Saturday, March 19, 2011

On How the Lord Jesus Went to Meet His Betrayer

I am so easily distracted, even from the most important things. Perhaps especially from the most important things. During Advent Season, devotional books are pretty easy to come by, but devotionals for Lent on the Passion of Christ? Not such a cozy story, is it? It's just not as easy to find a good devotional tool to help my distractive nature during this time of contemplation and repentance. But I did find one ...

Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) wrote an extraordinary little book entitled "On the Passion of Christ - According to the Four Evangelists". His book makes one of the best Lententide devotionals that I've found, and I'd like to share Chapter 4 with you:

"LORD JESUS CHRIST, Savior and Deliverer I bless and thank you for your readiness and willingness to undergo your Passion. After you had offered your thrice-repeated petition to God, your cruel enemies arrived amid the night's darkness, with your betrayer the evil Judas-a large crowd with staves and swords, arms and torches, as if to apprehend a thief.
At that moment you went out to meet them saying: Whom do you seek? ... I am he. If you seek me, let these others go.

At your first word, so filled with power, their proud defiance was discomfitted and brought to utter confusion, and immediately they all fell backward, collapsing to the ground. What would have happened if you had summoned twelve legions of angels? Since you had come among us to suffer, you chose not to use your divine power but to make known your benign patience. By a single word you showed what power is actually yours, and for a time you permitted the impious to have the upper hand in grievously insulting you. Thus you made it clear that you were willingly entering upon your Passion to bring about our redemption and, thereby, to fulfill the writings of the prophets.I praise and glorify you, Jesus Christ, most innocent Lamb of God, for your unspeakable meekness and overwhelming kindness in not being aroused with wrath against your most deceitful betrayer or angrily turning away from him. Rather you kindly deigned to engage him in friendly conversation calling him, in your usual gentle manner Friend, and you gave him, though unworthy, a tender kiss with your lips and lovingly said: Friend, why have you come?With such words as these, you admonished his rashness, his iniquity, and his disloyalty: Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? Even more sadly, he, who once was numbered among the apostles-neither fearing the divine justice nor swayed by your friendship-did not refrain from extending his hands to the most heinous of crimes, and now, as head of this band of ruffians, he gave them as the signal: Whomever I shall kiss, it is he. Take hold of him. O most wicked disciple and most loving Master! O base servant and most faithful Lord!
How admirable your behavior, how wonderful your patience, most gentle and kind Jesus! In the very act of his carrying out this shameful betrayal, you did not forget your old friendship and affection, but in return for so great an injury done to you, you exercised your healing power, for when a disciple cut off the ear of one of the high priest's servants, you restored it by the touch of your sacred hand.You restrained Peter, then defending you from those attacking you, saying: Put back your sword where it belongs. Am I not to drink the cup which the Father has given me to drink? Thus it is to be.

I now ask you, my God, grant me, since I am but a frail reed, greater patience amid my trials, and may sudden anger never overwhelm me, nor the spirit of revenge inflame me, when my enemies utter insults against me, or when accusations are made of which I know I am innocent. Grant me not to fear my accuser but to receive his allegations in good spirit and to look upon him, who so discourteously blames and slanders me, as a friend.
Let no indignation arise in me for any harshness shown me, nor let any remembrance of unjust offenses remain in me. May your most benign bearing of such evil treatment strengthen my will by granting it patience, as well as the desire to endure even greater trials for love of you.

John 18:7-8, Matt.26:50, Luke 22:48, Mark 14:44, John 18:11