Wednesday of Holy Week
Reading 1 IS 50:4-9A
The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
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.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
Responsorial Psalm PS 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 AND 33-34
R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
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.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Verse Before The Gospel
Hail to your, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our errors.
Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.
Gospel MT 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.”
This indeed is the tragedy for many of us. Even priests and religious are not exempted. We enter into a priestly or religious vocation but along the way we are tainted by the lure of the world; pleasure, power and money; so much so we forget our original intention of responding to a religious vocation. Or it could be because of sufferings in the ministry; being misunderstood and unappreciated, we give up. Most of all, many suffer from disillusionment when we see others not doing what they should be doing and the authorities seem to be supporting the rich, the powerful and the influential. What I say to priests apply to all in Church ministries and full time workers in the Church. Many respond to the call of service and the spread of the gospel with good intentions, but end up fighting for position, power and honour, and squabbling for recognition. In some cases, the politics, injustice and discrimination is so rife, one cannot but give up hope and faith in the institution, if not Christ as well. Otherwise, the lack of support and appreciation from the community will lead one to discouragement and despondence.
Even in the area of personal life, we too can lose focus. Those who are married start with the great hope of building a loving relationship with their spouse and raising up a loving, caring and supportive family. Along the way, many lose their focus. They do not spend time with their spouse, share their life, their joys and sorrows, their successes and trials, aspirations and fears. Couples take each other for granted and hardly spend time with each other. As a result they grow more and more distant until they no longer feel with and for each other. With the lack of intimacy and personal sharing, they lose touch of each other. When love wanes, the vacuum in their lives is either filled by ambition, responsibilities, career or another person. This is how affairs always begin. What has happened to their dream of having each support, love, care, encourage and inspire the other, staying by each other’s side, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in riches and poverty till death to them part? Infidelity to one’s partner is so common today that trust in the institution of marriage has eroded. This explains why partners who are equally accomplished in their careers prefer to cohabitate than marry today than risk the messy process of getting a divorce.
Even for those of us who are career minded. The intention of earning more money and to be successful in career and business is to provide a good life for our spouse, children and loved ones. Money is a means to an end; not the end itself. Then again, we forget our original purpose. We get so caught up with our career, fame, money and power that we neglect our family. We become strangers to our children and spouse. We end up as financial providers, bursary dispensers and discipline masters. At the end of the day, with all our success and money, do we really bring happiness, love and unity to the family? True happiness in life is when we are with our loved ones, sharing, caring, laughing, joking and doing things together as a family.
Today, Jesus teaches us how to remain focused on our vision and mission in life. Although troubles were ahead of Him, even death, Jesus was unshaken. Doggedly and with singularity of purpose, He proceeded towards Jerusalem, the place of His passion and glory. He did not shrink from fear. Deliberately, He told His disciples that they would meet for the Passover Meal. The way Matthew described it seems as if it was all pre-planned by the Lord. He instructed the disciples, “Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, ‘The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.’” Earlier on in His ministry, when the disciples were searching for Jesus, He said, “’Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” (Mk 1:38f)
What is the secret to remaining focused? Firstly, we must again and again remind ourselves of our vision, mission and purpose of what we are doing. It is not enough to just keep on doing and repeating what we are doing each day without a deliberate intention and focus. We must not allow routine to set in and make us act like robots. Rather, we must be intentional in what we do each day, like the Suffering Servant in the first reading. “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, so that I may know how to reply to the wearied. He provides me with speech.” His calling was to give hope and encouragement to the weak and those who are tired. This too was the mission of Jesus when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)
Secondly, we must pray and listen. The suffering servant said, “Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.” We are told that similarly, the Lord also woke up early in the morning to pray and listen to His Father. “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” (Mk 1:35) This is the secret of our Lord. Intimacy with the Father, basking in His love and dialogue with Him is the key, the strength and passion for His ministry. Many of us do not pray to God. Neither do we have intimacy with our loved ones. This is why we lose our passion, zeal and capacity to love.
