St Patrick's Cathedral, Trim

A reflection for Holy Wednesday

Reading: John 13: 21-32

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and 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.

A reflection for Wednesday in Holy Week

I am sure that most of you will recognise this photograph of ‘The Last Supper’ portrayed in the east window of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim. Take a closer look at the image of Judas in the bottom right of the picture. He is looking decidedly shifty and uncomfortable to be at the table, sharing the meal with Our Lord and the other disciples. He knows what he has already agreed to do and is unable to look at Jesus.

Just outside the cathedral are the ruins of the medieval chancel. At this time of the year, if you enter the cathedral around 9am when the sun shines through the east window, the old ruin casts a shadow in the bottom right corner of the window. While Jesus and the other eleven disciples glow in the light, the dark shadow falls across Judas, emphasising the darkness of his demeanour. As our reading in John’s gospel states ‘After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him’.

We could speculate about the motivation behind Judas’ betrayal of Our Lord – greed, disillusionment, resentment are some of the possibilities – but the fact is, he knowingly did what was wrong as evidenced by his bitter remorse and regret afterwards, (see Matthew 27:3-5). Judas, of course was not the only one who was guilty of wrongdoing. The chief priests and the elders had looked for a way to destroy Jesus to protect their own powerbase. In the betrayal, arrest and trial of Our Lord there was corruption, deceit, abuse of power and grave injustice at its worst.

This all serves to illustrate the world whom Jesus came to redeem. Throughout his ministry he actively sought out the lost and the sinful, saying ‘The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost’. If only Judas could have realised that Jesus came to redeem him, things could have been much different. Of course, Judas was not the only sinner who sat at the table for the Last Supper. Peter swore undying allegiance to his master only to deny him before dawn and the others made promises, but they also deserted him.

Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, including ours. This is the wonderful truth which underlies the drama of Holy Week and is expressed in Charles Wesley’s hymn:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain;
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week

Almighty and everlasting God,
who, of thy tender love towards mankind,
hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,
to take upon him our flesh,
and to suffer death upon the cross,
that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;
Mercifully grant,
that we may both follow the example of his patience,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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