CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR PALM/ PASSION SUNDAY YEAR B
THEME: The Painful Betrayal of a Friend
BY: Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe
HOMILY: In the Shakespearean classic, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare narrated the betrayal of Julius Caesar by his best friend Marcus Brutus. In that tragic play, Brutus was tricked into joining a team of conspirators who wanted to kill Julius Caesar. On the fateful day of Caesar’s assassination at the Capitol, he was stabbed in the back by his murderers but the stab from Brutus came as a very big shock to him. He felt betrayed by a friend and was disposed to defeat. Shocked at the betrayal by his friend Brutus, Caesar died with the words “Et tu Brute?” (and you Brutus?) on his lips.
You may have had similar personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend. Perhaps, a friend betrayed your love, or betrayed you in a business plan or in school or at work. These are usually very painful and traumatic experiences. In the light of our personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend, we can better understand the agony Christ went through in today’s passion narrative (Mk. 14:1-15:47). Judas, one of the closest friends of Jesus conspired with the Chief priests to hand Jesus over to them at the cost of thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps, he thought Jesus would miraculously escape as he had always done, but the whole drama became clear to him only when Jesus was taken away to be crucified. His inordinate love for money led him to betray his master.
Today, as we reflect on the treachery of Judas, it is possible to be judgmental about Judas. Most of us may have condemned Judas for betraying Jesus but when we closely examine our lives, we find traces of Judas in us. When we develop inordinate love for money and so are ready to kill (including procuring an abortion for people), steal, tell lies and commit all sorts of atrocities just to fill our pockets, we are no better than Judas. Some of us in a bid to acquire wealth, power or fame betray people, harass others, abuse privileges, turn the truth upside down and sell expired and substandard goods including drugs. These actions are no less than the betrayal of Judas.
Sometimes, our human nature may tempt us to indulge in any of these nefarious activities especially when we suffer lack. In situations like this, we have to obey the will of God which invites us to do only what is good and avoid what is evil. Like Judas, Jesus has also called us to be his special friends. We sit round his table and dine with him each time we participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Therefore, let us try not to betray him in the way we live our lives for he has called us to strive towards perfection as our heavenly Father is.
On another note, while we recognize that most of us are like Judas, betraying Christ through their actions, we cannot fail to also recognize the fact that most of us are also suffering betrayal from our friends. Some have been betrayed by their spouses, lovers, friends, relatives and those dear to them. Some have had to suffer betrayal on account of their openness or charity or trust reposed on people. Today’s first reading (Is. 50:4-7) is a message of hope for you. Do not feel disappointed in God for allowing you pass through such terrible experiences.
St. Peter advises us to rejoice when we share in Christ’s suffering because we shall shout for joy when his glory is revealed (cf. 1 Pet 4:13). Though we may suffer when we are determined to do good and avoid evil, the first reading also assures us that in the end, we shall not be put to shame. Christ though he was betrayed and killed, was not put to shame because God raised him on the third day. Perhaps, your day of resurrection is coming soon; the day God will put an end to your sufferings and shame your enemies. Do not lose hope but remain steadfast in faith and fervent in prayer.
Beloved friends, today, the Church encourages us to look inwards and see how much of Judas we have in us. Like Judas, is there anything we value more than our union with Christ? Like the crowd, are we always sincere in our chants of “alleluia”? Do we truly recognize Christ as the Son of David especially when there are forces pushing us to deny him? Like Peter, have we denied Jesus when we should have proclaimed him? If we find ourselves wanting, let us not be discouraged because it is for our sake that Christ died. Like Peter, let us weep sorrowfully for our sins and repent of them.
Therefore, as we begin the Holy Week, let us strive to join in the activities and also try to reconcile our broken relationship with God. The second reading (Phil. 2:6-11) presents Christ to us as an epitome of humility and obedience. He was humble and obedient even unto death. Let us try to imitate him and so, instead of betraying Jesus, let us obey and solidify our friendship with him. Happy Sunday. God loves you.
Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe