Day Thirty-Seven: Denial

Wednesday of Holy Week

Yesterday the Gospel for Mass was Saint John’s version of Judas’ betrayal, and today we are given Saint Matthew’s version. In Matthew’s Gospel, Judas speaks before denying our Lord. Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him. Each said, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus responds, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Finally, Judas’ response is recorded, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so” (see Matthew 26:14–25).

Judas was in denial. It has been said that the word “denial” is easily remembered as an acronym: “don’t even know I am lying.” Perhaps Judas didn’t even realize what he was about to do and the eternal consequences: “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Those are powerful and devastating words from our Lord.

In his spiritual masterpiece, Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents an outline for a thirty-day retreat, along with lessons and rules for the spiritual director guiding the retreatant. Saint Ignatius offers reflections for every day of the retreat that is broken up into four periods. The first period takes the retreatant through a series of reflections on sin, especially mortal sins and their eternal consequences, in a graphic and concrete way. Though the meditations might not be easy to face, they are abundantly fruitful. Ignatius’ thirty-day retreat format is often considered the ideal format for those who want to advance in the spiritual life.

One of the primary reasons for Ignatius’ initial focus on mortal sins and their eternal consequences is to shake retreatants out of any denial they have. His provocative meditations can be initially shocking, but then they lead the soul onto a solid foundation of reality for the rest of that retreat and beyond.

As we draw close to the Triduum and prepare to intimately reflect upon Jesus’ Agony in the Garden, arrest, imprisonment, scourging, mocking, condemnation, carrying of the cross, and crucifixion, prepare yourself to gaze at the sheer horror of what our divine Lord endured. Prepare yourself to see His extreme sufferings as a consequence of the sins you have committed. A deeper awareness of Jesus’ pain will help you more easily face any denial that you currently struggle with regarding your sins. It will also help you grow in profound gratitude to God for what He has done for you, to set you free, and to draw you into the glories of His eternal Kingdom. Facing the reality of your sin and the consequences of those sins will be inspiring and flood your soul with joy, only if you also gaze at our Lord’s sacrifice as the one and only remedy. Face your sin and our Lord’s remedy with honesty, thoroughness, and profound gratitude.

Ponder your own soul today, especially your conscience. Be open to anything our Lord wants to say to you. Consider Judas’ denial when he said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Take a different path than Judas, confessing your guilt to our Lord and your need for the mercy He won that first Holy Week.

My suffering Lord, unlike Judas, I profess to You, “Surely it is I, Rabbi!” I am guilty. And that’s why I need all that You have won for me through Your Passion. I confess my guilt and pray that I will be drawn out of any denial so that my heart will be filled with a profound gratitude for what You suffered for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Thirty-Seven: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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