Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 50:4-91; Matthew 26:14-25)

In Italy abstaining from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays is not unheard of. Of course, the Friday penance commemorates Jesus’ death on the cross. The Wednesday observance similarly recalls Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his disciple.

Although all four gospels speak of the betrayal, Matthew gives the most detail. He speaks of the amount that Judas is paid – thirty pieces of silver – a paltry sum, especially when one considers how vengeful the Jewish leaders feel toward Jesus. Earlier in the gospel, Jesus tells his disciples not to take any silver with them as they preach the Kingdom of heaven. Here Judas takes thirty pieces to turn in the kingdom’s principal preacher. Even more indicative of Judas’ contempt is his calling Jesus “Rabbi” after Jesus predicts his betrayal. Jesus told his disciples not to call anyone “rabbi” (23:8), but Judas feels no pang in defying the Lord’s admonition. Of course, Judas’ betrayal brings about his desolation. As Jesus suggests would happen, Judas hangs himself and his name is recalled with the same infamy as that of Hitler or Pot Pol.

Ironically, some have tried to justify Judas over the centuries. In one novel Judas is portrayed as a kind of co-redeemer because his action brought Christ to the cross. Often these days Judas is seen as doing no more than denying Christ as Peter does. Peter also commits a terrible sin, but he acts out of fear where Judas’ motive is malice or, at best, greed. We should see the possibility of our acting as ignominiously as Judas. We may betray associates for money or for pleasure. Even more seriously, we may betray Christ by openly behaving in obscene or violent ways. Judas is one person we want to avoid imitating.