Is it I, Lord? 

Christ Carrying the Cross, by Titian, 1575

Is it I, Lord?

It seems all too easy for us sometimes to see the Apostles, in their bumbling humanity, as almost comic figures.  They certainly don’t appear too dignified, for instance, when they argue over which one of them is greatest (Luke 22:24, Mark 9:33, etc.); they look almost like clamoring children, who are clearly missing the point of their Master’s teaching.  We see another example in last evening’s Holy Thursday reading from John’s Gospel (John 13:6-10), where Peter just can’t understand what Jesus means when he washes the Apostles’ feet.

Matthew’s Gospel shows us a further instance of Apostolic confusion in its account of the Last Supper.  After the Apostles have assembled for the meal with Jesus, the Lord says a remarkable thing: “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21)  Were it not so serious a moment, we might be tempted to laugh a little at the Apostles all frantically asking “Is it I, Master?” (Matthew 26:24).  On the one hand, you would think that they knew their own hearts, on the other, well . . . maybe they’re on to something.

We All Betray Him

    As it happens, not all of them doubt.  Peter confidently asserts, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33)  He’s in for a rude awakening:  Jesus gently corrects the man he named “the Rock”, saying “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34). And of course, Peter does just that. The other Apostles, as it turns out, had a better understanding of their own weakness.

     Yes, it tempting to put a comic spin on the Apostles’ reactions, but that would be a mistake, and not simply because they are holy people to whom we owe respect.  When Jesus says to them, “You will all fall away” (Matthew 26:31), he’s not speaking only to his Apostles, but to all of us who have been his disciples in the millennia since, as well as all those in the years  to come.  They all betrayed him; we all will betray him; I betray him (is it I, Lord?).  Constantly.  That’s why we need the Sacrament of Confession.

“Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21)

“The Last Supper” by the Master of Portillo

It is I, Lord

     That’s also why we venerate the Cross and meditate on Christ’s suffering on Good Friday: because on the Cross Jesus died for us, because of our betrayals, because we fall away . . . because it is I, Lord; I fall away, not just three times, but over and over again.

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us

hast willed to be crucified

and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood

for the redemption and salvation of our souls,

look down upon us here gathered together

in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,

fully trusting in Thy mercy;

cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,

sanctify our toil,

give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our

daily bread,

sweeten our sufferings,

bless our families,

and to the nations so sorely afflicted,

grant Thy peace,

which is the only true peace,

so that by obeying Thy commandments

we may come at last to the glory of heaven. Amen.

The Triduum & Easter 2022: 

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