Thirdly, we must trust in the power of God to save us. Jesus did not take things into His own hands, unlike Judas who tried to force the hand of God to act. Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus relied on the defence that came from God. “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults. So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.” We too must remember that success is not all hard work and strategy, but everything is in the hands of God. So we must entrust our work to God’s hand and not think that we can do it our way always. This was what the Suffering Servant and the Lord did. “In your great love, O Lord, answer my prayers for your favour. Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength.”
Fourthly, we must never retaliate. “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.” Jesus taught us this in the sermon on the mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Mt 5:38-41) We must act, not react. To act means to think through carefully without vested interest how we should best respond to a situation, for the good of the enemy and for the greater good of the community.
Finally, we must at all times keep a clear conscience. This was what the Suffering Servant said, “My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together. Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me. The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me? They shall all go to pieces like a garment devoured by moths.” If we are true to our conscience, no one can condemn us. Even if they do, the Lord will liberate us, as He did even upon death, as was the case of our Lord. If we have done all we could for the good of others and for the glory of God without any self-interest or personal gain, we should not be too concerned about failure or success.
In the light of this reflection, would you also say with Judas to the Lord, “Not I, Lord, surely?” Are we so sure we have not betrayed the Lord? Before we cast a stone at Judas and those whom we condemn, we need to have a good look at ourselves. The tragedy,, as Jesus remarked, is that the one “who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me.” We are the ones because we have dipped ourselves into the waters at baptism and received the Eucharist, sometimes even daily. Yet our lives contradict our dignity as the disciples of Jesus. Perhaps, the same could be applied to us, “Better if we had not been baptized!” Let us regain our focus in life and as a Christian as we reflect on the passion of our Lord. If we have betrayed Him, let us redirect our lives once again and focus on Him and His mission for us.
Commentary on Matthew 26:14-25 from Living Space
The stage is being set for the final drama of Jesus’ mission. Judas has gone to the chief priests to make a deal for handing Jesus over to them. This term ‘handing over’ is like a refrain all through the Gospel and reaches a climax here. John the Baptist was handed over. Now we see Jesus being handed over – the term occurs three times in today’s passage. Later, the followers of Jesus will also be handed over into the hands of those who want to put an end to their mission.
Judas sells his master, hands him over, for 30 pieces of silver. Only Matthew mentions the actual sum given to Judas. The sum derives from a passage in Zechariah (11:11-13), where it is the wages paid to the shepherd (Zechariah himself) rejected by the people. He is then told by God to throw the money into the Temple treasury as a sign of God’s rejecting those who reject him. (Judas, too, will throw back the money to the priests after realising what he has done.)
What people will do for money! Judas is not alone. What he did is happening every day. Perhaps I, too, have betrayed and handed over Jesus more than once.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus’ disciples ask him where he wants to celebrate the Passover. Little do they know the significance of this Passover for Jesus – and for them.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover are closely linked but there is a distinction between them. The Passover was the commemoration of the Israelites being liberated from slavery in Egypt, their escape through the Red Sea (the Sea of Reeds?) and the beginning of their long trek to the Promised Land. The feast began at sunset after the Passover lamb had been sacrificed in the temple on the afternoon of the 14th day of the month Nisan. Associated with this on the same evening was the eating of unleavened bread – the bread that Jesus would use when he said over it “This is my Body”. The eating of this bread continued for a whole week (to Nisan 21) as a reminder of the sufferings the Israelites underwent and the hastiness of their departure. It was a celebration of thanks to God for the past and of hope for the future.
Jesus tells the disciples they are to contact a man who will provide all that they need for a Passover meal.
During the meal Jesus drops the bombshell: “One of you is about to betray me (in the Greek, ‘hand me over’). It is revealing that none of them points a finger at someone else. “Is it I, Lord?” Each one realises that he is a potential betrayer of Jesus. And, in fact, in the midst of the crisis they will all abandon him.
