The time to be a person of integrity is now

LENT 2020 – Day 43

Readings: Is 50: 4-9a; Ps 68: 8-10, 21-22, 31.33-34; Mt 26: 14-25

The first reading from the Book of Isaiah is practically the same as that of Palm or Passion Sunday. Isaiah talks of his prophetic mission: of how the Lord spoke to him and how he went ahead with faith and courage. He accepted suffering with patience, always expecting the Lord’s help at the right moment.

Suffering is not always physical; very often it is of the moral order. This leads us to sever ties with unprincipled persons, which may even include family and friends. But can any suffering – physical or moral – be worse than what the Lord endured? No. We could therefore consider even our little troubles as our sharing in the Lord’s Cross.

The Gospel passage, which is just a tiny extract from the Sunday text, focuses on Judas’ betrayal which caused moral and physical suffering to the Lord. The place of action was the Passover meal that the disciples had prepared in accordance with instructions from their Master. As they were at the table Jesus saw the movement of His disciples’ hearts. Our Lord first saw the dishonourable act that Judas was going to perpetrate; He saw it even before the consummated the deal with the chief priest.

St Matthew tells us that after Judas had dipped his hand in the dish with Jesus, Satan entered the apostle’s heart. What Judas had actually envisioned only he and God know! Perhaps used to seeing things through the prism of money, here was an occasion to make a fast buck. But did he foresee the serious consequence of his action? Maybe he did. Or maybe he didn’t, for later he wished to retrace his steps. But it was too late to change.

We may not be at the level of the proverbial Judas but we too have failed our Lord. Even if we don’t commit a serious crime, abetment is bad enough. But knowing human nature, God instituted the sacrament of Confession, whereby we can reconcile ourselves to God and win back His grace and favour.

Getting to know Judas’ act at close quarters is surely a traumatic experience. It is a supreme lesson on one of the most painful experiences that one might experience in life. Betrayal often begins with small things: lies, compromises and opportunistic behaviour. If left unchecked by self, parents or other authorities, it grows into unfaithfulness in great things, or what we commonly dub back-stabbing. Lack of integrity that begins with the individual can infect an entire society. Thus public men in a Godless society soon become unprincipled and corrupt.

In all that we do, let’s strive towards the greatest level of integrity: loyalty and faithfulness to God and neighbour. “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” says St Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4: 8). This is sure to promote a welcome sweetness and an integrity that is pleasing to God by whom we are called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor 1: 9).