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Big and Small Betrayals
Wednesday of Holy Week
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray well so I can continue to be close to you during this very special week and understand you better.
- Judas a Betrayer?: When Jesus said that one of them would betray him, the disciples didn’t all immediately think of Judas. In fact, each one thought it might be himself. Most of the disciples didn’t see Judas as being any different from themselves. Only John seemed to know that Judas was stealing from the common purse, but perhaps he only found out later, after Jesus’s death. The Lord was the only one at the table who knew what was in the hearts of his followers. Still today, only Jesus can judge the hearts of men.
- Could I Betray Jesus?: Why did the disciples say, “Surely not me, Lord?” They were all afraid. They had left Jerusalem at one point because it was too dangerous. They had gone to Jericho for a while until the death of Lazarus. When Jesus announced he was going to Bethany to awaken Lazarus, Thomas said, “Let’s go and die with him.”(cf. John 11:16) They expected to die. And now, they had been in Jerusalem for a few days and they realized that the only thing protecting them from death were the adoring crowds during the days and the fact that the Pharisees and the high priest didn’t know where to look for them at night. With danger around every corner, tensions were high. When we place ourselves prayerfully in their shoes, how would we react on that dark moonless night in Gethsemane when the soldiers arrived? Lord, protect us from our weakness!
- Love Is in the Details: While we might be very sure we would never betray Jesus in a big way, we all betray him in small ways. Every venial sin is a betrayal. We can tell ourselves that it’s not that important, and so we do what suits us instead of what Jesus would like us to do. We don’t think of ourselves as being like Judas, and perhaps we aren’t, but in some sense, we are little Judases—we fall to small temptations we can’t seem to overcome. These little things can have a negative impact on our spiritual life over time. “Men do not differ much about what things they call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable” (G. K. Chesterton).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I look down on Judas because I think I would never betray you as he did, but sometimes in small things I give in. I fail to fight hard because it doesn’t seem important. Help me to see that every betrayal is important for someone who loves you. Lord, “lead me not into temptation.”
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience and ask, “Is there some small betrayal that I habitually allow myself?” Not today!
For Further Reflection: General Audience, Judas Iscariot and Matthias, October 18, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI:
Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.