Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Betrayal on Wednesday in Holy Week

A reflection on the Gospel for Wednesday in Holy Week, given at Compline in Killodiernan on 20th April 2011

Betrayal is the theme of the Gospel reading we’ve just heard (John 13:21-32).
‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me’, says Jesus to his disciples. Few things hurt as much as to be betrayed by someone who is close to you, someone you love.

Jesus loved and trusted Judas. Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of his inner-circle of twelve closest disciples. Jesus had appointed him to be treasurer of the little group – he held the common purse. And Jesus and Judas had just shared food together in a very special Eucharistic way – what we now call the Last Supper.

Yet Jesus knew quite well Judas was going to betray him. He looked Judas in the eye and said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do’. And Judas went out, out into the night. When they meet again a few hours later, Judas has brought a detachment of soldiers and police to arrest Jesus in a garden just outside the city.

How it must have broken Jesus’s heart to be betrayed by the friend he loved!

But that is not the only betrayal Jesus suffers that night.
We know too that his disciples cannot wait and watch for even 1 hour, as Jesus wrestles with his feelings in prayer. We know that the disciples run away when the soldiers come to arrest Jesus. And we know that Simon Peter, who was brave enough to follow Jesus and his captors back to the High Priest’s house, denies three times he even knew Jesus before the cock crowed.

Lord, who is it?’ says the disciple Jesus loved, at the prompting of Simon Peter. Who will betray you? ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish’, replies Jesus.

 The truth, I feel sure, is that Jesus gave each and every one of his disciples a piece of bread at his Last Supper. They will all betray him, each in his own way.

Would I have behaved any better than the disciples? I don’t think so. I would have sworn blind I did not know Jesus to avoid arrest myself. I’m not as brave as Peter - I would not even have followed to the High Priest’s house – I would have run away like the other disciples. I too would have fallen asleep as my friend and teacher wrestled in prayer. As I did once as I sat while someone I loved lay dying.

How often each one of us has betrayed Jesus, just as the disciples did!
We may not have sold our Lord and Master for 30 pieces of silver, like Judas. But how often have we failed to respond when Jesus asks something of us? How often have we run away, like cowards, from doing what we know is right? How often have we denied our faith when others challenge us?

Yet Jesus knows our human frailty and loves us all despite it, just as he loved his disciples - just as he loved Judas. He will forgive the pain our betrayals cause him if we turn to him in penitence and faith.

A prayer of St Richard of Chichester
Thanks be to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ
for all the benefits Thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults
Thou has borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer,
Friend, and Brother,
may I know Thee more clearly,
love Thee  more dearly,
and follow Thee more nearly,
day by day. Amen.

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