Betrayal: Tuesday of Holy Week 2021

Today, as we eavesdrop on the dialogue about betrayal between Jesus and Peter (cf John 13) we are confronted with a bleak truth. We all know the pain of being betrayed, but we are less likely to ackowledge the pain of betraying others. Yet that is exactly what we do, all the time! The tragedy is that we do not always recognize the ways in which we let others down, or we impersonalise them so that they remain ‘other’ and never take on an individual, human face. The UK’s reduction in its aid budget, from 0.7 to 0.5% of GDP, is not just a scaling down by one of the world’s most generous givers, it is also a betrayal of those who were relying on it to fund healthcare and education projects, for example. Then there are the more obviously personal betrayals: the broken promises, the cheating on relationships, the selfish choice we make.

As we go deeper into Holy Week, it would be good to take stock. Instead of worrying about how others have hurt us, perhaps we could spend a few moments thinking how we have hurt others, asking forgiveness if we can, but at any rate resolving not to fall into old patterns of behaviour. It can be helpful to look at what drives us to betray others. It may be money, the need to appear successful, even laziness. For each of us it will be different, but discovering our own weakness may enable us to understand better the betrayals of Judas and Peter, and the loneliness Christ experienced as a result.


Facing Facts

There is a line in today’s first Mass reading (Isaiah 49.1–6) that may have haunted Jesus during the course of this week:

I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing.’

How many of us have felt like that when something we cared about greatly has ended in apparent failure? It may have been a project or a relationship, even what we understood to be our vocation in life. Was Jesus troubled by such thoughts in the days between his entry into Jerusalem and his anguish in Gethsemane, the thought that he had failed his Father, failed in his mission? Failure is hard to bear and is made harder still when we believe we have done everything we can to ensure success. We cannot even comfort ourselves, if that is the right word, with a regretful ‘if only I had done so and so.’ There was nothing more we, or Jesus, could do; there are no alternative scenarios we can invent to take refuge in, we must simply face facts.

Facing facts is what Holy Week is about: facing the facts of sin and death and seeing how they are transformed by Jesus’ acceptance of death on the cross and his resurrection on Easter morning. This is the week when Jesus’ love and trust were tested to the utmost, when he plumbed the depths of human despair and suffering and rose triumphant. We must do the same. We must learn afresh our need of God, experience again our utter reliance on him, if we are to share his resurrection. That will mean, for most of us, plumbing the depths of our own sin and failure, bringing to God all that we are, all that we have failed to be, trusting, as Jesus and the prophet Isaiah trusted, that

all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.


True Glory: Tuesday of Holy Week 2016

‘Glorified’ is a word we rarely use today except in a dismissive or sarcastic sense, e.g. ‘a glorified B and B’ means an inferior hotel, a pretentious establishment with no substance to its claims. It is a word, however, that we shall hear again and again during Holy Week. Today it occurs in both Mass readings. In the passage from Isaiah, (Is 49.1–6), the Lord is quoted as saying ‘You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified.’  In the gospel (Jn, 13.21–33, 36–38) as soon as Judas has gone out, Jesus says

Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

The compilers of the lectionary wanted us to make the connection between the Servant and the Son, but is there something more, something this word ‘glorification’ and its analogues is meant to convey? What is the true glory here?

Clearly, the obedience of both the Servant and the Son is crucial to our understanding of what is going on. We sometimes forget that it was not Christ’s death as such that redeemed us but his obedience to the Father — which necessarily involved death on the Cross. The vocation of the Servant in Isaiah transcends his own earlier imaginings, his all-too-human conception of success and failure; so too with the Son. At the very moment Judas sets out to betray him, Jesus utters his passionate declaration that he is already glorified, that God is glorified in him. As so often in John, the words read like the choreography of a divine embrace, with Father and Son rapt in love and mutual trust and understanding. For now, we are outside, we cannot follow, we cannot share. Like Peter, we protest our love and devotion, but to no avail. Only when the Son of Man is lifted up will he draw all to himself. Only then will we too be glorified in him and share that divine embrace.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Tuesday of Holy Week 2015

Today’s gospel, John 13.2–33, 36–38, gives the lie to the idea of Jesus’ serenely going to his Passion and Death, completely untroubled in mind or body. Instead we see him ‘troubled in spirit,’ blurting out his distress at what he knows will happen, and then a brief, sad exchange with the friend who will betray him. All this to the accompaniment of the disciples’ baffled incomprehension. They are still in Palm Sunday mood, looking forward to the Passover, expecting great things of Jesus. Simon Peter is full of cheerful courage, ready to make the most extravagant declarations of love and fidelity. We know how it will end, but we are destined to go on every step of the way, with nothing changed or lessened in intensity.

I think Tuesday in Holy Week has its own special dynamic. Many of us are putting the finishing touches to our liturgical and domestic preparations. By Wednesday we shall be so close to the Triduum that we shall mentally be inhabiting its space, but today there is still some distance. We are distant, too, from the joyful celebration of Palm Sunday. Then, like a stone falling into a still pool, comes the narrative of betrayal, sending out ripples of horror in all directions. Today acts as a kind of reality check on Holy Week. We can’t close our eyes to the pain and suffering caused by a complex web of relationships and an equally complex chain of events. The only thing we can do is try to embrace it as honestly as we can. Much of our life has similar moments, but today assures us that, wherever we go, whatever we experience, Jesus has been there before us. There is a wise saying of Julian of Norwich which expresses how grace transforms our failures, if we will but let God act:

Grace transforms our failings full of dread into abundant, endless comfort … our failings full of shame into a noble, glorious rising … our dying full of sorrow into holy, blissful life. …. Just as our contrariness here on earth brings us pain, shame and sorrow, so grace brings us surpassing comfort, glory, and bliss in heaven … And that shall be a property of blessed love, that we shall know in God, which we might never have known without first experiencing woe.


Tuesday of Holy Weeek 2013: Varieties of Betrayal

Today we read the gospel of the betrayal at Mass. When we come to the words ‘Night had fallen,’ we know that the darkness which envelops us is within as well as without. There are many varieties of betrayal, not all of them as easy to identify as that of Judas. The ‘white lie’, the covert act of selfishness, the shabby evasion of responsibility, even the unconvincing ‘justifications’ we concoct in our pathetic attempts to excuse ourselves to ourselves, they are all a betrayal of what we know to be true. Today is a day to think about the ways in which we who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour betray him by adopting ways of behaviour inconsistent with the gospel — not to beat ourselves up about them, but to ask mercy and forgiveness and firm purpose of amendment.

The tragedy of Judas is that he finally saw the awfulness of what he had done but forgot the infinite mercy and compassion of God.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail