[GS Baccalaureate Mass, Holy Wednesday, March 28, 2018]
We celebrate your Baccalaureate Mass in the middle of Holy Week, the most solemn week in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. It began with Palm Sunday, the glorious welcome given to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. The people saw in him the long-awaited Messiah, the long-desired Savior, so they cried out then in welcome and praise, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanah in the highest!”
Their praise resonated with the Lord’s introduction of the Messiah in Isaiah that we heard last Monday: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have placed my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he has established justice on the earth…” (Is 42:1- 4).
But in the course of the week their cries would change. Manipulated by those for whom the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached was a scandal, they would conspire with them for Jesus’ death. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” they called out. Thus this Holy Week, beginning tomorrow, Holy Thursday, will commemorate the Paschal Mystery, starting with Jesus washing of the feet of his apostles, then the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, the Agony in the Garden, the Way of the Cross, then the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord.
But we are in the middle of the Holy Week. Between the introduction of Jesus as the Messiah at the beginning of the week, and Jesus’ cruel execution on a Cross because of his fidelity to his mission of proclaiming the Love and Compassion of his Father at the end of the week, we have Judas’ betrayal. In the Gospel yesterday, with great sadness, Jesus foretold that he would be betrayed. In the Gospel today, Judas betrays him. He who was among the closest twelve men to Jesus went to Jesus’s enemies and betrayed him. “What are you willing to give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” (Mt 26:14a) he had asked the chief priests. The Gospel says, “They paid him thirty pieces of silver” (Mt 26:14b). We know, from the Last Supper, Judas would leave Jesus and the other apostles (Mt 25: 25) to betray Jesus to his enemies (Mt. 26:28). It is a bitterly painful fact: Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
That places betrayal not only in the middle of the Holy Week but in the middle of our moving-up celebration. I guess it would have been nicer if there were a happier theme for this day. But this is here, I think, not to throw cold water on your celebrations, but to serve as a great challenge for those of you who are graduating today: that we are not to be like Judas, but that we are to be loyal to Jesus. This means, that we are to be loyal to him as a brother, friend, and Lord – throughout our lives. We don’t betray a brother; we don’t hand over a friend to his enemies; we don‘t abandon our Lord. We don’t allow our personal concerns, or our personal ambitions, or our personal views to destroy our relationship to Jesus and so betray him, as Judas did. We remain faithful to what Jesus taught: that we are to love God above all things, with our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole soul, and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We love him in loving our parents, our sisters and brother, our neighbors, especially the poor. We remain faithful to an invitation to help him advance the Kingdom of God in our lives and in the world. Where we see evil, we fight evil. As we have so often sung in our Blue Knight Song, “for Christ King fight strong and true.” We are true to our King, we do not betray him. We are strong in our relationship to him. We are related to him in faith. We are strong in faith. We are fortes in fide.
In the middle of the Holy Week, the betrayal of Judas which lead to his suicide challenges you to be absolutely loyal to Jesus which leads you to what Jesus brings, “life, life to the full.”