Wednesday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 50:4-91; Matthew 26:14-25)
In Italy abstaining from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays is still sometimes practiced. Of course, the Friday penance commemorates Jesus’ death on the cross. The Wednesday abstinence similarly recalls Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his disciple.
Although all four gospels speak of the betrayal, Matthew gives the most detail. He tells us Judas is paid thirty pieces of silver for the treason. This is a paltry sum when one considers the enmity 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 main preacher. More indicative of his contempt of Jesus is Judas’ calling him “Rabbi.” Jesus told his disciples not to use that title for anyone (23:8). But Judas defies the mandate. Of course, Judas’ betrayal brings about his destruction. As Jesus suggests would happen, Judas hangs himself. And even today 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 co-redeemer because his action brings Christ to the cross. Often these days Judas is seen as no worse than Peter when he denies Jesus. Yes, Peter commits a terrible sin. However, he acts out of fear and the difference between betrayal and denial is multiple. Nevertheless, we should see the possibility of our acting as ignominiously as Judas. We may betray associates for money or for pleasure. We may betray Christ by feigning to be a “good Christian” and leading a double life. Judas is one person we want to avoid imitating.