Monday, April 10, 2017

Tuesday of Holy Week

“Last Supper” by Pieter Pourbus, 1548
Reading 1: Isaiah 49:1-6
Commentary on Is 49:1-6
In this passage, the beginning of the second of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracles, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of his own call of service to God. It presents him as “another Jeremiah.”  He is called from his mother’s womb (see Jeremiah 1:5). The prophet has a vocation to the gentiles (Jeremiah 1:10Jeremiah 25:15ff) to bring a message of both doom and happiness (Jeremiah 16:19-21).[4] We note that God sets his servants on their course from before their birth (see also Luke 1:15 (St. John the Baptist), Luke 1:31 (Jesus) and Galatians 1:15 (St. Paul the Apostle)).
The servant learns that, even at times when his effort seems to have failed (“Though I thought I had toiled in vain…”), that it is God’s strength and plan that succeeds (“…my recompense is with my God”)(see also 1 Corinthians 4:1-5). The prophet’s role is expanded at the end of the passage to “…reach to the ends of the earth,” a revelation further elaborated in Genesis 12:3Luke 2:31-32; and Acts 13:47.
CCC: Is 49:1-6 713; Is 49:5-6 64
R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.
Psalm 71 is an individual lament. In this section we hear a profession of faith in the saving power of God. In the third strophe, we also find another reference to the idea that God calls his servants from before they were born, from their mothers' wombs. In all cases the servant is known by God and prepared for his service from the womb.
Commentary on Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
This selection from the narrative of the “Last Supper” continues the story of the final hours of Jesus’ time with the disciples following the washing of their feet. First we hear of Judas’ departure from the table to betray the Lord. We note with interest St. John’s use of imagery as Judas is led by the devil to his actions: “So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.” Then we are told of Jesus’ discourse with Peter and his prediction of Peter’s denial. Again we see in the description not just the Lord’s prediction of his own death. There is also the indication that Peter would follow him in death for God’s greater glory.
The betrayal of Judas sets the stage for all that takes place during Holy Week.  Like a game of chess superbly played, Jesus sets up his own sacrifice as he allows Judas to do what must be done.  He did not induce Judas to betray him, but that betrayal must happen if final victory is to be achieved. 
Judas is not, as some literature would have us believe, an unwitting dupe in this saga.  Judas was called, just as Peter and just as the disciple Jesus loved.  Judas was loved, just as all of Jesus’ closest friends were loved.  However, at some point a flaw in his character rose to the surface.  It could have been, as some have suggested, that he felt the only way to force Jesus to take up the mantle of the Royal Messiah was to put him in harm’s way.  If Judas was a Zealot, this would have made sense, because the Zealots wanted to throw off the Roman yoke of domination through any means possible.
Judas’ betrayal could also have been a result of pure greed, as the Gospel of St. John suggests when the Lord was in the house of Lazarus: “…he [Judas] was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.”  Although thirty pieces of silver, the supposed price he was paid for the betrayal, seemed rather low for such a deed.
The lever, pulled by Satan, that turned Judas will never be known.  It died with him when he too fulfilled the Lord’s prophecy when he said: “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." (Matthew 26:24)  What becomes clear is that, as in all wicked actions, there was one who had been cast out of the Heavenly Kingdom who was cheering Judas on; making it sound like what he was doing was the right thing to do.
For us, as we reflect upon Judas’ deed and how events will unfold as a consequence, we pray fervently that we will have the strength to always be faithful to Christ and never fall into betrayal as Judas did, who was from that moment accursed throughout history and indeed all time.

[1] The picture used is “Last Supper” by Pieter Pourbus, 1548
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.267-68

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