Triduum begins tomorrow evening. Today is the culmination of our Lenten journey as we stand at the threshold between what has been this Lenten experience and what is about to come in the next four days. I look back at the liturgical readings for this season and am reminded of the gospel texts informing us, the reader, of numerous people who were against Jesus. It is one thing to have someone on the outside against you. Today, the net surrounding Jesus tightens even more. Things get tough, for now someone in Jesus’ inner circle plots to betray him.
Have you ever been betrayed? Think of the pain of that betrayal and prayerfully share it with the Lord as you read today’s Gospel and the actions and attitude of Judas. As you pray through it, is the wound still tender? Where are you in the process of forgiveness? Betrayal paralyzes you. It feels like a knife has pierced you through the heart and most painful it is from someone you confided, cared about, entrusted part of who you are. When your enemy is outside your circle, its common to keep your defenses up. However, when it comes from inside your circle, your defenses are down and the knife cuts deeper. And what does Jesus do? He doesn’t condemn him, nor does he exclude him from the celebration at the table.
In some ways Judas’ actions make sense. In Judas’ eyes, Jesus hasn’t restored Israel to it’s glory days. He hasn’t fulfilled any of his responsibilities as Messiah. He hasn’t reclaimed the temple. What has Jesus done? To Judas, Jesus’ actions fall short. Judas hears Jesus talking a good talk but there is not the action that Judas would like to see. Remember, Judas was a Zealot. Zealots were men of action. They had no problem murdering Roman Centurions or anyone who kept them from living the way they believed God was asking them to live. They saw their purpose to cleanse Israel of this blight. In Judas’ eyes, Jesus wasn’t doing that. He hears Jesus talking about his kingdom and his new world order but it is not transpiring his way. Where is the action Jesus? Judas wasn’t against the good things Jesus did. But in Judas’ eyes, Jesus didn’t fulfill the task of Messiah. He fell short. Therefore Judas decided he isn’t really the Anointed One whom Israel had been awaiting, and Judas sells him out.
It is not much different than our world today. As divided as we are, so much of our division is about differences in expectations. What we expect our leaders to be, politicians to be, our family to be and even our church to be….. And when it doesn’t fill our expectations what do we do? Are we really that much different than Judas? It is easy stay on board when everything is going well and it is easy to sell out when things begin to seem like they are falling apart. This week is most challenging. Holy Week asks us, how do you stay the course when things are falling apart and you think Jesus is the answer? And in the midst of this call to be disciples of integrity, we watch him succumb to the forces in the universe who seemingly gang up against him. Here is the hero of the Gospels being led to the cross. If anything, this week is a story about expectations and how do we respond when it seems like something has come unwired in the cosmic universe?
Judas saw the gift that was before him in the person of Jesus. Sadly he chose to monetize the gift, an act he later deeply regretted.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the local superior of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.