Intentions: That all people will turn away from sin, living instead with compassion and justice, and embracing God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.
Today’s Gospel | Matthew 26:14-25
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.”
A Lenten Reflection
The Gospel’s telling of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is one of the most well-known stories in Scripture. It also may be one of the most perplexing. How did someone so bright and enthusiastic turn into history’s most despised traitor? While it is easy to think that Judas was the epitome of incarnate evil, we may want to reflect more deeply on that conclusion. The answer may be far less singular than we suspect, and far closer to the kind of everyday sinfulness of which all of us are quite capable.
What is apparent in the Gospels is that Judas was never able to accept the thinking and the ways of Jesus. Instead, he wanted him to be a messiah who would crush and humiliate the enemies of Israel, and lift the nation – him and the disciples in particular – to a kingdom of earthly power and glory. Judas could not believe that the one in whom he had at first placed all of his hopes had not only rejected such a kingdom, but also had replaced it with a call to unconditional forgiveness, compassion, and love for all. Angry and confused, Judas decided that it was up to him to force the revolution back on track, a course to which he probably felt the masses and eventually Jesus himself would agree. Judas’ pride, hard-heartedness, and faithlessness would lead to history’s most despicable act, as well as to his own terrible end.
In this time of Holy Week, we might ask ourselves if, in our daily lives, our own thinking has ever resembled that of Judas. How often have we presumed that we have the best answers and the wisest plans, and looked with anger or disdain at persons who think or act differently? The missionary Andrew Murray wrote, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” We must remember that we are called to be instruments of God’s truth, which we can proclaim only with open and humble hearts.
Eternal Father, all of us experience the temptation to sin against you, to sin against our gifts, to sin against each other. In this Holy Week, teach us to be strong in those moments. Fill us with the zeal to remain faithful in times of struggle and, like your Son, to keep our hearts fixed on your saving Kingdom. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.