Tuesday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 49:1-6; John 12:21-33; 36-38)
The gospel today invites us to compare and contrast Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial of Jesus. Preachers sometimes say that the two offenses amount to the same sin of infidelity. That opinion, however, seems mistaken. It would be like equating setting a house on fire and failing to call the fire department when we see the blazes. “First, do no harm,” wrote the primordial physician-philosopher Hippocrates.
Other preachers may condemn Judas for treachery but dismiss Peter’s failure because he was afraid. This way of thinking also seems misguided. There is no evidence that Peter suffered clinical anxiety. Indeed, he appears as a head-strong man. Doing good almost always involves some difficulty. Peter’s failure to act righteously when confronted about Jesus indicates that he considers his losses in declaring his loyalty as greater than his benefits. Although his repeated denials comprise lies, we should see Peter’s principal sin as one of omission.
Nor can Judas’ treason be defended by saying that the devil made him do it. Although the passage states, “Satan entered him,” a bit later, when Judas leaves the supper, it adds, “...it was night.” This reference is made not so much to give the time of day but to indicate that Judas deliberately chose the darkness of evil to the light of Christ. We are wise to consider that we too are susceptible to the same tragic mistake and to avoid it at all costs.