Nor is it one of his many enemies who will hand Jesus over. No, it is one of the Twelve, it is someone who has dipped his hand into the same dish with Jesus, a sign of friendship and solidarity.
All of this has been foretold in the Scriptures but how sad it is for the person who has to take this role, even though it is a role he has deliberately chosen. There is a certain cynicism when Judas asks with an air of injured innocence, “Not I, Rabbi, surely?” “They are your words,” is Jesus’ brief reply.
The whole approaching drama is now set in motion.
Let us watch it carefully during the coming three days not just as spectators but as participants. We too have so often betrayed Jesus, we too have so often broken bread with Jesus and perhaps have sold him for money, out of ambition, out of greed, out of anger, hatred, revenge or even violence for our own personal gain.
We can, like Judas, either abandon him in despair or, like Peter, come back to him with tears of repentance.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• Matthew 26, 14-16: The Decision of Judas to betray Jesus. Judas took the decision after Jesus did not accept the criticism of the disciples concerning the woman who wastes a very expensive perfume only to anoint Jesus (Mt 26, 6-13).
• Matthew 26, 17-19: The preparation for the Passover. Jesus was coming from Galilee. He did not have a house in Jerusalem. He spent the night in the Garden of Olives (cf. Jn 8, 1). In the days of the feast of the Passover the people of Jerusalem increased three times in number because of the enormous number of pilgrims who went there from all parts.
• Matthew 26, 20-25: The announcement of the betrayal of Judas. Jesus knew that he will be betrayed. In spite of the fact that Judas did things secretly. Jesus knew. But in spite of that, he wants to act fraternally with the group of friends to which Judas belongs. When all were together for the last time, Jesus announces who is the traitor “Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me”.
• What strikes in the way in which Matthew describes these facts? Between the denial and the betrayal there is the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26, 26-29): the betrayal of Judas first (Mt 26, 20-25); the denial of Peter and the flight of the disciples, afterwards (Mt 25, 30-35). Thus, he stressed for us the incredible gratuitousness of the love of Jesus, which exceeds the betrayal, the denial and the flight of the friends. His love does not depend on what others do for him.
• In Holy Week it is important to reserve some moments to become aware of the unbelievable gratuity of God’s love for me.
build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,
rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.
Father of orphans, defender of widows,
such is God in his holy dwelling. (Ps 68,4-5)
The counter-response of Jesus “They are your own words” was not one of judgment but a call to sincere examination of his words. So proud was Judas that even after betraying Jesus and stricken by his conscience for what he did, he was not humble enough to even ask for forgiveness. Instead, so ashamed was he that he sold out his master that he took his own life. Judas indeed died a tragic death, not just physically but most of all in his soul. Jesus’ remark that it would be better that Judas not be born was thus perhaps uttered in realization of the tragedy that would eventually befall the latter.What about us, how do we react to those who betray us? Of course we cannot but feel hurt, especially when those who betrayed us are closest to us, such as our spouse, family members, friends and associates in the workplace or partners in business. The thought of the pain and suffering they caused us make it so difficult to forgive them and to forget. Such betrayals are many. Most of the time traitors are tempted by influence, power and money. Instead of reacting with anger, vindictiveness or curses, we should come to realize that the betrayers who cheat us will, in the final analysis, cheat themselves most.
Those who do evil will eventually be like Judas, destroyed by their treachery. So they are more to be pitied than to be condemned. By sinning against us, they will only cause greater harm to themselves, especially when we have loved them and sacrificed so much for them. Their greed and pride will overwhelm them and their conscience will condemn them for their deceitful ways. They will have no peace, joy or true freedom of heart. This is true for all those who betray their spouse or their friends. Truer still for those who do not live a life of integrity because their conscience is being hurt and it will take its revenge subtly by manifesting itself in anger, agitation, restlessness, fear and anxiety. Their conscience will condemn them and the consequences of their guilt will bear themselves out in daily life events and a repetition of history.
