WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK (Is 50: 4-9a; Ps69: 8-10, 21-22,31, 33-34; Mt 26: 14-25) The First Reading is the third of the Suffering ServantSongs in Isaiah and is a longer version of the First Reading on last Sunday, Passion(Palm) Sunday. The Gospel includes Matthew's version of part of the Passion Gospel.
The psalm today is the prayer of one who is persecuted by members of his own family (whether that be one’s immediate family or the larger family of the community) because the person in the psalm is devoted to God and God’s presence among mortals. It speaks of the failure of others to give support and sympathy. Even the words “they put gall in my food, and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink” finds their way into the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Although the first part of the psalm sounds gloomy and dark, it ends with giving thanks, glory, and praise to GOD who hears the cry of the poor.
The Gospel relates Judas’ planning to betray Jesus. He receives the thirty pieces of silver and looks for the time and opportunity to hand Him over. For this reason, today is often called “Spy Wednesday.”
The Gospel transitions to the Passover feast and the Seder (Last) Supper. At this meal, Jesus informs His followers that one of them will betray Him. Judas asks: “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” and Jesus responds“You have said it.” As we contemplate the events of Holy Week, it is easy to single out Judas and blame Him for the suffering and death of Jesus. It is true that he performed a horrendous act in betraying Jesus. Jesus even says that it would be better that His betrayer
would never have been born. Yet we also need to realize two things: 1. Each one of us, because of our sinfulness, is also guilty of betraying Jesus we are responsible for the death of Jesus; 2. Jesus freely chooses to give up His life in order to save us. It is all part of the plan of God, His Father.
As I think about the fact that my sinfulness is the turning of my back away from God and from His loving mercy, then I too am responsible for betraying and denying the Lord Jesus and His Father. It is so much less threatening to blame it all on Judas, or the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, or the Romans. It seems to lessen our guilt if we can make Judas (or others)the scapegoat. Yet I am called upon to take responsibility and be accountable for my own breaking off my relationship with Jesus. I need to turn to the Lord Jesus, admit my sinfulness and failings, and seek the mercy of God. Judas’ greater sin was not being able to accept the fact that Jesus would forgive him. I must not become so guilt-ridden that I end up ending my life as Judas did. I need to realize the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation that Jesus offers to me, in and through His suffering, death, and resurrection, especially in and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I also need to realize that Jesus’ suffering and death are part of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus chooses to demonstrate and proclaim God's love by laying down His life for us, for you, and for me in the dramatic fashion of the painful passion. The timing of God includes Jesus being born during the Roman occupation of Judea. Jesus is meant to suffer one of the most, if not the most, painful means of execution devised. His pain is literally excruciating. Jesus suffering is meant to show the extent to which God was willing to go to bring the Good News of the divine love and forgiveness to us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“In her magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the church has never forgotten that ‘sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.’ Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ Himself, the church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus…” (CCC 598)
The readings for today and all this week, although heavy with the impending doom, should also bring us hope and relief. God loves us so much. We should be both overwhelmed by what our sinfulness has done to our relationship with God and also touched by the extremes to which God goes in order to bring us into a closer, restored relationship. This is the purpose of Holy Week, to draw us into the reality of who we are (sinners) in the sight of God and the reality of Who God is, the Lover Who desires to restore us to the full, loving relationship. We should be moved by the events of Holy Week. We should experience the love of God reaching out to us, challenging us, uplifting us, loving us. We should seek to look beyond our own problems and difficulties and give glory, praise, and thanks to God.