The following homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on Sunday, August 26, 2018.
Jesus had said over and over again: I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…these words were truly difficult and incomprehensible to accept, because they were understood in a purely literal sense. These words foretold the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, His Death and Resurrection, in which He was to sacrifice Himself for humanity’s salvation.
Seeing that hoards of people were deserting Him, Jesus turned to His disciples asking them, Will you also leave me? Why does Jesus ask this question? Because He sought for them to acknowledge within their hearts if indeed they still believe or like the rest, might they choose to leave.
Peter answered on behalf of the Twelve, Lord, to whom should we go? We might ask ourselves, to whom should we go if no longer to Jesus Christ? We believe in order to know, but we are unable to either know or believe, unless we are in communion with the Lord and Savior.
Though Peter spoke for the Twelve, there was one among them who had ceased to believe. Judas, like the others could have simply gone away; indeed if he were an honest man, he would have been bound to leave like the others. Instead, he stayed, continuing to accompany Jesus, but no longer out of faith, no longer as a believer, no longer as a disciple of love, but rather, harboring the secret intention of betrayal and desertion.
What brought Judas to such darkness? Judas felt that Jesus had let him down. He was not the kind of Messiah that Judas had expected and desired. So the problem for Judas was that he did not go away. His great sin was not denial or desertion. The great sin of Judas was to linger in deceitfulness, to pretend that he was loyal and faithful.
For this reason Jesus says, one of you is a Satan. IE, an accuser, a seducer, a liar. We have focused on Judas but over the centuries there have been many Judases who have used the ‘pretend game’ to hide their diabolic appetites for money, power or lust.
Every century has its scandals, but as far as we know, nothing that can compare with our own. We must admit that even the successors of the Apostles have not been immune from the ‘pretend game’.
Like Jesus, we have a right to be sad and angry, to feel betrayed. We have been betrayed. And those who are indicted with these crimes must be held accountable.
The lesson of the Scriptures is not only about the fallen, but an encouragement to those who seek in their heart to remain faithful.
The Church is human, a human institution subject to scrutiny and punishment for sin. The Church is not ‘them’. The Church is you and I. We must all take responsibility for our sins. We must all take responsibility for spreading the gospel, or are we going to let it die? Will we allow Christ’s sacrifice to go in vain?
This is why Christ died for us. Because we are sinners in need of redemption. This is why Jesus is very frank with His disciples, asking will you continue to follow me? If you continue to follow Jesus you will witness many miracles and you will also witness many faith-shaking situations.
The Church is the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Spouse of Christ. Painful though it may seem at this time, we need the Church and the Church needs you. Look around, where are the young newly-ordained? In most parishes today, you see only the elderly priest with trembling hands, even the retired still called out to serve.
To young people today I plead for Christ: Do not be afraid, Jesus needs you. Jesus loves you. You can make the difference between destruction and reconstruction.
Have we come to believe? Do we truly believe? Are we convinced that Jesus is God’s Holy One and that we who are His Body in living faith are also holy ones? This is what we celebrate in this Eucharist.
In accordance with the prophetic words of Joshua: if it does not please you to serve the Lord; then decide today whom you shall serve. The greater sin is not to decide against God or His Church – the greater sin is to not decide, to pretend, this is the sin of all the Judases.
Choose today: Betray, Begone or Believe.