Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Appointed Time Draws Near. I Want To Celebrate The Passover With You.

Today’s First Reading echoes Isaiah’s meditation on the gifts he has received from the LORD. He has learned to speak words that pierce through people’s boredom. He has learned to keep his inner ear attuned to the promptings of God’s voice. He has learned patience in the face of suffering, when his own face is slapped and spat upon. He has learned that the LORD God is with him, and that he has nothing to fear. That is why he has “set [his] face like stone”, trusting that he will not be put to shame. Today’s reading adds a challenge from the Prophet to his opponents: “Who is my accuser? Let him meet me face to face! The LORD is on my side; who can condemn me?”

This day is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday”, a reminder of the central theme of today’s gospel: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. He went to the Sanhedrin and asked them “How much are you willing to give me if I hand him over?” They answered “Thirty shekels.” Silver coins, called “shekels of Tyre” were the only money accepted at the Temple in Jerusalem. They were just about equivalent to the silver dollar, in the days when silver dollars were common coinage, and the wages of the average worker were $100 a week, before taxes.

The covenant between Judas and the Chief Priests took place on the afternoon before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first day of Passover, which began at sundown. At the same time, other disciples approached Jesus and asked him where he wanted them to make arrangements for the Seder meal. He told them to go to a man in the city that had a banquet hall he rented out for special occasions. They were to say, "The Rabbi says, 'My appointed time draws near; I want to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house." They did what Jesus asked, and made preparations for the Seder supper.

That evening, while they were at table, Jesus said, “One of you is going to hand me over.” They were stunned, and started to ask him, one after the other, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?”

Jesus told hem, “The one who dips his piece of matzo into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man is beginning a journey that has been well-marked by the Scriptures. As for the man who turns him in – better for him if he’d never been born!” Then Judas, who betrayed him, asked, “Surely not me, Rabbi?” "You’re the one who says so", Jesus answered.

Judas is neither a master of evil nor an image of the satanic power of darkness. Rather, he is a sycophant (a servile, self-serving flatterer – Merriam-Webster), who bows down before the anonymous power of changing moods and current fashions. But it is precisely this anonymous power that crucified Jesus, for it was anonymous voices that cried, out, “Away with him! Crucify him!” (Pope Benedict XVI)

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