THE BETRAYER HAS COME
Today’s gospel presents three persons to us.
The first is a man preoccupied with himself, his own interests and needs, his selfish satisfaction. He is not a free person; he is not open to Christ, for he serves money and greed. He will betray Jesus. This man is Judas.
Then there is a second man, a good person, open to Christ, but weak. He tries to hide his frailty with impetuous, self-reliant bravery. He cracks in the hour of the test. He will deny Jesus. This person is Peter.
The third person is Jesus. He is totally unselfish, completely open to God and to everyone. He is the perfect servant, the person-for-others, described again today in the first reading in the words of the second song of God’s servant. And because he was the perfect servant he could save us all. Let us go with Jesus, the betrayer is here.
Lord our God,
your Son Jesus Christ
had to undergo the humiliation
of being betrayed and denied
by those he called his friends.
But he made his suffering and death
into instruments of love and reconciliation.
Make us with him people-for-others,
who accept difficulties, even betrayals
and misunderstanding of our best Intercessions,
and turn them into sources of life and joy
for those around us.
Keep us faithful to you and to one another
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17
R. (see 15ab) 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 wondrous deeds. R.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Gospel: John 13:21-33, 36-38
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, 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? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
In the second song of the servant, his mission is well underway. Like Jeremiah, he was called from his mother’s womb. He had been directed to call Jacob and Israel to conversion, as well as to be “a light for the nations.” Yet his mission had not been an unqualified success. So unresponsive have his hearers been that he has felt frustration and a sense of failure. Yet he remains confident that the Lord will see him through.
The Johannine Gospel moves us steadily toward the denouement of Jesus’ ministry. He is to be betrayed and handed over to his enemies by one of his own, one who reclines at the table with him. It is a clear reference to Judas’s treachery. Jesus urges him to carry out his nefarious plot quickly and without delay. Judas leaves the upper room. The scene is punctuated by a simple statement: “It was night.” The darkness theme, a major motif in this fourth Gospel, comes to the fore. Judas goes off into the darkness of betrayal and sin. The time has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified, a reference to the paschal mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Peter’s protestation of loyalty is all too shallow. His fidelity will vanish all too quickly. That very night he will deny his Master three times.
There is great human pathos in this narrative. There is the closeness and affection of the unnamed disciple “whom Jesus loved.” Jesus the Servant wrestles with the sadness of betrayal and denial. Have we not in life met some form of such disappointment? The absence of a friend in a time of need? The sorrow of desertion by someone we had trusted? The need for a defender in a moment of mistrust?
What we see before us today is the psychological dimension of Christ’s ordeal. It is one thing to suffer physically; it is another to feel forsaken. But we must not join in betraying him even today by sin.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son to save us and bring us life by his death and resurrection. Let us pray to Jesus for all who suffer and say: Lord, by your cross you have redeemed the world.
• For those whose ideals have faded, that they may still see and accept the novelty of life and constantly renew themselves, we pray:
• For the perpetual losers of their personal struggles against the forces of evil, that they may trust in Christ, whose grace is mightier than sin and death, we pray:
• For those who are lonely, deserted, or shut up within themselves, that they may accept the companionship of Christ and through him open themselves to others, we pray:
• For all of us, that we may learn from our Lord himself to bear our crosses in patience and humility, that somehow they may bring life to us and to our neighbour, we pray:
• For this community, that with Jesus our Saviour it may be poor and serving and open to all needs, we pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, your cross remains to us a mystery, as does all pain and want. Yet we rely on your word and example that it is a way to joy and freedom. Turn our crosses into bearers of happiness and life now and for ever. Amen!
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord God, loving Father,
the evening before he gave up himself to death,
your Son Jesus gave himself to his friends
in the form of bread to be eaten
and a cup of wine to be shared.
As we are gathered here for his holy meal,
let your Son give himself again to us
that we may learn from him
to give ourselves for one another
and that our strength to do so may come
from Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Our God and Father,
we have eaten the bread of faithfulness
at the table of Jesus, your Son.
We too have at times betrayed him
when we broke our friendship with you
and when we denied to our neighbour
the right to be happy and free.
From now on, let him be our strength
in bringing justice and dignity
to even the last and least of our brothers and sisters
and in building up together
your community of joy and hope,
in which lives Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord for ever and ever. Amen!
One of the saddest experiences in life is to see one’s love and trust misunderstood, denied, or even betrayed. This was the lot of Jesus. He suffered from it, yet accepted it in order to undo our disloyalties and betrayals. This is why his own love and loyalty to the Father and to us went as far as it can go: death. And this is how he won for us the courage to love without counting the cost and to be faithful to the end. May God fill us with his blessings: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!