Up to the Mountain


28 October 2008 Feasts of Sts. Simon and Jude
Ephesians 2, 19-22; Psalm 19; Luke 6, 12-16


The Gospel today begins by telling us that Jesus ‘went to the mountain to pray and he spent the night in prayer to God’. After praying, he called his disciples, and from them, He chose Twelve, whom he called apostles. In other words, before He decided who among the many disciples who followed Him would be leaders, He prayed.

A few days ago, I gave a retreat to UP Christian Life Community (UPCLC). They wanted a silent retreat, even though many of them had not experienced one. During their sharing periods, one of them said that the retreat allowed him to look interiorly while another said that it gave him time to see the bigger picture. Moreover, the prayer periods helped them make decisions about many things in their lives. Just as Jesus brought His concerns to God in prayer, many of those who prayed about their concerns are able to make good decisions in their lives. Often it is good to spend quiet moments before making important resolutions.

But many would ask, “If Jesus made a good decision from his prayer, why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot “who became a traitor”? To me, Jesus made the right decision in choosing Judas. He had the ability to become a good leader. He had potential in keeping the finances of the group. Remember, he held the purse. There are people who are good at money, there are those, who aren’t. When we elect someone for a position, we judge them according to their qualities and abilities at present. We also judge them using their track record. However, what they will do once in the elected position will be determined by them. In the course of Judas’ many decisions as an apostle, he decided to betray Jesus. It was his decision, not something that was pre-ordained. When we are given a leadership position, we decide whether we would like to become a corrupt or an honest leader. Who we are today is a product of our many previous decisions.

The first reading tells us that our church is built upon the foundations of the apostles, with Jesus as the capstone. Whatever decisions we make at present should be in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. The feast of Sts. Simon and Jude reminds us of this.

There is a wrist band that has the letters, WWJD (What would Jesus do?). This is a good thing to remember: when making decisions, especially in moral cases, we ask ourselves, “WWJD”. And in order to know what Jesus would do in a particular situation, it is good to “go to the mountain to pray”. We would know what Jesus would do if we know Him well.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Fr. Jboy,

Hope you are doing well.
I have a question..I've always been confused with this one, about Judas' betrayal. Wasn't it pre-ordained though? I mean, Jesus knew from the very start that someone has to betray Him right? Whether it be Judas or Peter or whoever, someone has to betray Him because it was already "written". So dont you think its kind of unfair to that person? Of course I know that you should be responsible for your own actions, and that judas did choose to betray Jesus. But this concept of destiny, the idea that this has to happen because it was pre-ordained since the beginning of time...like Jesus' life for example, from His birth to the way He died, it was all written in the old testament, right? im just really confused..
hoping you could clear my mind on this one..Thank you!

Jessel Gerard said...

There are many events that led to Jesus' death --- the religious groups whom He did not agree with, the political climate, the precarious relationship with the Roman government. Not just Judas' betrayal. Thus, yes it could have been someone. But it was Judas who decided to betray him among all other possibilities.

I don't believe it was pre-ordained or about destiny. When you believe in destiny and pre-ordination, then decisions and having some form of self-determination is useless and false; free will, as a gift from God, will be absurd and deceitful. If you believe in both pre-ordination and this type of destiny, then you don't have to do anything, you just let things happen. And we both know, this is not the way the world goes.

I believe in the destiny that we are meant to be with God forever (this is the type of destiny I believe in.) And I am sure this too is God's will for us.

How to reach this destiny is within our choice and our series of choices (my priesthood has been a series of choices which led to my ordination). On the other hand, you could be a good doctor, but if you don't study, you will not be one.

About having things written, let me check. I have to be sure of the facts. Yes, His death was written in the Old Testament, but how He would die, I don't know at this moment if it is also written (though I know that it is not.) As of the moment, it is like this: you can predict that if you are already diabetic, and you don't control yourself, you will die of diabetes and its complications right? If Jesus' teaching were to be counter-cultural, then perhaps he would meet the ire of those who ruled. And it could mean death. Death is the punishment for rebels. Again, let me check and I will get back to you. This is my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for answering my question Fr. Jboy. I really appreciate it. And thank you for your blog, it’s the closest thing I could have to actually attending Mass in UP. Nakaka-miss na po.

