No one wants to be Judas.
And yet something washes over me as I read his words, when Jesus speaks of the betrayal He knows is going to happen, “Surely, it is not I.” And I shake my head in disbelief, because it is not Judas I hear, but rather, my own voice.
How many times have I received the body and blood of Christ, walked out of the church, and immediately turned my back on Him? Actually, if I am being honest, I often don’t even make it out of the pew, before my sin creeps on in.
When I kneel after Mass to pray, close my eyes, and hear the quiet sacredness I long to melt into, immediately turn into what sounds like a three-ring circus … people talking in full voice, kids running and dancing around the altar, loud bouts of laughter … the softness of my heart turns to hard rock. Honestly? I would not be surprised if, when I opened my eyes, I saw a line of elephants in the aisle and a group of vendors selling popcorn on the altar … it is that loud and crazy.
And I sit and I stew. I judge every single person who is clearly blind and ignorant, wondering if they realize that right now, this moment, having just received the body and blood of Christ their Savior, they have never been closer to grace. Grace! And yet, rather than kneel and remain with Him, like I so perfectly do, they choose to turn God’s house into a marketplace; a zoo, or airport or circus. My focus distracted, and my anger rising, I want to get up and scream, “SHUT UP! CAN’T YOU SEE I AM ON MY KNEES LOOKING HOLY!??? CAN’T YOU SEE I AM TRYING TO PRAY!!!!????”
I’ll bet God loves that.
Or how about when I rush out to my car, and refuse the opportunity to say hello to a friend, or to reach out to a stranger, because, well … I just don’t feel like it and they are sometimes kind of annoying.
How’s that for my response to, “Now go, and glorify the Lord by your life”?
Life is full of distractions, and nobody but God is perfect, and in my pride and my sinfulness the only one I am going out and glorifying is myself. So blinded by my self-focus and personal need, I fail to hear the beauty in the community coming together in conversation. I fail to see the angels running behind the little children, spirit filled and innocent. I fail to see the saints who join in their dance on the altar. I fail to smell the fragrance of the sweet spreading joy and peace that I am on my knees in the corner alone striving for. They are not the ones missing out on the grace. I am.
“Surely, it is not I.”
As we grow ever more closer to Easter Sunday, it might not be a bad thing to reflect on these five small words. Because my guess is, if we are all human, and I am pretty sure that we are, then surely, it most likely is us. And praise be to our God, who is a God of second chances; a God that is constantly offering us ways out of our sin; a God whose mercy is bigger than our weakness, and who loves us so much that while we were sinners, He died for us, still.
This love without bounds — it is what holds me together. This knowing that no matter what, no matter how rude my thoughts or how selfish my behaviors — God will always welcome me back home. This, Judas did not know. This is what gives me the strength to endure. This is what pulls me up out of myself, fills me with his spirit, and has me dancing around the altar — laughing with the little ones, mingling with angels, taking in the sweet spreading fragrance, being present to grace.
Copyright 2018 Laura Mary Phelps