How They All Went Wrong

4th Sunday of Easter—Year A

Why did Satan rebel against God?
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Why did Peter deny the Lord three times?
The underlying answer is important for our present lives.

Why did the Devil rebel? Though mysterious, it seems that this angel proudly desired a greater “glory” than was found in God’s hierarchy. To be God without God. This was his suggestion in tempting our first parents; “you will be like gods”. Satan, being the most powerful of the demons, rules a fallen kingdom apart from goodness, truth, and God.

Why did Judas Iscariot betray Jesus? It might have been for the money; thirty pieces of silver was about five weeks of wages and St. John the Apostle reports that Judas “was a thief and held the [apostles’] moneybag and used to steal the contributions.” Yet St. Matthew writes that when Judas saw Jesus condemned he deeply regretted what he had done and returned the money to the chief priests and elders saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” Perhaps Judas never intended the Lord to die but had hoped that Jesus, with his back against the wall, would finally wield his mighty, miraculous powers to claim David’s earthly kingdom (and hand Judas himself a privileged place within it.) Yet Judas’ dishonest and disloyal scheming left him with nothing.

Why did Simon Peter deny the Lord three times during the Passion? St. John’s Gospel suggests he lied about having any connection to Jesus first to gain entry into the courtyard of the high priest, then to keep from being tossed out, and finally to avoid being physically assaulted by a relative of the man whose ear he had severed with a sword earlier that evening in the garden. St. Luke tells us that Peter, when he then heard a rooster crow, “went out and began to weep bitterly” over what he had done.

Satan, Judas, and Peter chose sin because they thought wrongdoing was the way to good things they would not otherwise have. But this is not Jesus’ way. In our second reading St. Peter writes of the Lord, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” He was “leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” In our Gospel, Jesus declares:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers. … Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.

Jesus is our gate. He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Always come and go through this narrow gate, for many prefer to bypass it like thieves and robbers. “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Jesus’ sheep know his voice and are called to uncompromisingly follow it. Before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The words of a Jewish proverb pray to God:

Two things I ask of you,
do not deny them to me before I die:
Put falsehood and lying far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches;
provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, “Who is the Lord?”
Or, being in want, I steal,
and profane the name of my God.

In our present season of trial, the complacency of riches has withdrawn but other temptations draw near. This is a time of testing. Will I tell lies? Will I steal? Will I sin to possess or enjoy good things I might not otherwise have? Do not give in, do not compromise, do not capitulate to evil. This is Christ’s will for you. Remember and be resolved: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

But what if you do go on to fall, or what if you have already sinned? What then should you do? Due to their nature, the demons will never adjust their wills towards repentance. Judas deeply regretted what he had done but he despaired of forgiveness and forfeited his life. St. Peter however returned, repented, and renewed his devotion to his Savior. (“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”) St. John assures us about Christ, “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”

The commandments of Christ flow from his own divine nature — total truth, pure goodness, perfect love — and these must not be spurned. Yet realize that the essence of Christianity is not rules or laws but a personal relationship: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. … I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” Follow the Good Shepherd faithfully and goodness and kindness will follow all the days of your life and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

4 Responses to “How They All Went Wrong”

  1. Gonzalo T. Palacios Says:

    “Why did Satan rebel against God?
    Why did Judas betray Jesus?
    Why did Peter deny the Lord three times?
    The underlying answer is important for our present lives”.
    Fr. Feltes: Only your last sentence regarding “our present lives” contains a modicum of truth. Unfortunately, that affirmation depends on three unanswerable questions that must be respected as mysteries Our Lord included in His plan of Redemption. Please write about the role of mysteries, miracles, and myths in our present lives rather than to mislead us with answers to your opening questions. AMDG, Gonzalo T. Palacios, author of The Catholic Church Need Martin Luther, 500 Years after the Reformation (Xulon, 2019)

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      If I should ever teach anything contrary to the Church’s Magisterium, I urge everyone to listen to her instead of me. At the same time, I am conscious of no errors in this homily.

  2. Doug Pruner Says:

    Your reasoning seems good on Satan and Judas.
    There are other scriptures that refer to Satan’s pride.
    After all, it seems he was the angel assigned to Paradise, as helper to A & E perhaps, before the Fall. So, ‘Just one more step and I’ll have everything!’
    Also, Ezek 26 contains a lengthy prophecy against Tyre, situated on Israel’s coast. It was fulfilled by two invasions. The second one, by Alexander the Great, was more thorough and lasting and involved the action at 26:12. Again, ch. 27 ‘piles Ossa upon Helion’ in its foretelling of calamities.
    Ch. 28, though, focuses on one person, “the King of Tyre”. Vv. 11-19 references Eden specifically and calls him the “cherub” (“guardian”, NJB. Cf. Gen 3:4)
    For these reasons many scholars see the passage as a more detailed account of Satan’s problems. Too much to ascribe to a mere earthly King.

    Judas was indeed weak. Notice he was the southerner, from Jerusalem, where he acquired expensive tastes perhaps; aside from Matthew the others were fishermen and Galileans. Thrift store was good enough for them. :-)

    Peter? He was certainly intelligent, but I have a hard time visualizing him handling all the mental shifts you propose for him. (Paul was the clever one who could think on his feet. Or his back, as at Acts 22:25.)
    He did make an error of omission, in Luke’s account and especially in Mark’s and Matthew’s. He tells Jesus, ‘No! I’ll never betray you!’ No record of ‘Well, with Yahweh’s help of course.’ Jesus had been setting that good example ever since they knew him. AND he sets it down to this day, doesn’t he?
    Later on that fraught occasion he’s confronted by a mere servant girl, and Peter the manly fisherman fails.

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