Today is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday” at least it was when I was growing up in Ireland. However, that was a long time ago. Our son used to refer to those days as “the olden days.” If memory serves me correctly, we began our Easter observances on this day, and we would end on Easter Sunday. Schools would get their Easter vacation on this day.
On Spy Wednesday, we would attend Mass in the evening and every shop or retail store in our town would close to allow their associates the opportunity to attend Mass. Yes, those were the “olden days.”
Our readings today point to Jesus’ betrayal by Judas in Matthews Gospel, this is the one incident that as a child, I often imagined, heaven and earth would hold their collective breath. It has begun. It, being salvation is upon us. There is mystery in the story. It has all been set up in preparation for this event. Could we stretch it to imagine that it goes all the way “from the beginning” as in the creation story in Genesis.
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah offers us what is commonly known as the third Servant Song. These few lines are so familiar to us as most of us recognize the story of Jesus who has been called the suffering servant. He has been portrayed in all the Passion movies as the one who passively accepts his suffering—in love.
It tells us about the Lord God who seems to be the prime mover in these few short verses. They speak of resolve and deep faith in God and offer consolation to those who are suffering, almost like a case statement of faith. As the Psalm goes, “Lord, in your great love, answer me (Psalm 69).” How many times do we call out to our God? Jesus certainly called out to his Father in his hour, and he was comforted by an angel. Who are the angels in your life?
The verses of the Psalm for this day seem to echo the first reading. ”For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. In the same way, these verses loop in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians found in our entrance antiphon for this day. This was the thrust of St. Paul’s understanding of the sufferings of Jesus. He “suffers with us” He understands our pain.
I must admit to being struck by the commitment of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most of us are very familiar with God’s compassion being likened in the Hebrew Scriptures to a mother’s womb “with deep compassion.”
As a mother and grandmother, I am uplifted when I reflect on the closeness, faithfulness, and love that binds us in relationship, together. The self-sacrificing, I can understand, certainly, it is grounded in the love of the other. Yet, how could the Father and the Holy Spirit just allow Jesus to suffer alone; or did they? When I find it very hard to deny a request of another little soul for their good. Not for the first time do I appreciate this commitment to the human race, to me and you. Can we learn from the Trinity in the context of “one-ness”? and new ways in expressing our committed togetherness
This Holy Week, may we come to appreciate the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for humanity in new ways. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.