Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jesus Said: "One Of You Will Betray Me. Before The Cock Crows, You Will Deny Me."

Tuesday of Holy Week
Reading I
Isaiah 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.
Today we read the Second Song of the Servant of Yahweh.

The prophet again speaks in words that apply very suitably to Jesus. Jesus has been called from all eternity to do this work of salvation. He is a “sharp-edged sword” and a “polished arrow”.

God says, “You are my servant in whom I shall be glorified” but Jesus must surely be tempted to say, with Isaiah, “I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing.” Surely it must have looked like that as Jesus hung dying on the cross, his mission a shambles, his enemies victorious and his disciples in total flight. On the cross, Jesus cried out with these heart-rending words: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Yet he had been chosen as a servant so that “Jacob”, i.e. Israel, might be brought back to him. And finally he will be made “glorious in the sight of the Lord” and his God is his strength.

His moments of darkness become the moment of glory. “I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” As indeed has happened. But who, standing at the foot of the cross on that first Good Friday, could have seen the outcome of this ‘failure’?

Yet, that is what we celebrate during this week.

“Coasts and islands…distant peoples.” These are the lands along the Mediterranean and beyond the seas, whom we saw mentioned yesterday. The message of the Servant is for them - and hence for all of us, for me.

“Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name.” The language is similar to that of the call of the prophet Jeremiah (1:5) and of Paul (Galatians 1:15). And, as Christians, we believe that that is true of all of us. “Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ…” (Ephesians 1:4).

"He made my mouth like a sharp sword… made me into a sharpened arrow…” Later, the Letter to the Hebrews will compare the Word of God to a two-edged sword, which penetrates into the deepest recesses of our hearts, bringing both consolation, wisdom and discomfort for our wrongdoings.

“Israel, you are my servant.” Israel here is generally understood not of the nation but of an individual, representing the best that Israel should be. Perhaps we, too, should be less arrogant when we apply the term ‘Christian’ to ourselves, knowing how far we are from what Jesus is calling us to be.

“I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing to no purpose.” As he hung on the cross, his mission apparently a failure and mocked by those bent on destroying him, these words would seem to fit Jesus so well. It will be in the Third and Fourth Songs that we will begin to see the place of all the pain and suffering in the mission of Jesus.

“Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God.” In spite of apparent failure, the cause of Jesus will be vindicated and his mission a success. “Yahweh…formed me in the womb to be his servant.” And the Servant carried out that call to the very end and with wondrous results. We, too, have been in the mind of God from eternity and been given a special call. How do I see that call at this time?

“To bring back Jacob…and to re-unite Israel” - a reference to the release from captivity in Babylon and the return to Jerusalem. But there is the wider connotation of bringing God’s people back to union with him.

And it will not be just Israel because a little further on the passages says: “I shall make you a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the remotest parts of the earth.” The Servant’s mission is the conversion of the whole world to his Way. Together with Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6, this verse is sometimes called the “great commission of the Old Testament” and is quoted in part by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:47. Christ is the light of the world (Luke 2:30-32; John 8:12; 9:5) and Christians reflect his light (Matthew 5:14).

“You are like salt for all mankind… You are like light for the whole world.” Is that the way I see myself? Let me hear Jesus say these words to me as I watch him on the Cross during these days.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 71
I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
I will sing of your salvation.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
John 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.”
A sad moment in the Gospel: double betrayal.

First, that of Judas. Judas is no outsider but one of the inner circle of the Twelve.

Jesus announces solemnly: “One of you is going to hand me over.” The statement comes like a bombshell. For all their weaknesses, they cannot imagine any one of them planning such a thing. Peter asks the Beloved Disciple, who is closest to Jesus to find out who it is. “It is the one to whom I hand the piece of bread after dipping it in the dish,” says Jesus.

Jesus hands over the morsel, a symbol of sharing. It is probably part of the bitter herb, dipped in salt water which was a feature of the Passover meal. Jesus hands it over to the one who will hand him over to those who wish to be rid of him. This is an act of friendship which makes the coming betrayal doubly treacherous. The bitterness of the morsel is also significant.

In that very moment Judas knows he has made his fateful decision as Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” None of the other disciples realised the significance of the words.

As soon as he has left, it is no wonder that the evangelist comments: “Night had fallen.” Yes indeed. It was a moment of utter darkness. This is a gospel which constantly contrasts light and darkness. Yet at that very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of his being glorified and of God also being glorified.

To do this, Jesus is going to leave his disciples. He will leave them in death but he will also leave them to return to the glory of his Father.

Peter, well-meaning but weak, swears that he will go all the way with Jesus, even to death. It is the second betrayal. Worse in some ways. At least Judas made no wild promises. What will save Peter will be the depth of his repentance and later conversion.

We too have betrayed Jesus and those around us so many times. We have broken bread with Jesus in the Eucharist and then turned our back on him by the way we treat those around us. We have promised at confession with his help never to sin again and then gone and done what we have just confessed.

Let us pray that we, like Peter, may weep bitterly for all the wrongs we have done and all the good left undone.


Sarah in the tent said...

“It is the one to whom I hand the piece of bread after dipping it in the dish,” said Jesus.

At the last supper, Jesus gave bread to his disciples with the words 'This is my body'. But here he gives Judas something he simply calls bread, or a morsel, or a sop (depending on the translation). Could it be that Judas was the first to eat and drink without recognizing the body (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) and that this was what set him apart from the other disciples?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

When I was a lad, after I finished the meat, potatoes and vegetables on the plate, I learned to follow the example of my mother (at home) and of her mother, father and sisters (when at my grandmother's house). They picked up a piece of bread, and used it to soak up the gravy from the plate. It seems the same custom was followed in Israel at the time when Jesus and his disciples gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover Meal on the night before He died.

In today's Gospel, from John, it is Jesus who tells Peter which of the disciples is going to betray Him: "the one to whom I hand the morsel". In tomorrow's gospel, taken from Matthew, "It is the one who dips his hand in the dish with me ..."

At the end of today's gospel, Peter says to Jesus, "Why can't I follow you now? I'm willing to lay down my life for you!" Jesus replies, "Will you lay down your life for me? Before the cock crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times."

Still, that's not the end of the story: Peter, by the grace of God, overcame his human weakness, and was martyred for his faith in Jesus. Why did Peter go in one direction and Judas in the other? The answer is simple (that doesn't mean "easy to understand", though: We all have the freedom to make our own choices. We make good choice when we cooperate with God's grace. But few of us cooperate with God's grace all the time.