27 March. Wednesday in Holy Week
Isa 50:4ff. God’s humble servant sustains the weary and gives himself for the good of his people
Mt 26:14ff. The patience of Christ at the Last Supper, knowing that Judas was about to betray him
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Gospel: Matthew 26:14-25
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”
Saved from Fear and Shame
When Isaiah says, “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard,” he’s talking about the same experience: humiliation. Pulling a man’s beard, besides being quite painful, was an attack on his dignity. The prophet portrays a person being abused by people who hurt him and want to humiliate him. He shares in the lot of all who have ever felt betrayed and ashamed. It’s a hard place to go, and we may not want to go there, but the Suffering Servant endured it for us all.
In the gospel, Satan enters Judas’s heart, and he leaves this gathering of friends to plan the arrest of his teacher, who loves him. Many have wondered exactly why Judas did what he did. Had he become doubtful about the very heart of Jesus’ mission, or did he want to retaliate for some perceived slight to his own dignity. Whatever his motive – suspicion, disillusionment or disappointment, or just a simple lack of faith – Judas broke away and left the room, and then unlike Peter, he couldn’t find his way back.
But God’s saving grace is present and visible in Jesus. He shows us how to live when he says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” On this night, Jesus makes the path visible in the love he offers everyone in the room. He says, this is how you find the path and walk on it. Live in my love, stay as close to me as you can get, like the Beloved Disciple leaning right against my heart.