So proposed the holier among us unholy in that brotherhood variably called exsems and ex-cons for the longest time, but since last year – per the imprimatur of the archbishop emeritus, the beloved Apu Ceto – came to bear the ennobling moniker “non-ordained alumni” of the Mater Boni Consilii Seminary.
So a retreat it shall be this Holy Wednesday at the chapel of the Domus Pastorum, the home of retired priests that has served, for some years now, as the locus for our monthly fellowship with our former formators.
Expectedly, excitement over reliving, if only for a day, what was integral to our seminary years, burned our Facebook page. Principally coming from those among us who have extended their youthful vocation to their adult “ministries,” i.e. the EMDCs, the Lecoms, the ANFs, and other church organizations.
Yeah, so much they have been sharing about “uplifting the spirit,” “revitalizing the soul,” “deepening spirituality,” that this retreat would “most certainly” impact in each one of us “bettering our relationship with God.”
Me? I can only look back to our last retreat, over four years ago, that somehow circumvented conservative conventions meriting an essay here tagged:
MANY WERE called, only seven responded.
As it was with our early vocation at the Mater Boni Consilii Seminary where we ended unchosen, so it was with our planned retreat at a Fontana villa last Friday (March 29, 2013).
Still, this did not detract us from our pursuit for some spiritual advancement, with the Rev. Fr. Cito Carlos as most able guide.
The Mass Among Charlie celebrated was beautiful in its simplicity. His homily though seared our very soul. It was all about Judas, eternally damned antagonist in the drama of Christian salvation.
“I do not approve of the Holy Week tradition of blasting Judas in effigy. It rankles of vengeance which is most un-Christian,” he said, even as he hastened that he had no intention of justifying Judas’ betrayal.
An “expanded perspective to draw some lessons, if not inspiration, from,” he said of his take on the kissing-betrayer, which he admitted he drew from our pre-Mass pleasantries on how he came to be our retreat master.
He chuckled upon learning he was the fourth priest we approached to conduct our retreat, all the other three deeming we were beyond salvation, only half-jokingly. Hence the Judas model – not for us to emulate but to learn from.
“Yes, Judas made a deal with the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver to deliver Jesus to them but on condition that he should not be harmed,” Among Charlie reminded us. “The deal went sour when Jesus was lashed, scourged, and inflicted with all sorts of pain and insults.”
So, Judas wanted out of the deal by returning to the priests the payment, woefully sorry for what he had done.
Indeed, Matthew 27:3-5: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? See thou to that.’ And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
Suicide is abominable in the eyes of God. So, Judas compounded his already most heinous crime of betraying the Son of God by killing himself.
But did Judas really hang himself in remorse for what he did?
Acts 1:18-19: “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.”
Some apparent contradiction there with Matthew 27:3-5 on the death of Judas and the place of circumstance, which the succeeding verses – Matthew 27:6-8 – had as: “And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, ‘It is not lawful for us to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.’ And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, the field of blood, unto this day.”
Need to find some gospel harmonist to synthesize those seeming contradictions.
My seminary brother Boiti Portugal took a tack different from mine in our reflection on Judas: “My mind… is in darkness! My God… God, I’m sick! I’ve been used! And you knew! You knew all the time! God, I will never know why you chose me for your crime! Your foul, bloody crime! My God, you have murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered me! Murdered…”
Not from Matthew, Luke, Mark or John, not even from Paul, but from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice – the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
Yeah, instantly came to mind there the doggone dogma of an agnostic past: “Without Judas there is no salvation.” As instantly denounced as extreme unorthodoxy, twisted theology, damned heresy.
So, dare we flirted with some things far beyond our theological limits. When we lacked the simple courage to go to confession!
One of the guys, I think it was Boss Tayag, asked if we could just write down our sins on paper to be read in silencio by Among Charlie and burned after the Confiteor. The smoke of our contrition rising to the heavens there.
On the other hand, tech-savvy as he is, Ashley Manabat suggested we just text Among our sins and he would text back to us his absolution and our penance. E-confession, anyone?
Aye, verily doing a St. Augustine in his own Confessions we were all there: “Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo (Give me chastity and continence, but not just yet)!”
In the end, Among Charlie issued a general absolution – with the condition that we should go to confession at the earliest time possible.
And everybody went to communion. But me. Unable, unwilling to let go of Judas. As yet.