Written by Brian S. Collier, Ph.D. - Coordinator of Supervision and Instruction; Faculty, ACE M.Ed. Program. Dr. Collier also teaches courses for American Studies and History at Notre Dame
“Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.”
There are people we just don’t talk a lot about in history. They’ve done such really bad things, we can’t really wrap our minds around the enormity of their actions. Judas is one of those people, and I worry that I spend more of my time like Judas than I do like Christ. We don’t get a lot of Judas’s backstory in the Gospels, and of the disciples he’s certainly the most universally loathed–perhaps for good reason. Yet I find myself from time to time in the exact trap in which Judas is caught; namely, saying, sometimes to others and sometimes to God, “What are you willing to give me…” Judas conspires in perhaps one of the most self-centered acts in human history.
My father-in-law, Hank, is one of the best men I know. He will talk regularly about the need to get rid of self-centeredness and ego, in order to know ourselves better and to know God better. So I wonder how often do we find ourselves in Judas’s exact predicament: weighing “what’s in it for us?” instead of thinking of the good of the whole and larger community.
Fortunately, I get to work with some amazing young people who spend two years of their lives teaching in communities that are not even their own, and doing so for a pittance of what they might earn had they done nearly anything else in their post-graduation years. They’re not in it for themselves; they’re in it for others.
A few years ago, I commented to a former student that, while he was a great teacher, his work for the M.Ed. was often late. He quieted, and I presumed he was going to defend himself, but instead he said, “Yeah, pretty regularly I forgot that I was in a Master’s program because really I was just in it to serve my kids.” I was humbled by this, and while I’d like to say that this changed my late policy for graduate student work (it didn’t), I will say it does have me thanking our graduate students pretty regularly for the work they do on behalf of all of us for our Church.
The other reason I feel bad for Judas is that he just didn’t get it! All that time in the presence of Jesus Christ, all of those recorded examples of Jesus not thinking about himself and what he would get, but focused instead, and constantly, on what he could do for others–and Judas just wasn’t getting it. As a historian, I know that whenever we have source materials that prove something over and over again, that also means there were many, many more examples that were lost–so not only did Judas and the others witness what the Gospels record, they also in all likelihood witnessed countless more miracles and acts of true selflessness that elude the rest of us.
So on this Palm Sunday my challenge to myself is to eliminate a “what will you give me” mentality and instead embrace the real miracle of this story: Jesus turning himself over, and once again looking away from self, looking away from ego, and instead looking to what he could do for all of us by giving himself fully and utterly to God’s will so that all of our acts of self-centeredness and more could be forgiven. O God, in these Palm Sunday hours and throughout this Holy Week, give me the strength of selflessness and service to my communities.