declared: I have sinned ... I have betrayed innocent blood (Mtt 27:4).

So, faced by their misdeeds, why did Peter weep and Judas hang himself?

In today's Gospel Jesus tells us twice that he is the good shepherd. He lays down his life for his sheep and he knows his own (sheep). Then he adds: and my own know me.

The more you reflect on this little phrase the more puzzling it becomes. What does it mean to know Jesus? Do you know Jesus? Do I know Jesus? Does it mean that we have met him, seen him, heard him? How can we, who have been practising Catholics for many years know for certain that we know Jesus?

It seems to me that if we can answer this question not only will we grow in our own understanding of the Faith but we might also get deeper insight into Judas' despairing response to that painful, final encounter with his own guilt.

Remember last Sunday's second reading? St John tells us: We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. This is the answer to our question, 'How can we know for certain that we know Jesus?'

I noticed the other day someone has already been carving things into our new pews. I feel tempted to sneak in some night and carve these words on each pew in the church: We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. And in case you missed the point St John puts it again in another way: Anyone who says, 'I know him', and does not keep his commandments is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. Strong words! I even considered whether I should quote them. I wondered why St John found it necessary to speak so strongly and I am guessing that even in his day, only a few decades after the death of Jesus, there was already in vogue the nonsense, spoken by foolish people, that we still hear everywhere today.
  • I know Jesus but I live with my girlfriend or my boyfriend.
  • I know Jesus but I use contraception.
  • I know Jesus but abortion is ok.
  • I know Jesus but I live in a gay relationship.
Do you notice these sins are all habitual? This means they are not the sins we commit and confess with shame and contrition and a purpose of amendment. Of these sins St John told us last week: ...if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ .. he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away. The sins I mentioned are not like that. They are ongoing and deliberate, springing out of attitudes directly opposed to the commandments of God. People who live like this cannot be said to know God (yet). And they should not kid themselves about this or they will remain in their sin.

Judas was an habitual thief and a liar; he lied to himself as much as to others. His dishonesty is apparent in his pretence at the Last Supper when Jesus, the Truth and the Life, told the Apostles that one of them was about to betray him. Judas, well aware of his intentions and with chilling hypocrisy, simulated innocence: Not I, Rabbi, surely?

Sadly, for all his years spent in the Lord's company, Judas did not know Jesus. He had habitually failed to keep his commandments. When the moment of raw insight arrived and he saw his crime for what it was, he despaired. Mercy and forgiveness from his loving Master was not an option for him; he just did not know Jesus.

Without a doubt, what St John says in his Gospel (Jn 17:3) is true: And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.


RD said...

Fantastic homily Fr.
Thank you!

Micki said...

I wish we had priests who would speak this truth to the congregation.
Old Catholics say priests are afraid to speak of sin, except in vague words.
Keep it up Father.

Anonymous said...

John 10:11.18
'Called to be good shepherds'
In Ireland we also refer to today 'Good Sheperd Sunday'as Vocations Sunday,and after reading Father Johns homily we are reminded just how difficult it is to follow God in our vocation as Baptised Christians when we are aware and do not avoid Habitual Sin.
However Jesus is our Good Shepherd who always looks out for us and shows us the way.
The Christian is one who follows the way of the Lord.
We all have a vocation in the Church by virtue of our Baptism!
It all begs the question?
'Is it a sin not to be happy'


Easter A. said...

Fr. John,
I would like you to know that I have 5 children (four are discerning priesthood or religious life)... I just read again your answers to my interview questions as they uplift me.
Mahalo always,

Anonymous said...

Father John , fraternal greetings from Ireland, I have a little observation to make with regard to your inspired Homilies.
I'm sure many of your readers note your references to Scripture in the Homily and I was wondering if you should prefix your Homily with the references to the Scripture readings of the Mass ? Many of your readers ,I believe, have their Bible to hand as they read/ study your words.
I believe it is also an opportunity to introduce the flock to a basic form of 'Lectio Divina'..from where all Homilies take root ( the Holy Spirit)

Just a thought! ( well done Rabbi John)


Frank ....Ireland

NC Sue said...

Your homily sent me off on several lines of thought. One that has never been answered for me is this:

Judas betrayed our Lord. This led to Jesus' death and, subsequently and secondarily, to his resurrection and our salvation. At the end of his life, Judas was filled with remorse. And both the Bible (i.e. 1 John 1:9) and Catholic tradition indicate that contrition and confession lead to forgiveness.


Is it conceivable that Judas Iscariot was forgiven for his betrayal of our Lord?

In some ways I certainly hope so, for it would be reason for all of us to hope for God's mercy.

Delima said...

It really is refreshing that you are not afraid to "tell it like it is". It gives hope and purpose to those who genuinely want to follow the Lord and please God, it is a wake up call for at least some, who have lost their sense of sin.
Thank you Father.