Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Nietzsche used to jeer at Christian sweetness and humility. It is easier to make fun of these qualities than to practice them. Here, on this night of Maundy Thursday, face to face with Judas, Jesus’ sweetness and humility are the fruits of truly heroic self-control and love. One of the most striking traits of Jesus’ personality is that, with Him, love is never blind. In order to love, Jesus does not deliberately close His eyes, as we often do. At the very moment when He is giving Judas the most touching proofs of His friendship and His humility, Jesus denounces the betrayal and the traitor. No greater hope has even been given us: whoever we are we will never impose upon Him. We are discovered, and at the same time every way of escape is closed to us, His Heart is our only refuge. This is the truth of our human condition.
In a few hours Jesus is going to die, and Judas’ feet, which He has just washed, will dangle under a tree above the ground. Jesus knows this. “‘The Son of Man indeed goes His way, as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It were better for that man if he had not been born.’ And Judas who betrayed Him answered and said, “Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, ‘Thou hast said it’” Then Jesus holds out to Judas a morsel of bread dipped in the sauce, according to the Oriental fashion of singling out the guest of honor.
Granted, the greatest Christian Saints have all desired to die… as means of rejoining Christ, and all, beyond death, have hoped still more for the resurrection of the flesh. But let us not forget that Christ has transformed and reversed the meaning of human death: it is no longer punishment. After His own Death, it became essentially a means of rejoining Him and of identifying ourselves with Him on the Cross.
But on this Maundy Thursday, the eve of His Death, Jesus is alone; no one before Him can extend to Him, across the gulf of death, a helping hand. He sees death approach. He sees it as it is, the violent separation of His Soul from His Body, a dreadful misery. And for the first time since the fall of Adam, this Body and this Soul are so well made for each other that they have no cause to reproach each other. Oh, how unjust that impious action that is going to separate them! Yes, what a frightful misfortune, since death is a malediction, since it is a punishment for sin and precisely in Jesus there was nothing but innocence, nothing to censure, nothing to punish. Here is the one Man without sin, and He begins to tremble at the approach of death.