Judas had with treacherous kiss betrayed his Master. When all the loving memories and tender associations of three years of companionship had been killed by avarice, then, with deep-dyed hypocrisy he profaned with sacrilegious kiss the sacred lips of his Friend, the Man-God. This base deed had been prefigured in the Old Testament; for we read in the Book of Kings: "And Joab said to Amasa: 'God save thee, my brother.' And he took Amasa by the chin with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not take notice of the sword which Joab had and he struck him in the side and shed out his bowels to the ground, and gave him not a second wound and he died." This deed of blood is slight in heinousness compared with the wickedness of the faithless disciple's treachery. Who can tell with what feeling akin to despair Judas must have slunk back to safety amid his companions? We shall see him no more till we follow his faltering footsteps as he steals crouchingly along the eastern wall down to his death of self-destruction in the valley of Hinnom.
Turning aside then from the traitor and addressing the multitude our Lord said to them: "Whom seek ye?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Then Jesus said to them: "I am He." "And Judas also, who betrayed him, stayed with them. As soon therefore as He had said to them, 'I am He,' they went backward and fell to the ground." These words, which revealed beyond a doubt our Lord's identity to His enemies, were uttered to save His Apostles, for Saint John tells us that our Lord added: "If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way."
Not so long ago many of His enemies who were present now, had heard Him announce from the Temple steps, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep." His hour had at last come, but the Apostles were to live on, and had a work to do. They were to gather in gladness the harvest that the Master begins tonight to sow in humiliation, in tears and blood. Their work is not done, their hour has not yet come. Many long years of suffering await them, before they will be called to seal with their blood the teaching for which their Master was to die on the morrow. In His parting prayer only a few hours ago in the Cenacle He had said to His Father: "Those whom Thou gavest Me have I kept; and none of them is lost but the son of perdition."
"Jesus of Nazareth" was the answer which was given to His question as to the object of their search. Then with infinite calmness and majesty our Lord replied: "I am He." This answer must have been wholly unexpected, otherwise why had they been accompanied by Roman soldiers, why armed with swords and clubs? Doubtless they had anticipated either compromise, flight or resistance. They had tried to apprehend Him not long ago in the Temple porches and had taken up stones to cast at Him .They had endeavored to fling Him over the brow of the hill at Galilee, but He had always foiled their best laid plans, escaped their crafty and sudden attacks. They thought probably that on this occasion, too, He would again slip from their grasp.
When our Lord, therefore, with a Heavenly light upon His countenance, with peace and gentleness upon His lips, stood there before them in all the majesty of His innocence, and in a voice untouched by fear or passion revealed His identity, "they went backward and fell to the ground." That voice now so gentle had bidden the wild waves of Genesareth's waters to calm, and at its command they were stilled. It had ordered the winds to hush, and they were at once made silent. "Be thou made clean," it had told the leper, and the foul disease of festering limb and fevered frame had vanished. One day in Decapolis to a man who was deaf and dumb that voice had said, "Ephpheta, that is, Be opened, and immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed and he spoke right." Only a few weeks ago two blind men at Jericho's gate pleaded for light, pleaded that their sightless eyes might see. Then that sweet voice of power said: "Go your way, your faith hath made you whole," and they received sight and followed Him in the way. So now at the sound of this voice His enemies, those who had come out to apprehend Him, reel back and fall to the ground, struck by its awful power.
What a joy it would have been to the Sacred Heart of our Blessed Saviour if that throng, which had come out in envy and hatred, had thrown themselves prostrate before Him to worship and adore! Whether any were touched by this miracle, we know not. If some for a moment faltered and hesitated we may be certain that the blind Pharisees and Priests urged them on to the completion of their wicked designs.
"Whom seek ye?" These words which produced in the minds of His enemies a paroxysm of wonder and fear, have a lesson for ourselves. When the holy women came early on Easter morning to anoint the Body of the dead Christ in the tomb an angel told them: "Fear not you, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. Why seek you the living among the dead?" Whom do we seek in our aims, our motives, our actions, our plans, our schemes? Are we seeking Jesus who was crucified or are we often seeking ourselves, seeking low aims and ignoble purposes? If so, is it not true that we are seeking the living among the dead? Are we not rather at such times in quest of life among the mouldering bones and grinning skulls of the tomb? Those who look for satisfaction in the cup that cheers, spending their hard-earned wages in drink and neglecting to provide for starving wives and children, surely such as these are not seeking Jesus of Nazareth, but rather they are looking for life where death abides.
Parents who have won worldly success and unaccustomed wealth, ambitious to climb into the membership of those whose forefathers would not have allowed them into the country if they could have prevented it, aspiring cringingly to the crumbs that fall from the tables of what they call the social set; parents as pitiless as those who send their children to non-Catholic schools, jeopardizing their little ones souls for society, are not seeking Jesus of Nazareth, they are looking for life in graves and tombs. Fathers whose children hear them curse but never hear them pray; fathers who read the Sunday papers and linger over their suggestive pictures instead of attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; parents who encourage sons and daughters to marry those who are not of their Faith in the hope of some supposed material advancement; men who strive to amass wealth by questionable means and extortionate prices, or by doling out to their workingmen and women starvation wages which cry to Heaven for vengeance, employees who conspire to injure their master's property or goods; politicians who seek their pockets and position rather than the welfare of their country; all these and others are not seeking Christ, they are looking for life and happiness where there is only death and sorrow.
All life's joys, pleasures, smiles and successes sought for themselves by rejecting or neglecting the Church's teachings, what are they in the end? They are siren voices which lead us on, unreal mirages which draw us from the true path, till finally we perish in the desert of passing worldliness and sin. It is not thus that Christ crucified is sought. Such lives are looking for the living among the dead, for life amid grinning skulls which sooner or later will turn and laugh at us for our folly; for what doth it profit to gain the whole world and lose our own soul, or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Our Lord, then, once more asking His enemies whom they sought and receiving from them the same answer, bade them allow His Apostles to go. This was the final signal that He was to ask no compromise, offer no resistance and was about to deliver Himself into their hands. Then Peter urged by his usual impetuous generosity, when he saw our Lord's enemies about to lay hands upon his loved Master, "having a sword drew it, and struck the servant of the High Priest and cut off his right ear." Our Lord immediately condemned the ill-timed offence and rebuked His impulsive and angry Apostle, and touching the ear of the servant cured him. Jesus, therefore, said to Peter: "Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? All that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that so it must be done?"
In the agony under the olive trees a short while ago, He had asked that the chalice might pass from Him, but now His hour had come and He will drain that chalice to its last drops. Like a lamb He would be led to the slaughter; He was a victim because He wished. Hence Peter must put back the sword which for a moment flashed in the moonlight in His defense. The thunders and lightning of heaven were His to command for the smiting of His enemies, had He wished. Twelve legions of angels were at His beck to do His bidding, had He made them a sign; but no portents, no wonders, no miracles will be wrought now for His safety or for His freedom. In a few moments He will enter Jerusalem a prisoner, an unarmed, meek outcast, betrayed by a faithless disciple and abandoned by weak Apostles. The Priests of His nation who had not the courage to stretch forth their hands against Him when He sat daily teaching in the Temple, come forth now from the dark background and insistently urge His capture. Finally, our Lord gives the word, "This is your hour and the power of darkness." These words killed all hope in the hearts of His weak Apostles, "and the disciples all leaving Him fled." Then He was left alone and, surrounded by Roman soldiers, was at last in the hands of His enemies.
- from The Mountains of Myrrh, by Father John O'Rourke