Scripture readings for today

Several years ago, there was a commercial for Calgon foam bath that showed a housewife, who appeared to be frantic and stressed as the phone rang, the kids cried, the dishes piled up, and the dog barked. The woman stops what she is doing and shouts, “Calgon take me away.” In the next scene, she is enjoying a Calgon bubble bath without a care in the world.

While I am not a big fan of bubble baths, I certainly can relate to the need to have a break when life gets complicated. I think all of us, regardless of age, need times in which we wish we could just find a quiet place where we can be alone. The challenges of everyday life can wear us down sometimes, leaving us feeling stressed, and, perhaps even worse, making us forget about the many blessings in our lives.

We were never promised a trouble-free and stress-free life, but we were promised that whatever difficulties we face would not define us or defeat us. Jesus became Man in order to show us how to live our lives, and He died so that we would have eternal life. His Resurrection is the promise of a new day and new opportunities.

We read in Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” Perhaps we can ask ourselves, “Do I really believe in this promise?” “Does the way I live my life reflect the trust I have that Jesus will indeed make ‘all things’ new?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus informs the Apostles at the Passover meal that one of them will betray him. Judas Iscariot asks Jesus, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” What would lead Judas to this moment, and, subsequently, to betraying Jesus with a kiss? He receives 30 pieces of silver, which is equivalent to the worth of a slave. Judas believes that his new-found wealth will free him of all concerns and allow him to live the life he always wanted to live.  LentLessons-April1-MMcGrath-Photo

Instead of freedom, however, Judas falls victim to self-perpetuating behavior that makes true freedom and peace impossible. Is there an attachment or a behavior in our life that imprisons us? Can we, like the other Apostles, ask Jesus with a clear conscience, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”

Judas possesses “false identity,” a term coined by Trappist monk Thomas Merton. This identity follows the Gospel of Society and its misplaced values. The other identity that is a part of who we are is wrapped up in God, and it is the true identity. We can easily become the victims of a struggle between the two, knowing full well that our goal is to be in the world, but not of the world. Much easier said than done. Jobs, family life, bills, health issues and a number of other factors can be a cause of stress, and stress is never from God.

The identity that sees society as the authority can lead us to believe that we know more than Jesus, forgetting that Jesus had to fall so that we could rise. Redemption and hope, real hope, are only possible through the authority of Jesus. Now, perhaps, you might be asking yourself, “How can this be?”

These same words came out of the mouth of the Virgin Mary when the Angel Gabriel informed her that she would conceive a child who would be the savior of the world. As human beings, we have doubts and questions, but Jesus has proven that as the one who has authority from the Father, He has all of the answers.

When our words or actions distance us from Jesus, how do we respond? Do we allow our “false identity” to overshadow our “true” identity? Judas did not listen to Jesus’ words of love and mercy, but St. Peter, who betrayed Jesus three times, did, trusting that Jesus can make all of us new if we only allow Him into our lives. Calgon, self-help books, or even going on a talk show to reveal all of our bad behavior to the world can only provide temporary relief. True and ever-lasting healing, however, comes from the authority of Jesus and his self-help book: the Bible.

Deacon Mike McGrath is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Savannah. He ministers to the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Statesboro, GA. He is married to his beautiful wife Leticia, and they are the parents of Matthew, who is 14, and Luke, who is 12. Deacon Mike is the editor of the book – Answering the Call: How God Transformed the Lives of Nineteen Catholic Deacons.