The Shame of Holy Week

We read Matthew’s account of the betrayal today, but it is set in context by being linked with Isaiah 50. Jesus is not a victim in the sense that we usually use that word. He gives his life; it is not taken from him. But Matthew is harder on Judas than John is. Instead of a last, intimate dialogue which could have led to a different outcome, we have a brazen Judas defying Jesus, almost goading him to unmask him.

Here is the shame of Holy Week, when Truth stands before all our lies and half-lies. There is no confrontation, no attempt to challenge the falsity. The shabbiness of betrayal and deceit is shown up for what it is, but Jesus’ response to Judas is one of anguish, not condemnation. The medieval poets understood this better than most. They move from voice to voice, from Christ to the onlooker and back again, their lines marked with a huge compassion simply expressed. Christ is the noble lord betrayed by his beloved . . . ‘Lovely tear from lovely eye, why dost thou look so sore?’ . . . The believer can only mourn the wrong which results from that betrayal:

With sadness in my song
And grief at what I see
I sigh and mourn the wrong
Upon the gallows-tree.

We are very close to the Sacred Triduum now. Today is a day for confession of sins and a firm purpose of amendment. Sometimes the only way of dealing with shame is to acknowledge the source of it and allow God’s healing grace to flood the soul.

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10 thoughts on “The Shame of Holy Week”

  1. Beautiful, beautiful!
    This evening I will start a retreat that will take me till Sunday. I will continue being with you in prayer till I can read your posts again.
    God’s healing grace flooding the soul…
    Thank you.

  2. Interesting, because where you heard a brazen Judas in today’s Gospel, I heard one who has never fully admitted to himself the real nature of what he is about to do, and so is, in a sense, genuinely shocked to hear his deed named by Jesus – but, tragically, decides to go on and do it anyway.

    • We all hear Judas differently. That is one of the points I’ve been trying to make over the past couple of days, because how we ‘hear’ Judas or anyone else is intimately bound up with our sense of selfhood and our judgement of what happens in life. I’m certainly not arguing that Judas necessarily was brazening things out here, but that is the note I catch in Matthew’s gospel whenever he mentions Judas.

      • Thank you both for your readings of Judas. I hear cowardice.

        The notion that we all something different that relates intimately to our own lives comes alive for me in this week before Easter.

        I echo Terry and Rosemary’s sentiments.

  3. With all this discussion of Judas, I noticed for the first time in the Gospel of John that Jesus answered the disciples’ question as to who would betray Him with “He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And when he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. And Jesus said to him: That which thou dost, do quickly.” (Douay Rheims Version). Can you explain, Sister C, how Jesus’ offering of dipped bread, Judas’ eating it, resulted in Satan entering into him, thus allowing him to betray Jesus? Thank you.

  4. Both yesterday’s and today’s post have made me think of one of my Holy Week traditions that dates back to before I knew what Holy Week was. I listen to the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” It was written back in the early 70s and is the story of Holy Week and the Crucifixion from the viewpoint of Judas. In the story, Judas believes that Jesus has come to deliver the Jewish people, but not that he is the Son of God, and the betrayal very much follows Matthew’s defiant Judas you speak of. Judas speaks, in the play, of Jesus having taken a wrong turn and bringing trouble down on the Jews and his only recourse is to turn Jesus in.
    I know that the musical can be a hot topic, and my intent is not to stir up trouble. My personal issue with it is that Jesus sounds like a wimp. Which I have a hard time imagining

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