I do agree with everything that you mentioned above, and I don’t believe in destiny either. And yes, Judas’ betrayal was probably not needed anymore since Jesus was already a marked man by then anyway. But please, do pardon me for this, im still confused. Its not that im defending Judas or anything, no, I do believe that it was the worst mistake he ever made, even worst than killing himself. But the fact still remains that the betrayal was predicted, I think way before Judas even thought about it (im not sure about this one though). Too bad for Judas, he was the one who chose to do it. And in addition to this, there was also the Peter denial incident. Jesus already knew that Peter would betray Him 3 times, way before Peter was even given the chance to choose whether to betray Jesus or not. And he indeed betrayed Him, exactly as predicted. Even after he was warned and even after promising that he would never do it. Now isn’t this some kind of a pre-ordination as well? So there, im back to my old dilemma.

Again let me assure you Fr. that I don’t believe in the concept of destiny..that I would have the same future no matter what type of choices I make..no, I don’t believe that. Its just that this is particularly confusing for me. Or maybe Jesus’ life is an exemption? Anyway He was no ordinary human.

By the way, when I talked about “the way Jesus would die”, I was referring to some verses in the book of Isaiah where it was mentioned that no bones of Jesus would be broken, that He would be pierced and that they would divide His garment amongst themselves..that part. Im not sure though which chapter of the book its from.

Maraming salamat po talaga Fr. Jboy. Sana hindi ko po kayo naabala sa mga tanong ko. I would really love to attend Mass in UP again if I get the chance. Hopefully in the near future=)
Have a nice day Fr.!

p.s. could you please send my regards to Fr. Joel as well. Thank you!

Jessel Gerard said...

Hi again!

I just came from a little research and consultation about your questions. First, it is GOOD that you're asking. We SHOULD so that we may love our faith more. We must be informed. So go ahead and ask. Do not think you are doubting the faith --- this I think is a wrong notion. We get to know people and things by asking.

About your question. In the Old Testament, they do not know Jesus. The Suffering Servant in Isaiah is FOR the people during the time of the 3rd Isaiah (the book of Isaiah has "three divisions").

During the early Church--- when they all would write the Gospels and reflect on it (years after Jesus' death) they looked back at the Old Testament to see what would best suit and describe and attribute Jesus. It was what scholars would call "literary (not literal) interpretation". They looked back at what was already written, and saw the things that would likely FORESHADOW Jesus. It is important to see that all that has happened till Jesus death was already PAST, and they were interpreting what was past, seeing patterns. The Gospels were written after Jesus died, not during, so many things in the Gospels are already reflections such as John's. The "raw" Gospel with the least interpretation was Mark, written earliest. Among the four Gospels, John's gospel was written farther away, so he has all sorts of imagery interspersed with accounts of Jesus. So I would not think of "prediction" as you think. Prediction is when you are at present, "telling us what would happen in the future". Here it is backwards. Things happened already.

Finally, about Judas. If one believes that Judas was already doomed to betray him, one thinks that God wills evil. From the Decree of Justification (Council of Trent) let me quote: "The process of passing from the condition of sin as a child of the first Adam to the condition of adopted sonship and daughtership is called, justification (Chapter 4). Justification "is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward person through the voluntary reception of the grace and the gifts whereby an unjust person becomes just" (chapter 7). God wills the salvation of all, and God will achieve that purpose 'unless human beings FAIL in God's grace" (chapter 13).

In other words, we do not believe that Judas' betrayal is God's work. God's work is good, and it cannot be evil, because He is not evil. If Judas betrayed Jesus, he (refer to above paragraph) failed in God's grace.

Just a note: you are not causing me any inconvenience. You are making me a good priest.

Thank you very much for your questions. I hope the above helps. In any case, I asked some of the Jesuit theologians who teach at Loyola School of Theology and the book I research on for you is "Richard McBrien's Catholicism, 3rd edition". Ask, ask, ask my friend. The more you are informed, the more mature you become of your faith, the more you begin to OWN it. With all my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father, this has been a very enlightening conversation for me. I guess I was just missing the bigger picture and you reminded me of it. Also, it was good that you pointed out some historical facts about the gospels. It helped me in sorting things out. Still, quite a few questions remain and I would probably ask them here again in due time.

I will try to get a copy of the book. I know I need to do my own readings as well.
Until next time! Thank you.

Jessel Gerard said...

You're welcome. Take care.