SCRIPTURE (Matthew 26:14-25)
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
"Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?"
"Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
'The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."'"
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.
When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
"Surely it is not I, Lord?"
He said in reply,
"He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"
He answered, "You have said so."
I would be willing to bet that there are few people in history who are judged, despised, or perhaps even hated as much as Judas. Judas was a follower of Christ- one of the twelve. He traveled with Jesus, heard the teachings, saw the miracles… and he still betrayed Jesus. In the Gospel reading for today, Judas goes to the chief priests and makes a deal to hand Jesus over to them. Not as dramatic as the kiss in the garden, but still not something you would expect from a friend and disciple.
Later in the passage, when the disciples and Jesus are eating, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. When you read or hear this, it is hard to not have a million questions! How did Jesus feel saying that to his friends? How did Judas feel hearing Jesus speak of his betrayal? How did Judas, the man who would betray Jesus, end up as a trusted disciple? Were either of them worried? Did Judas feel guilty? Luckily for Judas, all of the disciples began to say, “surely it is not I, Lord?” Judas also throws his question into the mix and Jesus replies “You have said so.” It is an interesting passage that helps to set the stage for the Triduum, but what does it mean for us today?
I think the main question that comes up when we read or hear this passage is: how could Judas do something like that? We know Judas was the ‘bad’ disciple, so how did the others not see it? Well, hindsight is 20/20. More than that though, I think that this passage is important to us, in part, because of this question. We all give in to sin and temptations at times. Perhaps we have been motivated by greed, pride, embarrassment, or something else. Whatever the reason, we fall. It might start with a little sin, or it might be something larger. We usually do not put in a note in our calendars to mark the dates and times we plan on sinning, it does not matter how much of a display we make of going to church, or how much money we put in the collection. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “It is a mistake to think that the great privilege of living in company with Jesus is enough to make a person holy.” Judas illustrates this point. Although he goes to repent later in Matthew 27, it is clear that even those close to God sin. Lent, therefore, is a great opportunity to review our lives as disciples and return to God. It is a time to honestly consider how we are living for God and where we have room to grow.
During this season of Lent, we focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as a way to return to God. We are all journeying together towards Easter. We know how the story ends, so sometimes we are not as intentional during this season as we could be. Judas reminds us that even those of us who follow Jesus can give into temptation, so we must remain alert. The good news is that, even when we do sin, God is always waiting to welcome us back.
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House, a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20, will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
- What questions arose for you as you read this passage from Matthew?
- Whom do you need to ask for forgiveness? Whom do you need to offer forgiveness?
- Take time to honestly review your life with Christ. Start by focusing on the previous day or two.
- Once you have reviewed your day, take time to call and reconcile with someone.
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
Taylor Baar is the Director of Youth Ministry for Our Lady of Lourdes in Milwaukee. He participated in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and serves on the selection committee for 12plus1.