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  • Writer's pictureJanean Tinsley

Holy Wednesday

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. — Luke 22:3-6

Every day of Holy Week is marked with special events of Jesus’ life, and Holy Wednesday is no different. After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his cursing of the fig tree on Holy Monday, and his Olivet Discourse on Holy Tuesday comes Holy Wednesday.

“ONE OF THE TWELVE, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him”(Mt 26:14-16).

Judas Iscariot had been personally chosen by Christ. Alongside Jesus, he could have been as joyful as the others, and become one of the pillars of the Church. However, he chose to sell, at the price of a slave, the one who gave him everything. And it was God’s will that Holy Scripture should not silence this fact.

The tragic outcome takes place at the Last Supper, when Jesus is assailed by the anguish of the approaching Passion and the heartbreak of abandonment by those he loved. When they were at supper, he said, “Truly I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Mt 26:21). The other eleven apostles, with experience of their own failings and great trust in Christ’s words, exclaimed in surprise: “‘Is it I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Is it I, Master?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so’” (Mt 26:22-25).

We do not know what Judas must have felt when he looked into Jesus’ eyes again. He would have discovered no anger there. Jesus was still looking at him with the same love with which he had called him a few years earlier to be an disciple. “What can we do before a God who served us even when he experienced betrayal and abandonment? We cannot betray what we were created for, not abandon what really matters. We are in the world to love him and others. The rest passes away, love remains.”[1]

JUDAS’S BETRAYAL began much earlier. First, Judas criticized Mary of Bethany’s apparent waste in anointing Jesus with precious ointment, a few days before the Passover.

But here’s the grace of God: Nothing we do nor any human weakness, is strong enough to overcome the love of a God who calls each person constantly and who always awaits our return. Saint Josemaría saw in God’s way of being, so full of mercy, our true armor: “We all have shortcomings. But these defects of ours should never lead us to turn our back on God’s call, but to take refuge in it, to clothe ourselves in this divine goodness, as the warriors of old clothed themselves in their suit of armor.”[2]

Saint Augustine, specifically referring to Judas Iscariot, said: “After he betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy.”[3]

Our Lord didn’t want Judas to perish, just as he does not want anyone to perish. Even in his own arrest he tries to bring him to his senses, calling him “friend” and accepting the disciple’s kiss.

Commenting on this Gospel passage, Saint Josemaría said: “Look how great the virtue of hope is! Judas recognized Christ’s sanctity, and repented of the crime he had committed. So much so that he took the money that was the price for his treason and threw it down in front of those who had given it to him as his reward for his betrayal. But he lacked hope, which is the virtue needed to return to God. If he had had hope, he still could have been a great apostle. In any case, we don’t know what took place in the heart of that man, whether he responded to God’s grace in the last moment. Only God knows what happened in his heart. So never lose hope, never despair, even though you have done the most foolish thing possible. All you have to do is speak out, repent, and let yourself be led by the hand, and everything will be put right.”[4]

I would venture to say we have all had moments where we questioned our salvation. At times, perhaps you’ve wondered if your offenses were simply too great for God’s forgiveness. Hear these words. No matter how great our offenses, God’s mercy is always greater. “Fear and shame, which stop us from being sincere, are the greatest enemies of our perseverance. We are made of clay; but if we speak clearly, the clay acquires the strength of bronze.”[5]

The shadow of the cross grows darker as we draw closer. His sacrifice is the complete culmination of our faith. Yes, this week continues to get darker but the Hope of the world is about to prove once and for all that Light still shines!

[1] Francis, Homily, 5 April 2020.

[2] Saint Josemaría, Letters 2, no. 47a.

[3] Saint Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 108, no. 9.

[4] Saint Josemaría, Notes from his preaching, 8 December 1968.

[5] Saint Josemaría, Letters 2, no. 41a.

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