Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is one many of us have heard before. The story of Judas handing over Jesus to the authorities for thrity pieces of silver is a familiar one, and yet there are always different aspects that can strike us as we read it, details that lead us to reflect in new ways:
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.
When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Mt 26:14-25)
Verbum can deepen your spiritual experience with resources aimed at explaining the readings and applying them to your daily life. Here, for example, is the reading for Wednesday of Holy Week from Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections by the Sisters of St. Paul:
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us that fidelity to one’s vocation is lived one minute at a time. Jesus’ fidelity is a lived out in a continuous stream of ‘now’ moments: announcing the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, forgiving the sinful, all leading up to the appointed hour.
The Passover is beginning. Pilgrims are streaming into Jerusalem, including Jesus and his closest disciples. Jesus knows what is coming. ‘My appointed time draws near.’ Already in chapter 26 of Matthew he has foretold his crucifixion during the Passover (v. 2). He has declared the anointing at Bethany a preparation for his burial (v. 12). He knows, too, that one of his own disciples will betray him—an inside job.
In the face of betrayal, torture, and death, what does Jesus do? He goes on with his vocation of revealing the faithful love of God for his people. At this precise moment it means preparing and celebrating the Passover meal.
Betrayal is devastating. It is hard to say what is worse, to be caught off guard or to see it coming. Either way the sin of betrayal kicks us in the gut when we experience it. The example of Jesus is all the more astounding because, while he acknowledges Judas’ betrayal as it is happening, he does not change his plans to avoid the situation. Neither does he lash out at Judas or retaliate in any way. Jesus, the absolute expression of God’s love, is not sidetracked. Instead, he continues to freely give of himself.
Today we stand on the brink of the Sacred Triduum, and the Church gives us the calm deliberate choices of Jesus to continue his mission. He knows this will lead to Calvary. We also ponder the calculated moves of Judas, which will lead to his duplicitous kiss.
Fidelity (or its opposite) is lived out moment by moment, choice by choice. What is God calling me to in this ‘hour’ of my salvation?
My God, I want to be with you completely in these days when we remember your passion and death. When I think of your fidelity to your vocation, your total self-giving in the face of the betrayal and the cowardice of your disciples, I am overwhelmed. Time is a precious gift; help me to spend it wisely as you did in your public ministry. Strengthen me so that in my moments of crisis I may choose faithful love no matter the cost.
Faithful love is lived out moment by moment.