Today is Wednesday in Holy Week. At sundown tonight the season of Lent officially ends and the sacred triduum begins. The triduum are the last three days of our Lord’s earthly life celebrated as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day!
Our Gospel reading for this day is John 13:21-30. It is Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Let us read it, “Jesus… was troubled in spirit, and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom He speaks.” So the disciple moved even closer to Jesus and said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this bread when I have dipped it.” So when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after Judas received the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why He said this to Judas…. So, after receiving the bread, he immediately went out; and it was night. (Jn 13:21-30)
What on earth happened with Judas? He knew Jesus well. He witnessed many miracles, many healing, and he knew the poverty of most of the people who came looking for Jesus and he also knew the genuine love Jesus had for every one. Judas was so trusted that he had been chosen and called to be an apostle by Jesus Himself. What happened to him that he would now betray his friend for thirty pieces of silver?
Looking at how Judas ignored his heart may be a clue as to what happened to make him change. Judas was acting like a person whose once intense love has now grow cold? Maybe his confidence and enthusiasm for “the way of Jesus” had grown to be merely external and stale. Judas lost his way. Love when it has grown cold becomes stale. But Jesus knew that even cold hearts can be warmed up and made new!
Pay attention to how Jesus identifies His “betrayer.” It was by dipping a piece of His own bread into some oil and giving it to Judas. Seems simple. This was common to do in that day. Often the host would begin the meal by doing just this. Selecting one person and share his bread to show special appreciation to a friend, neighbor or family member. It’s like making that person a guest of honor. Jesus uses this gesture to begin the “Last Supper.” He tells Judas to “go and do what you must” (Jn 13:27) but know “as you leave… you leave as a guest of honor!” How much did Jesus love Judas. In Eucharistic Prayer D we recall the “Last Supper.” We pray, “When the hour had come for Him to be glorified by You, His heavenly Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end… (BCP 374)
It’s important to keep this in perspective. Because we too can struggle with our love growing cold. Things we are deeply committed to can become mere external living. We can loose our passion. Pushing through those “cold times” and persevering is the work of grace helping us in even small everyday things with faith; but “pushing through” must be supported by the humility desiring a beginning again when we go astray through weakness.
Judas found that his love for Jesus was still there. He figured this out. He also realized that he allowed himself to be used by the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus. For Judas his shame was so deep there was no going back. Yet, Jesus loved him, and took that love for Judas with Him to the Cross. He loved Judas to the end.
Jesus loves you. Can you love Him with an everlasting love? Try by opening your heart to grace, and humble yourself before Him and pray for beginning again. Be not afraid, God desires to bless you!