As we heard Sunday at Holy Mass, the high priest asked the Lord Jesus about His teachings. He responded, “Ask the people I taught. I spoke openly.”
Now, the question suggested that Jesus had conspired somehow to subvert legitimate authority. The Lord’s answer, in that light, was perfectly honest and true. Christ could hardly have been bothered to conspire against the Sanhedrin, or Herod, or Pontius Pilate, or the Emperor Tiberias, for that matter. Christ’s horizons were immeasurably higher than political conspiracies. He loved all these leaders, of course, and willed only that they, too, could share in the joy of His Kingdom. Christ was no penny-ante revolutionary conspirator.
That said, we know that there is another side to this. The Lord did teach His doctrine openly, without hiding anything, speaking to large crowds. But He also spoke intimately, in private, with the close circle that followed Him everywhere He went.
The Twelve were not the smartest, nor the holiest, nor the most-attractive of all the people who heard Jesus’ teaching. But they were the men who had renounced everything else in life for the sake of following Jesus to the Kingdom of God. The Twelve enjoyed an intimacy with Christ by virtue of their level of commitment to Him. Because of this intimacy, they heard things that others did not hear. They knew things about Christ that others did not know.
This explains, I think, why the Lord said that, of all those involved in inflicting His bitter Passion and death upon Him–from the Sanhedrin and their false witnesses, to Herod, to Pilate, to the centurions who scourged and crucified an innocent man just for the fun of it–among all these guilty ones, Judas had committed the most grievous sin.
Because Judas had betrayed the intimacy of friendly trust with Christ.
Christ was unfathomably humble, as we know, but He was no egalitarian. The inner-circle of master and disciples was no democracy. The deal clearly was: You trust me altogether, abandoning all your own plans, all your own ideas, your own life, and I will teach you wonderful things and lead you to a glorious place. The discipline of the inner-circle was based on total faith in Christ. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t curiosity, questioning, even disagreements and arguments. We know that there were all of these things, in the inner circle. But the bottom line always was: Jesus is the Master, and the rest of us are disciples.
Judas broke away from this inner-sanctum of discipline. Let’s take a lesson and not do that. Let’s embrace the great gift of the next three days, the gift of the Sacred Triduum, for what it is: An invitation into the inner-circle of intimacy with Jesus Christ. He demands that we follow Him very closely through a confusing, mystifying maze of events. He demands that we spend an awful lot of time in church. Listening, watching, reflecting, praying. Letting go of our lives, and putting ourselves altogether in His hands.
If we obey; if we follow; if we stay inside His circle, He will fulfill in us what He promised to the original Twelve. He will teach us wonderful things and lead us to a glorious place.