Tag Archives: Judas

Feast of St. Matthias

Thomas

May 14th is the Feast of St.Matthias, chosen by lot to take the place of Judas. He joins the eleven apostles so that the twelve tribes of Israel will be represented when the Holy Spirit comes. Tradition says Matthias brought the gospel to Ethiopia. The Pentecost narrative follows Matthias’ selection in Luke’s account.

The qualifications for a new apostle seem simple enough. Peter says it should be someone “who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us. He joins us as a witness to his resurrection.”

Two have those qualifications. Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias.

Then, they pray:
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.” (Acts 1,15-17, 20-25)

Yet, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. For Matthias to be a witness to Jesus it wasn’t enough to get all the details right about what Jesus did or said, as a reporter or witness at a trial might do it.

In John’s gospel read for Matthias’ feast, Jesus describes a disciple as one who abides in him, who remains in him– a friend committed to him. So, a disciple cannot be just an on-looker, but one who enters the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He’s one who weathers doubts and uncertainties as the disciples listening to Jesus’ Farewell Discourse did. He’s like Thomas who sees the wounds in the Lord’s hands and side and learns to trust and believe through them.

Rembrandt’s wonderful portrayal of Jesus showing his wounds to Thomas (above) presents Thomas, not as a lonely skeptic, but representing all the disciples. All the disciples must come before Jesus’ wounds.

Pope Francis in a homily  spoke of the importance of the wounds of Christ for a disciple of Jesus. We’re on an exodus beyond ourselves, he said, and there are two ways open for us. “one to the wounds of Jesus, the other to the wounds of our brothers and sisters.”

“If we are not able to move out of ourselves and toward our brothers and sisters in need, to the sick, the ignorant, the poor, the exploited – if we are not able to accomplish this exodus from ourselves, and towards those wounds, we shall never learn that freedom, which carries us through that other exodus from ourselves, and toward the wounds of Jesus.”

The wounds of Christ and the wounds of our brothers and sisters– we learn from both to see victory of death and to trust in the passion of Jesus.

Like Matthias, we’re called to be witnesses..

When Does the Passion of Jesus Begin?

Bethany, East Jerusalem

We usually begin the story of the Passion of Jesus with his agony in the garden and end it with his crucifixion, but it’s seen differently in our liturgy. The Passion of Jesus begins on Palm Sunday– also called Passion Sunday– and continues through all the days of Holy Week. The entire week tells the story of his Passion.

When Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he comes to the city he loves; he’s never afraid here, it’s a Holy City to him. From childhood its temple was “ his Father’s house,” where he sat with learned teachers, “listening to them and asking them questions.”(Luke 2, 41-52) Now, those teachers are deciding to put him to death.

In these early days of Holy Week, Jesus stays in Bethany, an enclave of Jerusalem, where he usually stayed, the scriptures indicate. Bethany was where the Galileans encamped when they came for the feasts. He would be surrounded by friends here. Here he raised Lazarus from the dead; they honored him at a meal here. It was hard for the temple police to reach him here.

But suddenly:

“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.” (Matthew 26, 14-15)

Betrayal fell like a dark cloud upon Bethany. He’s no longer safe. His own friends would abandon him, a disciple would betray him.

No need to speculate on what Jesus was thinking; our scripture readings tell us. Like the Prophet Isaiah he has second thoughts: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.”

Wouldn’t Jesus have thoughts of futility, loss of trust, disappointment? Still, like Isaiah he says:
“Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.” (Isaiah 49, 1-6)

“I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.” (Psalm 69)

But he doesn’t turn back; he doesn’t turn away.
“The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

In these early days of Holy Week Jesus faces death in many forms. He faces rejection and betrayal and the prospect of a cruel execution. Before the soldiers roughly treat him, before he’s scourged and mocked and crowned with thorns, before nails are pounded into hands and feet and he dies on the cross, he turns to his Father and sets his “face like flint.” He will go to the Upper Room, near the temple, and give himself to his disciples, in the signs of bread and wine. He will offer them his love. He will go into the garden and earnestly pray to do his Father’s will, because that is why he came.

For commentary on the Passion of Christ see

Wednesday of Holy Week

Lent 1
Readings

The gospels tell us little about the twelve disciples of Jesus. Peter is the best known;  Jesus gave him a special role and also lived in his house in Capernaum.

Then, there’s Judas. Matthew’s gospel has more information about him than any other New Testament source and so we read his gospel  on “Spy Wednesday,”  the day in Holy Week recalling  Judas’ offer  to hand Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver.(Matthew 26,14-25)

“Surely it is not I?” the disciples say one after the other when Jesus announces someone will betray him. And we say so too, as we watch Judas being pointed out. With Peter also we say we will not deny him. But the readings for these days caution us that there’s a communion of sinners as well as a communion of saints.

We are never far from the disciples who once sat at table with Jesus. We’re also sinful. We come as sinners to the Easter triduum, which begins Holy Thursday evening ends on Easter Sunday. We  hope for the mercy Jesus gave to those who left him the night before he died.

