One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”
Opening Prayer: O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake to the yoke of the Cross-, so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy, grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
Encountering Christ: As we celebrate these sacred days, we too, are invited to journey with Jesus through the Paschal mystery of His Passion, death and resurrection, because the appointed time of Jesus is not a series of events in the distant past, though we look back on it once a year during Holy Week. Rather, Jesus invites each of us to walk with Him, so that, we too may die to sin, and rise to live a new life in Him every day. Jesus also experiences the mystery of human betrayal from one of His own disciples, Judas, who hands Him over to those who seek to kill Him for a few pieces of silver.
Judas a Betrayer? The darkness grows deeper as we move closer to the Passion. The sadness is obvious, as we enter into today’s Gospel scene, where Judas says, without sarcasm or self-awareness, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
When Jesus said that one of them would betray him, the disciples didn’t all immediately think of Judas. In fact, each one thought it might be himself. Most of the disciples didn’t see Judas as being any different from themselves. Only John seemed to know that Judas was stealing from the common purse, but perhaps he only found out later, after Jesus’ death. The Lord was the only one at the table who knew what was in the hearts of each of his followers. Still today, only Jesus can judge the hearts of men and women.
Could I Betray Jesus? Why did the disciples say, “Surely not me, Lord?” They were all afraid. They had left Jerusalem at one point because it was too dangerous. They had gone to Jericho for a while until the death of Lazarus. When Jesus announced he was going to Bethany to awaken Lazarus, they expected to die. And now, they had been in Jerusalem for a few days and they realized that the only thing protecting them from death were the adoring crowds during the days and the fact that the Pharisees and the high priest didn’t know where to look for them at night. With danger around every corner, tensions were high. When we place ourselves prayerfully in their shoes, how would we react on that dark moonless night in Gethsemane when the soldiers arrived? Lord, protect us from our weakness!
Love Is in the Details: While we might be very sure we would never betray Jesus in a big way, we all betray him in small ways. Every venial sin is a betrayal. We can tell ourselves that it’s not that important, and so we do what suits us instead of what Jesus would like us to do. We don’t think of ourselves as being like Judas, and perhaps we aren’t, but in some sense, we are, we fall to small temptations we can’t seem to overcome. These little things can have a negative impact on our spiritual life over time.
Conversing with Christ: Interestingly, Judas is present there at the Last Supper, which is the root of the Mass. This is startlingly good news. Why? It means Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all of our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power, in order to bring the light. Even if Judas was invited into the Lord’s presence… so are you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience and ask, “Is there some small betrayal that I habitually allow myself?” Not today!
Prayer over the People: Grant your faithful, O Lord, we pray, to partake unceasingly of the Paschal mysteries and to await with longing the gifts to come, that persevering in the Sacraments of their rebirth, they may be led by Lenten works to newness of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.