Wednesday of Holy Week

April 17, 2019 |

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?” He said, “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.”
Matthew 26: 14-25

St. John of the Cross
We saw this text on Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent. It is repeated here because Jesus is betrayed by one of his followers. This betrayal will lead Jesus into his dark night of feeling abandoned by all, including his Father.

“Such persons also feel forsaken and despised by creatures, particularly by their friends. David immediately adds: You have withdrawn my friends and acquaintances far from me; they have considered me an abomination [Ps 88:8 {Ps 87:9}]. Jonah, as one who also underwent this experience, both physically and spiritually in the belly of the whale, testifies: You have cast me out into the deep, into the heart of the sea, and the current surrounded me; all its whirlpools and waves passed over me and I said: I am cast from the sight of your eyes; yet I shall see your holy temple again (he says this because God purifies the soul that it might see his temple); the waters encircled me even to the soul, the abyss went round about me, the open sea covered my head, I descended to the lowest parts of the mountains, the locks of the earth closed me up forever [Jon. 2:4–7]. The ‘locks’ refer to the soul’s imperfections that hinder it from enjoying the delights of this contemplation.” (N 2.06.3).

Probably one of the hardest experiences we will ever undergo in our lives is to be betrayed by a friend. When it happens, we feel confused, stunned and hurt. How could the one we had placed so much trust in let me down at a time like this? is a question that many of us ask during such times. Jesus too knew of this experience of being betrayed by one of those he had called to follow him; and when Judas had left, Jesus was plunged into a dark night where he was to experience the abandonment of his friends, his people, and even his God.

When we undergo like experiences, there are no words to comfort us. John of the Cross says not to trouble such people because they are beyond the consolation of words. The best one could do is to be present and as supportive as one can.

While the way out for an immediate relief seems closed, John of the Cross, sees a lot of good coming from such experiences. This is because he sees that through this experience of the dark night, the soul grows in its capacity to see God’s temple and thus, be able to live in God’s presence.

For John of the Cross, there is always more to God because God cannot be contained by the limits of our own understanding nor the limits of our own unredeemed hearts. As a result, God needs to stretch us through suffering so that we may be able to grow in our capactity to experience him.

As we follow Christ in the dark night of his passion may we draw strength from his example to remain faithful to him when we undergo the same.

Lord God, your Son saw in the betrayal of his apostle the beginning of that suffering that would lead to his death on the Cross. Grant, we ask, that we may remain loyal to him and to you when all else fails, and so merit to be true brothers and sisters in the example of Christ our Lord. We ask this in his name. Amen.

Adapted from A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and St. John of the Cross by Fr. George Mangiaracina O.C.D.

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