27Mar 27 March: Tuesday in Holy Week

1st Reading: Isaiah (49:1-6)

Though the Servant’s ministry seems a failure, it bears great fruit

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Responsorial Psalm (from Ps 71)

Response: I will sing of your salvation

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me. (R./)

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked. (R./)

For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength. (R./)

My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your marvellous deeds. (R./)

Gospel: John (13:21-33, 36-38)

Jesus warns of betrayals; but if they remain faithful, they will follow him “hereafter.”

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and he declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival;” or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”


The paradox of his Passion

For the first followers of Jesus, his condemnation and brutal execution must surely have seemed like total failure. To those who stood at a distance watching him die on the cross (Mk 15:40) and the others who had fled for safety but who later heard about his crucifixion, it seemed like the end of an inspiring movement that had first filled them with hope and enthusiasm but now seemed only a great delusion. With the death of Jesus, all their hopes based on him as their leader lay in ruins. Whatever predictions he had made about his suffering and subsequent rising had not been taken seriously, either by Peter or the others (Mk 8:32).

Only later, after their glimmering, stuttering glimpses of his risen presence, did they start to reflect seriously on Our Lord’s predictions. In this they were greatly helped by some studious disciple who first got the insight that Jesus’ sufferings were foretold in prophecy, most clearly in Isaiah’s poems about God’s loving Servant. It dawned on them that words first spoken about the people of Israel now found their full meaning in the person of Jesus. In him God’s message was fulfilled, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” Our Lord’s apparently futile attempt to renew and purify his Jewish people would not end with the crucifixion. Through this loving outpouring of his life, he achieved more than to “raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel.” It’s fruit was exactly what, in Saint John’s account, it was meant to be: for the sake of people everywhere (“I will draw all people to myself!”) The early church saw in Jesus the fulfilment of Isaiah 49:6, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Into his reflections on the Last Supper, John weaves two contrasting strands: apparent failure and ultimate triumph. Even among the Twelve, Jesus had to contend with one who betrayed him, another who denied him, and their general incomprehension of his message on the eve of his Passion. But the Evangelist is sure that Jesus faced his supreme trial  firm in the belief that through his acceptance of the Cross, “God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” This is also our hope, as a Christian community gathered in loving prayer around his memory this Holy Week.

Contrasting responses to Jesus

The gospel portrays the disciples’ responses to Jesus as he comes toward the end of his earthly life. Judas heads off into the dark, while the on Jesus loved is described as reclining next to Jesus, literally “close to his chest” (kolpos). From the start this evangelist saw Jesus as “close to the chest of the Father” (or in the Father’s bosom).

This beloved disciple seems  to have a relationship with Jesus like Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. He is the kind of person we are all called to become. This disciple is not named in John’s gospel, because we are all invited to put our own name on him; we are to identify with him and become like him. For the fourth evangelist, we are all called to the same relationship with Jesus as the beloved disciple had. We are called to be as close to Jesus as he is to his Father. That is why Jesus goes on to say, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love, as I remain in his love.” We can have that same relationship with him as he has with his Father. That is something to ponder during this Holy Week. [MH]

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    Talk at table

    The Last Supper room and Jesus is troubled in spirit. There is a huge contradiction in the room, someone and something that betrays the seeming closeness of the group of disciples. Jesus needs to say something about this, to bring it into the open. He does not want to say everything, to point the finger at Judas. That might have caused ructions in the room. But neither can he simply sit there and say nothing. Evil, wrongdoing must not be given free passage. Someone is about to betray me.

    Peter and John it seems were given the confidence but the others only knew the matter in general terms. Satan entered the heart of Judas and Judas went out into the night. Jesus’ trouble is on its way.

    Troubled people usually react in one of two ways to their troubles. Either we turn inwards on ourselves and become depressed and oppressed in spirit, or we may explode in rage at our suffering and display problematic behaviours. Either way oppression is ruling our lives.

    Jesus shows us in his last hours, when he is sorely troubled in spirit, how important it is to speak and to say something. To open up to the light the evil that is oppressing us. It is not easy to do and must be carefully negotiated, but to leave such evil unaddressed is to allow evil to win. Unaddressed evils do not go away. They take root.

    In making mention of betrayal Jesus not only brings a darkness into the light but he also gives his betrayer a final opportunity to think again and turn away from the evil he intends.

    In that same evening Jesus also shares with his friends an intimation of the darkness that is about to come upon him his own cruel death. Such sorrows are too much for us to say fully or comprehend at all until they happen. Peter speaks up and promises to be brave, and indeed in time to come he will be brave, in Rome where his life will end. But such bravery by God’s grace will only come when he has come face to face with his human weakness.

    We meet all these issues in the church and in our lives every day. Human exploitation is betrayal of all that is good. Learning how to address life’s wrongs is something we can learn again today from the table talk of Jesus on that famous night. He does not baldly point the finger or generate a row. He seeks to bring dark deeds into the light so that it may be plainly seen that what we do is done in God.

    If our deeds are dark then the light will be our accuser.

    Brian Fahy
    27 March 2018