Reading 1, Isaiah 49:1-6
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
Gospel, John 13:21-33, 36-38
A business fellow was praying to God one evening before bed and was shocked when he heard a booming voice. The pajama clad man asked, “God is that you?” and the voice replied with a benevolent, “of course!” Now, naturally, the man had a few questions, so he asked, “God what is a million years to you?” God gladly voiced in return, “a million years to me is as a second to you.” “So,” the man continued, “what is a million dollars to you O Lord?” God again replied, “A million dollars to me is as a penny to you.” Sensing an opportunity, the business man implored, “God could you give me a penny?” And God only said, “Yes! Just one second.”
You may have heard this endearing story before; it is a story meant to incite a chuckle, but its moral finds deeper roots. The business man saying his nightly prayer may feel like the Israelites in the first reading: “though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.” (Is 49:4a). Both are not being helped in the way they had anticipated. However, Isaiah is encouraging Israel to not give way to their discouragement. At this time in history, the Israelites are exiled from their homeland – from the home God had promised them. How could they not be tempted to fall into dismay? It is easier than most of us care to admit, to blame God when things in our daily lives are not going well. This is especially true, if we feel we have been treated unfairly by the cosmos.
Although, another time we are susceptible to falling into despair is when we commit the same sins over time and time again. “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Jn 13: 22). Jesus’ words in today’s gospel ring true just as much now and they did then. We do betray Jesus our Savior, who is both fully human and fully divine, on an almost daily recurrence. But Jesus showed us that to sin is not in our nature! Jesus never sinned – he is fully divine, how could he? But Jesus is also fully human and never sinned. So to sin is rather to fall short of what it means to be truly human.
Yet still, we fail. But when we do, we need to heed the words of Isaiah and not fall into discouragement. And when we deny Jesus, we should not despair as Judas did but struggle for redemption like Peter. Let us follow in the footsteps of Israel and Jesus and be “his servants through whom he will show his glory” (Is 49:3). A model St. Peter has exemplified.