Who Would Do Such a Deed?
Today we celebrate both the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as well as his shameful crucifixion and apparent defeat. That’s a lot to handle in one day. In between and among these events we find all the details of betrayal and denial that have become so familiar. We tend to focus on Judas as the traitor. How quick we are to overlook the denial of Peter and the other apostles. Surely they betrayed the Lord as much as Judas. Yet, the difference is that Judas despaired and committed suicide. Peter and the other apostles eventually turned back. Peter became the revered head of the Church just has Jesus had predicted. Jesus knew that those closest to him would abandon him and yet he chose them anyway. Why?
I wonder if perhaps Jesus allowed these major scandals in the beginning to prepare us for the many future scandals that would affect the Church. Maybe he wanted it to be very clear that the Church is his Church and it will thrive not because of the holiness of the members, but because of him. If the early church could overcome the first pope denying that he even knew Jesus, then surely there is no scandal so big that it should ever cause us to despair as Judas did.
Today, we see that not much has changed since to time of the passion. All around we see scandal. The Church in Ireland and Germany is going through something similar to what we experienced in the United States some years ago. We are rightfully ashamed and outraged at the crimes of abuse perpetrated by some priests in those countries. Some people have even falsely accused the Pope himself in much the same way we see Jesus accused. Most of all, we hurt for the victims.
Yes, scandal continues to plague the Church, but we should not be so surprised. All of us have betrayed the Lord through our sins. It is fitting that today we are both part of the crowd that yells “Hosanna” and the later one that yells “Crucify him”. At the Last Supper, when Jesus predicts his betrayal, the apostles respond with shock, “Who would do such a deed?” Perhaps me…perhaps you.
Yet, we need not despair. We know the end of this story. This is the story we celebrate this week and it truly is “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Yes, we humbly admit that we have many times shouted that we prefer Barabbas to Our Lord. But we also know the hope held out for us in Jesus Christ and we will assuredly also be in the crowd a week from today yelling no longer “Crucify him”, but rather, “Alleluia…He is risen.” Let’s have confidence and not give up along the way.