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Matthew 26:14-25

The Word of God

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so."

Matthew 26:14-25
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Remorse can kill or can purify. The ability to believe we are forgiven is crucial to our spiritual growth. This was the defining difference between Peter and Judas. Vacillating Peter went from the shame of his threefold denial to become the rock on which Christ’s church was founded. Judas could not contemplate the possibility of forgiveness and he went into unimaginable darkness.
    • Blessed John Sullivan urged participants at the start of his retreats: ‘I hope every single one of you will have broken every resolution you made before the end of the week, and if not then, at least in a fortnight.... It will do you good provided you do not flop down and lie there on the broad of your back, saying “It’s no use, it’s all over.” Not a bit of it, it’s not all over, its only beginning. So up with you and start again. Remember each time you fall that you are not back where you were before but are starting again from where you fell.’
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    • The tension in the group of friends is now palpable: they no longer avoid going to Jerusalem, but decide to have the most solemn ritual meal of the year in the city. I make an effort to feel the tension in the reading of today, and to stay with Jesus and his friends as they face the uncertainty of the next few hours.
    • ‘While they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”’ What emotions are hidden in those few words, and in the replies of his friends! Judas had already decided to betray him, yet Jesus still treats him as a close friend. He knows the solemn declarations of the others are mere empty words, yet he still tries to
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    • The word ‘betrayal’ is central in the Passion. It is used five times here. Recall an experience you have had of being betrayed--perhaps you were let down by a friend, or a partner, or perhaps like many Catholics today you feel let down by the Church. How did you react? Did you retaliate, walk away or do your best to forgive?
    • This highlights the depth of love that Jesus shows. He ‘goes to his fate’ but he is loyal all the way. He does not retaliate, no matter how shamefully he is treated. A higher love—divine love-- keeps him going. I thank him for his greatness of heart, and ask that I may never betray him or his values. He promises to help me.
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    • Judas asked the chief priests how much they would give him, if he delivered Jesus into their hands. They paid him thirty pieces of silver – a considerable sum. It seems that all he could do was to indicate a suitable time and place to arrest him.
    • During the Passover meal, Jesus announced who was to betray him. We too may be given lights or indications as to what state we are in during the celebration of the Eucharist.
    • It would be wrong for us to judge Judas. Pope Benedict XVI said "Even though he went to hang himself (Matthew 27:5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God". Matthew's Gospel outlines how Judas repented afterwards and went to the chief priests and elders and brought back the thirty pieces of silver, saying "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:3-4).
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    • Holy Week is an invitation to walk closely with Jesus: we fix our gaze on him and accompany him in his suffering; we let him look closely at us and see us as we really are. We do not have to present a brave face to him, but can tell him about where we have been disappointed, let down - perhaps even betrayed. We avoid getting stuck in our own misfortune by seeing as he sees, by learning from his heart.
    • Help me to see, Jesus, how you do not condemn. You invite each of us to recognise the truth of our own discipleship. You invite us to follow you willingly, freely, forgiven.
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    • In some places this day is known as Spy Wednesday. Judas is the "spy" or sly, sneaky person who secretly approaches the chief priests with the intention of betraying Jesus to them. Like all such "spies" he is looking for a reward and agrees on thirty pieces of silver. The naming of the price is meant to shock us. Is this all that the life of the Son of Man is worth?
    • Jesus only uses words to persuade Judas not to carry out his pact with the chief priests. He takes no other measures which might prevent his arrest. Does this surprise you? Can you understand it?
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    • Look at Judas and watch him – fearfully betraying Jesus. Look at Jesus as his heart goes out to the weakness of disciples. In all sorts of weakness in our lives, the love of God is triumphant. Let him be the strength in your weakness and sinfulness.
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    • Is Judas motivated by anger and disappointment? Had he a different vision of the messianic kingdom than Jesus? Did he resent that Jesus saw through him when he protested at the waste of Mary’s costly ointment at the feast? One thing is clear: he refused to accept Jesus as he was. Like us, he didn’t see that it is we, not God, who must change.
    • The real sin of Judas was not his betrayal; it was rather his rejection of the light. Judas refused to believe in the possibility of forgiveness. Let us not imitate him. No matter what wrong we have done we can turn to Jesus for forgiveness and healing.
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    • It is said that each of us has our ‘price’. Judas was content to betray Jesus for the price of a slave. But our ‘price’ needn’t be in hard cash. It could be our career, success, popularity, comfort, learning and many other things. For what might I betray my Lord?
    • We tend to think of Jesus’ friends as only those who are named in the Gospels or who travel with him. But he had many other friends, like the unnamed man who made him so welcome for the Passover Feast. The same is true to-day. Jesus has many unlikely friends in many unlikely places. We in the Sacred Space community are among them!
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    • It is Spy Wednesday - poor Judas, for ever remembered as the betrayer. His greatest mistake was not that he betrayed Jesus, but that he had no confidence in the Lord's mercy and in his own power to recover from that betrayal, as Peter did.
    • Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you, no matter what I have done.
    • ‘See how the divinity hides itself’ is a suggestion of Saint Ignatius in praying over the passion of Jesus. There is dignity but little divinity obvious at the last supper. The weakness of humanity in body will be the focus of much of the next few hours in the life of Jesus. Pain, torture, indignity and death await him. Prayer these days enters into the suffering of Jesus, and with Jesus into his suffering today in his people, especially in pain, torture, indignity and death inflicted by others.
    • ‘Thirty pieces of silver' has been a negative phrase ever since. It's a way of saying a person was cheated or betrayed. Jesus suffered this much in his passion. Our prayer can be simply to be with him in his suffering, trying to feel as he felt, to think as he thought. We are invited in our prayer in the Passion to see how the divinity hides itself. The man of suffering is the God who still suffers the pain, injustices, greed and betrayal of his people today. God is not impervious to our suffering.
    • I ask for compassion for all who, like Judas, have been brought to a point of denial. I linger on the response of Jesus during these days of his trial.
    • Aware of my own fragility, I ask Jesus for the strength that I need to give witness to his spirit in difficult moments.
    • The disciples had come a long journey to bring them to this point. Now, the depth of their discipleship would be challenged. I consider the journey I have travelled to arrive, with Jesus at my side, at this Sunday before Holy Week. I receive strength as Jesus shares himself with me; I ask that I may stand by him in the difficult moments too.
    • I think of the characters in the gospel story and see where I can recognise myself among them: some profess their faith; some do as they are asked; some do simply what others do; some disappear in the moment of crisis.
    • Demonstrations, mobs, movements and crowds bring energy and life but they do not teach me about discipleship. The exuberance and welcome that Jesus received and entering Jerusalem was short-lived; those who would stand by him would be few. I think of how I can be carried along by popular movements, forgetting where my true value lies.
    • Thirty pieces of silver was a high price; Jesus has often been betrayed for less. The deal does not always involve money; the currencies of comfort, popularity, influence and power are often acceptable forms of payment.
    • Although he saw that he might be betrayed, Jesus did not turn from the disciples or from giving himself to them. He did not let their distress silence him but spoke the truth to them, knowing it would be unwelcome.