Judas the Iscariot is not the normal topic to preach about on Palm Sunday. In fact, I do not believe I have ever heard any mention of him during any homily on this day. Yet that is exactly where my mind was as I prayed about today and how to unfold for you the depth of God’s love and forgiveness which is at the heart of everything we do this Holy Week.
I do not think we ever think of ourselves as having the same intention to betray Jesus as Judas did that night. Yet we must admit that like Judas there are times when we have not fully embraced the mission of Jesus to die for our sins. God tells us through the prophet Micah “…he forgives and forgets our sins” (Micah 7:18ff). How much clearer can that statement by God be for us to move beyond our sins and live free from the guilt of past or future sins?
Judas seemed to be unaware that the deal he had just made with the chief priests was a betrayal. This should lead us to consider how easily it is for us to deny salvation is ours through Christ alone. There is nothing we can do to earn our way to heaven and yet it seems pleasing God is the very aim of many of us as we perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
None of us can discern the intentions of the heart so when we see someone praying prayers to earn indulgences how can we know their heart. However, we can discern their belief in salvation by listening to them. I have had far too many discussions where people do not feel forgiven for sins committed and continue to confess them decades after the sin was confessed. They have doubts about their worthiness to be forgiven and are fearful of their pending judgment. They have an attitude that believes their sin needs to be atoned for and fear influences their practice of their faith.
Just knowing we have salvation because of the death of Jesus Christ should change the entire way we live our lives and live our faith. It should change our entire means of relating to reconciliation by knowing the sin was forgiven and forgotten. So we instead of trying to please God by our “righteousness” we would be living a life that in word, action and belief shows everyone we are joyful recipients of God’s grace.
Judas after witnessing the flogging and the condemnation of Jesus to die realized the depth of his sin and tried to atone for his sin by returning the thirty silver pieces. Our attempt to reconcile our sin is often met by the same result – we are unable to make it right by any action of ours. Guilt overwhelms us as our attempts to make amends fail. There is only one that can take that gilt away and somehow we like Judas do not go to him but instead allow the guilt to consume us and it drive us away from God instead of into his arms.
Keep in mind as you go back and consider the actions of all the disciples that night. They all abandoned him and all lost faith in him. Yet all of them except Judas were somehow able to keep themselves together as they considered their failures. Each of them was rewarded by his forgiveness and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change them. Judas did not understand the mission of Jesus any more than the rest of the disciples did at that moment in salvation history. Judas had no room for mercy in his image of the Messiah so he never attempted to seek forgiveness.
This is where we need to make sure we are not in the same place as Judas in our belief. We may still feel guilt over sins committed but we must believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts so we allow the mercy of God to remove guilt. This is exactly what we see later with Jesus and Peter in their encounter on the shore (Jn. 21:15-17).
This week is all about God’s love being greater than our sin and his forgiveness is greater than our guilt. His love and forgiveness is on display in every reading we will hear from this da to Easter. Let everything you do from today to the resurrection open your heart to allow God’s plan for the forgiveness of your sins transform you into witnesses of his grace.
May the Blessings of Easter fill your heart and your home this week and every week of the year.
If you desire further reflection this week please refer to my past Palm Sunday Homilies by clicking the item Feast and Holy Days on the menu bar.