There is an interesting dynamic in today’s Gospel. This reading comes from St. John’s Gospel passage of the Last Supper, specifically 13:21-38. As Jesus and the apostles sat down for the Passover meal, the atmosphere was heavy. The Gospel begins, Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ There was no introduction, no warning. Just this infinitely sad prediction from the troubled heart of Jesus. John goes on to say that His disciples were at a loss as to what He meant, even when He indicated that He was speaking of Judas.
A few minutes later Jesus tells Peter, Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times. These words hang in the air as the Gospel reading ends at Mass. Unless we take the time to search this Gospel in the Bible and read further, we don’t know, but we can certainly guess, Peter’s reaction to this terrible prediction.
And a bit later in the meal (John 16:32), Jesus will tell the apostles, Soon you will leave me all alone. These three prophecies must have torn at the heart of the apostles who were now beginning to realize that this might well be the last Passover they would ever celebrate with Jesus. Little did they know that in a few hours the world would witness the Living Passover, the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, on the hill of Calvary.
We’ve all said at one time or another, It’s a good thing we don’t know the future. But on the night of the Last Supper Judas, Peter, and the others sadly did know the future, though they didn’t understand it yet. Sometimes in our lives we learn things about ourselves that drive us to our knees. This can come during a dramatic homily or from a person who criticizes us to our face, and we suddenly realize that the words are true, and we never knew that about ourselves. It has probably happened to any one of us as we prepared ourselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). How could I be so blind? we might ask. Yet, for us as for the apostles, this was the Voice of the Holy Spirit revealing the deepest part of ourselves to us in a way that would make us see the need for conversion or caution or courage.
Have you wondered why Jesus said this about Peter and Judas and the other Apostles like that, at the celebration of the Passover Meal, in public? It seems unlike Jesus to expose anyone to the judgmental eye of others. Yet He does it, hoping, it seems, that it might dawn on the apostles that they were capable of anything, even a sin against Jesus Himself. None of us would say, Not I, Lord! Never would I do that, because we all know we could, or we have. Yet Jesus didn’t expose these men out of hatred or spite. I believe it was to show that He knew them inside out, and loved them still. In about 72 hours He will appear to them in the same Upper Room where all this happened, and He will give them His peace. No scolding or accusation. Just, It is I. Don’t be afraid.
At this last Supper, we see a side of Jesus we haven’t often seen in the Gospel, showing the humanity of His Person, sad, bereft and heartbroken. But as always, He has the care of the souls of His beloved brothers uppermost in His mind. And it’s that same loving care with which He embraces us, even during the last hours of His earthly life. It’s as though He is saying,
I know you. I know all about you. Your strengths, your weakness,
the place where you break down, the point where you are closest to being lost.
And I am here with you to help you through it. It will cost me, but you are worthy of the price.
You are precious to me. I love you. All will be well.