Homily preached by Fr Andrew Wilson
on Wednesday 8th April 2020 (Wednesday of Holy Week)
Isaiah 50.4–9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12.1–3; John 13.21–32
It seems to be a common human strategy to divert attention from our own faults and failings by pointing out what we see as the greater faults in others. Prisoners will quietly discover what crimes their fellows have committed, and attempt to set themselves apart from them, seeing themselves as in some way less culpable, even more honourable.
Today is ‘Spy Wednesday’, and we are asked to reflect on the betrayal of the Lord by one of his closest friends, Judas.
Afterwards the church rapidly distanced itself from Judas – quick to condemn him, paint him as a thief, pilfering the common purse. Afterwards they demonise his memory. But I wonder how many other disciples would have come to Judas for the odd dole-out for some personal indulgence, now conveniently forgotten. We demonise the memory of those who remind us of our own brokenness. Jesus meanwhile is overcome with grief and compassion for his erstwhile friend. “Good were it for that man if he had never been born.”
Brian Thorne, one of this country’s leading therapists, in his meditations on the Passion (Behold the Man, DLT), wonders why Peter and John at least, who seem to be in the know after Jesus offers a piece of bread to Judas indicating who the betrayer is, do nothing to stop him; paralysed perhaps by Jesus’ apparent acceptance that this is the way things are meant to fall out; failing to understand that the foolishness of God is wiser than human devices, and that only love can redeem, not coercion.
Only minutes before, after all, they had been haggling and competing over imagined seats of honour when the reign of the Messiah was inaugurated. Still, at the eleventh hour they fail to embrace the mystery of the Kingdom.
In hindsight they, and we, find it convenient to save face and demonise Judas. Thorne suggests that “It was as if they had been paralysed by the apparent powerlessness of Jesus’ love. Why was it that not one of them had seen that Jesus’ impotent love needed the expression of theirs to regain its power? Why had they failed to see that being truly human is impossible on your own.”
Betrayal is not only done in malice, but in simply not speaking out, not reaching out in support to those who are being victimised, marginalised, air-brushed out.
It is impossible for us to lay bare Judas’ motives now, although we know that he is called, Iscariot. He was from Kerioth, a notorious terrorist area, desperate to overthrow Roman domination.
Was it Judas’ intention to force his master’s hand, to bring in the long awaited revolution with Jesus as its figurehead? Perhaps his sin is more embarrassingly familiar to us than we would like to think. Judas uses Jesus, despite his long standing relationship with him, to further his own political ends. He has not grasped the radical distance between his own dreams and the fixed purpose of his Master, to do his Father’s will.
The events of this week lay bare how blind we are to those moments when, far from being truly present for another, open to their need, ready to listen without pressing home our own agenda and advantage, they become secondary, even disposable. By our share in that radical openness of Jesus to the other in our daily living the Kingdom of God is brought in. Jesus at supper waits for others to respond, but meets with inaction at best, and betrayal at worst; his followers consumed by either anxiety or fantasy; Judas hell-bent on furthering his own ideology.
Jesus waits, his heart open, a heart soon to be ripped apart out of love, because we have failed to see the infinite patience and compassion of the Father for his creation; for us; the infinite self-offering that the Son reveals, a sacrificial love that matches the naïve trust the landowner shows in one of his parables; the naïve trust God places in our response, in a matching love for him and for each other.
“Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ ” (Matthew 21)