Indeed, because their sins will punish them already, we are called to show compassion as Jesus did to Judas and His enemies. Rather than taking things into our own hands, we are invited to be like the Suffering Servant in the first reading. We read how the Suffering Servant dealt with his adversaries. He said, “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.” By not retaliating, he showed himself to be stronger than his opponents. But how can anyone of us take injustices done to us lying down?
Well, in the first place, we must recognize that we too have, many times in our lives, betrayed the people we love, our friends, colleagues and our superiors and most of all, God Himself. How many times have we cheated on our friends? How many times have we broken our promises? How many times have we betrayed the trust given to us, whether it is with regard to confidential matters or responsibilities? Even if one thinks that he or she has been faithful, surely, we cannot say that it is true when it comes to fidelity to Christ and to our faith! By the evil and sinful actions and words in our lives, we have betrayed Jesus again and again, more than what Peter and Judas did. By failing to live up to the faith we profess, we are counter witnesses to Christ and therefore in a real sense, we too have betrayed the Lord, for because of us, He is not believed and loved less. So let us not pretend to be innocent of betrayal! In fact, we have hurt Jesus so deeply a thousand times more than anyone else who has betrayed us. We deserve a more severe punishment than anyone else, but the Lord did not retaliate. Instead, He accepts our “insult and spittle.”
Secondly, if people have betrayed us, let us commend them and our sufferings to the Lord, as the Suffering Servant did and as Jesus did on the cross. The former said, “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults. So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed. My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together. Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me. The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me? They shall all go to pieces like a garment devoured by moths.” So long as we are faithful to God and to our conscience, the Lord will avenge us. We need not take such matters into our own hands. Let the Lord vindicate us and He will do so in His own time. Our enemies, detractors and traitors will have to answer for their sins. So there is no need to take revenge. At any rate, the punishments that come from their sins are already too heavy for them.
Thirdly, when we suffer, let us remember that we do not suffer for ourselves alone. That would be self-defeating. If the sufferings can purify us, make us stronger and more compassionate, then that suffering is not carried in vain. But beyond suffering for our own sanctification, let us suffer for the sinners and those who hurt us, so that through our redemptive suffering they might be converted. For this reason, we are called to suffer for Jesus and with Jesus for the salvation of the world. Like the psalmist, we share in His spirit saying, “It is for you that I suffer taunts, that shame covers my face, that I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons. I burn with zeal for your house and taunts against you fall on me.” (Ps 69: 7-9)
Yes, those who trust in the Lord more than themselves will always find help and strength from the Lord. Like the psalmist, we can then pray, I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving: “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” God will be on our side. The death and resurrection of Christ shows us that truth and justice have the last word, not falsehood and evil. In the final analysis, good will triumph over evil, life over death. Prayer and faith in God is the way to transcend those who hurt us.
Finally, let us also pray that in such difficult and painful moments in our lives, we will respond correctly and not cause the situation to become worse, especially by falling prey to their traps. When we are angry, resentful and revengeful, we are simply perpetuating, or rather, accentuating, the wrongs others have already done to us. Let the past be past. Instead, let us live in the present and make the most of the situation as a learning curve and means for our purification in life. For that to happen, we must always bring our problems to the Lord like the way the Suffering Servant did. “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, so that I may know how to reply to the wearied. He provides me with speech. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.” Truly, listen to the voice of the Lord and obey Him and we will find peace in our soul.
Tags: betrayal, I have become an outcast to my brothers a stranger to my mother's sons, I will glorify him with thanksgiving, I will praise the name of God in song, Is 50:4-9a, Judas, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin, Judas was disillusioned with Jesus, Mt 26:14-25, our dignity as the disciples of Jesus, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 69, Spy Wednesday, thirty pieces of silver, Those who do evil will eventually be like Judas, Wednesday in Holy Week, who will dare to condemn me, Yet our lives contradict our dignity as the disciples of Jesus, you who seek God may your hearts revive