“We who wish to find the All, who is God, must cast ourselves into nothingness. God is “I AM; we are they who are not, for dig as deeply as we can, we will find nothing, nothing. And we who are sinners are worse than nothing.
“God, out of nothing created the visible and invisible world. The infinite Good, by drawing good from evil through justifying sinners, performs a greater work of omnipotence than if he were to create a thousand worlds more vast and beautiful than this one. For in justifying sinners, he draws them from sin, an abyss darker and deeper than nothingness itself.” (St. Paul of the Cross, Letter 248 )

O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake

to the yoke of the Cross,

so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy,

grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Lent 1
Readings
The gospels from Monday to Thursday in Holy Week take us away from the crowded temple area in Jerusalem where Jesus spoke before many of his avowed enemies. These days he eats at table with “his own.” In Bethany six days before Passover he eats with Martha , Mary and Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. Mary anointed his feet with precious oil in a beautiful outpouring of her love.

The gospels for Tuesday and Wednesday bring us to the table in Jerusalem where he eats with the twelve who followed him. Love is poured out here too, but these gospels describe a love with great cost. “I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me,” Jesus says to them. Friends that followed him abandon him. Judas dips his hand into the dish with him and then goes out into the night. Peter will deny him three times; the others flee. Jesus must face suffering and death alone.

Are we unlike them?

Does a troubled Jesus face us too, “his own,” to whom he gave new life in the waters of baptism and Bread at his table. Will we not betray or deny? Are we sure we will not go away? The gospels are not just about what’s past; they’re also about now.

We think the saints exaggerate when they call themselves great sinners, but they know the truth. That’s the way St. Paul of the Cross described himself in his account of his forty day retreat as a young man:

“I rejoiced that our great God should wish to use so great a sinner, and on the other hand, I knew not where to cast myself, knowing myself so wretched. Enough! I know I shall tell my beloved Jesus that all creatures shall sing of his mercies.” (Letter 2)

Almighty ever-living God,

grant us so to celebrate the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion

that we may merit to receive your pardon.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.

 

Betrayal

John 13, 21-38

The Gospels for Monday to Thursday in Holy Week take us away from the crowded temple area in Jerusalem where Jesus spoke to the crowds and his avowed enemies and bring us into homes where “his own” join him to eat a meal.

In Bethany six days before Passover he eats with those he loved: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. In Jerusalem on the night before he dies he eats with the twelve who followed him. During the meal in Bethany, Mary anoints his feet with precious oil in a beautiful outpouring of her love.

But the Gospels for Tuesday and Wednesday point not to love but betrayal. Friends that followed him abandon him. Judas betrays him for thirty pieces of silver and goes out into the night; Peter will deny him three times; the others flee. Jesus must face suffering and death alone. (Judas’ Betrayal, J.Tissot)

Are we unlike them? Does a troubled Jesus face us too, “his own,” to whom he gave new life in the waters of baptism and Bread at his table. Will we not betray or deny? Are we sure we will not go away? The Gospels are not just about long ago; they’re also about now.

A Meal in Bethany

IMG_0065
On the Monday of Holy Week John’s gospel (John 12,1-11) calls us to a meal honoring Jesus in Bethany following the resurrection of Lazarus. It’s the last meal recorded in the gospels before the Passover supper. The gift of life that Jesus gives his friend leads to a sentence of death.

Faithful Martha serves the meal; Lazarus newly alive, is at the table. But the one drawing most of our attention is Mary, their sister who, sensing what’s coming, kneels before Jesus to anoint his feet with precious oil and dry them with her hair. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”

The precious oil is an effusive sign of her love and gratitude; it also anoints Jesus for his burial. Only in passing does the gospel mention that evil is in play here. Judas, “the one who would betray him,” complains that the anointing is a waste, but his voice is silenced. Believers are honoring the one they love.

How fitting that Holy Week begins with this gospel when, like Mary, we kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love upon him who pours out his precious life for us.

Spy Wednesday

Matthew 26,14-25

Gospels offer little information about the twelve disciples of Jesus. Peter is best known among them, since Jesus gave him a special role and also lived in his house in Capernaum. Then, there’s Judas.

Matthew’s Gospel gives more information about him than any other New Testament source and so it’s read on “Spy Wednesday,” the day in Holy Week that recalls Judas’ offer to the rulers to hand Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver.

“Surely it is not I?” the disciples say one after the other when Jesus announces someone will betray him. And we say so too, as we watch Judas being pointed out. With Peter also we say we will not deny him.

But the readings for these days caution us that there’s a communion of sinners as well as a communion of saints. We’re also sinful disciples. We are never far from the disciples who once sat at table with Jesus. We come as sinners to the Easter Triduum, which begins the evening of Holy Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday. God shows great mercy; we hope for the forgiveness and new life that Jesus gave his disciples who left him the night before he died.