Tuesday of Holy Week
1st Reading: Is 49:1-6
Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Gospel: Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
THE DENIAL OF JESUS: Today several things happen. In the first reading, God desires to restore Israel. This is a message of hope. This restoration shall come through Jesus who has to suffer, die and in the end, conquer death. This quest for salvation brings us to two denials: by Judas and by Peter. In the case of Judas, Satan enters into him and he goes the way of darkness. In the case of Peter, he is strong and is ready to do all. However, in his human weakness, he denies Jesus three times. How many times do we deny Christ, and fail to appreciate and recognise the restoration that he is bringing to our lives? Indeed we are sinners. But after sin, what do we do? Judas went into darkness never to return; Peter went to darkness, but soon repented and came back to Jesus. When we deny and betray Jesus let us come back to him in repentance, like Peter did.
Prayer: Have mercy on me Lord.
“ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME”: There are moments when one feels that one’s efforts have all been in vain. Isaiah seems to be expressing this reality: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.” The prophet, however, recognizes that the word of God he has proclaimed is never in vain. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55,11). He speaks about the restoration of Israel. Jesus, at table with his friends, is aware that one of them is going to betray him. He has spent some time with them, forming them. Has he spent his efforts in vain? Jesus is aware of the weaknesses of those he calls his friends. Since he has loved his friends so much, the betrayal of a friend inflicts a deep wound. Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him and all the rest will run away from him in the moment of trial. Am I set to run away?
ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME: Judas features much in the gospel readings of this week. Themes of betrayal and denial are also highlighted. Besides all the physical suffering that Jesus had to go through, the psychological and emotional pain is even more agonizing. The Son of God seems helpless. Jesus goes through all the implications of being embodied as a human being as he endures the physical pain and psychological trauma; the Word truly became flesh, and so betrayal is a painful human experience. This is mostly so when it comes from someone very close to us, with whom we have shared our plate. This is what the gospels want us to recognize when they keep highlighting the figure of Judas Iscariot. If we just look at these narratives as mere historical accounts, we miss the point. We need to appreciate the experience of Jesus, while acknowledging that we too have the tendencies of Judas.