Last week, we beheld Christ’s Passion, entering into it with eyes wide open to see the lengths God takes to prove his unfathomable love for us. This first Monday after Easter, we enter into The Octave of Easter, where the Church will draw our minds through the epistle readings to behold the after of Christ’s resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. To help us appreciate the gravity of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives, we must never forget the before of Christ’s cross. An old saying goes, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”
I want to consider with you two moments of that “before”; moments where Jesus beheld us in our low estate as one who betrayed his love and then as one who denied his love for him.
St. Matthew records Judas’ moment of betrayal in the account of The Last Supper when Jesus had just announced to his friends that his love for them would be betrayed by one of them. Just after dipping the bread, at the same time as Judas’ dipped his bread into the bowl of wine, Judas asks, “‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ Jesus replied, ‘You have said so.'” (St. Matthew 26:25) Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, “Being singled out by Jesus never means being isolated.” At that moment, Jesus singled out Judas by looking into his eyes, and he gave him an out, a way back from his pride-induced, misconceived treachery. Jesus’ still included him as a friend, but at that moment, Judas hardened his heart and isolated himself beyond redemption in his refusal of Christ’s loving embrace. He regretted it, but he did not repent, and then in his self-imposed isolation, he gave up hope. Judas represents all that we despise in ourselves-pride, fear, anger, dishonesty, and veniality-our despicable me! Yet Jesus peers into our eyes, desiring us and loving us.
St. Luke records the moments of St. Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus by writing, “At that moment, while he was still [denying Christ], the cock crowed. The LORD turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the LORD; how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crow today, you will deny me three times.'” The same eyes that peered into Judas’ eyes over his cup of salvation peered into Peter’s from this suffering for our salvation. Just as Jesus offered forgiveness and restoration to Judas, he offered it to Peter. Yet Peter’s response after his denial reveals a different heart, a soft heart that “wept bitterly.”
The events recorded in today’s epistle reading from Acts 2 happen after Christ’s resurrection and the tender restoration encounter beside the Sea of Galilee between Jesus and Peter. Peter isn’t hiding anymore because he now loves Jesus more than himself. The descent of God’s Holy Spirit has filled Peter and disciples and followers of Christ with his amazing grace and courage. And now we behold Peter on the way to becoming the most successful failure of all time.
Why Peter and not Judas? It has something to do with Peter’s heart, but more importantly, it has everything to do with Peter’s faith. Though skittish at times about the Truth of Jesus and Jesus’ belief in him when he declared to him, “…You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16:18), Peter never gave up hope.
We find ourselves, don’t we, sometimes in both men’s redemptive moment when Jesus beholds us, and we weep when we realize what we have done? Some stop weeping as we lose hope, and some weep bitterly as we hope. When we weep bitterly before our loving LORD over our sin, our “before” falls away, and our ever-after opens up before us. That is what we see in Peter, and because of the same Holy Spirit, our “before” can fall away to our ever-after.
What does Jesus see in our before? Are we like Peter or Judas? Peter’s before and after reveals a coward now courageous; short-sighted, now wise; inflated ego, now humble; impetuously angry, now understanding. Wishy-washy, now the rock on which Christ will build his Church.
Perhaps you can already see how your “before” of this lenten season is being transformed into the ever-after Jesus desires for you.
Perhaps you remember the weight and suffering of the guilt of betrayal and denial of God’s love for you, and now you live in an ever-after of faith in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection on behalf of you.
Jesus, indeed, singles us out and looks into our eyes, and asks, “Child, do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Do not fear; I am with you ever after.”
Oh Father, lead us into our ever-after with you, deepen our love, hope, and faith.
We ask this in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.