In the Gospel account according to John (13:21-33, 36-38), nothing is ever done to Jesus. Jesus is in charge. Yet the reading today is emotionally charged. Jesus is troubled. Being in charge does not mean that one has to be content with the proceedings! Jesus knows he is about to be betrayed, and by whom! He instills uneasiness among his disciples by telling them as much. What can possibly be gained by this? He is preparing them for the event, knowing that later they will understand that he willingly gave himself up for them, for all – really for each of us.
Jesus is troubled by Judas’ impending betrayal. He is also troubled by the disciples’ lack of understanding. Surely, after all the time he has spent teaching them and performing miracles, they should have some better understanding when he tells them “Where I go you cannot come.” After all, this is the third time Jesus talks about his death! Jesus is troubled also by Simon, not so much because Simon doesn’t get it, but because he knows that Simon, too, will betray him.
One of the most powerful lines in this Scripture reading, in my opinion, is “And it was night.” It sends shivers down my spine. Not only was it literally night, and darkness had probably set in, but there was another night and darkness which had settled upon Jesus, his disciples, and the entire land. It was the night of evil, and the darkness where those who have no light stumble. So Judas, who had turned his back on Jesus, was already part of the darkness and about to stumble in a major way, and the other disciples and Peter were themselves close to fumbling.
Jesus was troubled. It may have seemed to him for a moment that he had “toiled in vain,” like the Suffering Servant in the first reading from Isaiah (49:1-6). Yet he put his faith in the Father, and by doing the Father’s will to the end, he would be glorified, and peoples would be gathered to him by the work of the apostles and the new Church.
We, like Jesus, know God from the womb; God teaches us throughout our lives. Let us give glory to God, and let us never be ashamed before God. God is our help, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, and our hope. God will always hear us, and treat us with justice, and so we should always sing of God’s justice and salvation (Ps 71:1-6, 15, 17). Our lives may not always be easy, yet we know that God is always there for us, and that is what sustains us through the hardships.
Sometimes we, too, feel as if we toil in vain, speaking of God to deaf ears, but let us remember that some seed may fall on rocky soil, and some among thorns, but there will always be some seed that falls on fertile soil. It is our duty to sow; it is the work of the Holy Spirit to fertilize the soil. Let us always walk in the light of Christ!
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau is a novice at Saint Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from Quebec, Canada, she lived in the Southeastern United States for 16 years before coming to Duluth. She did research in the field of exercise physiology for over years, and more recently completed a graduate degree in theology, while volunteering in parishes, giving workshops and retreats.