Holy Week is a somber and sometimes difficult time of reflection on the Passion and death of Our Lord. As we start the week we see the people celebrating His arrival in the city, but then we hear that some of those same people are beginning to turn on Jesus; He is betrayed by one of his apostles and ends up being tortured and killed in a humiliating, public manner. It’s an astonishing turn of events. The people were cheering His name only days before—how could this have happened?
As I hear the Passion being read on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, I feel uncomfortable reading the parts of the crowd. In my pride, I tend to imagine that surely, if I had been there, I would have said something; I wouldn’t have let those people betray my Lord. But when I am honest with myself, don’t I take part in Jesus’ suffering and death each time that I choose myself over Him, or sin over virtue?
The Most Rev. Donald Hying, bishop of the Diocese of Madison, WI, joined Morning Air® to help us reflect on how Jesus was betrayed by those around Him, but also by you and me.
The most obvious example of betrayal is from Judas Iscariot. “On Tuesday, the Gospel for Mass is really the dramatic moment at the Last Supper when Jesus announces, ‘One of you will betray me’—the moment that Leonardo da Vinci captures in his masterpiece of the Last Supper. And if you look at that painting, every single person is surprised, shocked, tormented, asking one another, ‘Who is it, who could it be?’ The only person not surprised is Judas, clearly because he knows that it’s him,” says Bishop Hying.
“We don’t know why Judas betrayed Christ—was it simply for the money? John’s Gospel tells us he was a thief. Or maybe he had become disillusioned with Jesus? Or thought that he wanted a different type of Messiah, and maybe by handing Jesus over it would force Jesus’ hand to assert some sort of earthly power. We don’t know, but his traumatic act of betrayal is at the heart of the Passion this week.”
We also know the story of Simon Peter’s betrayal as he denies the Lord three times. “Simon says Lord, I lay my life down for you, yet hours later he’s saying I don’t even know who this man is,” says Bishop Hying. “It’s a great moment for us just to reflect on those little betrayals often in our lives, those little moments when we go against God’s grace, go against our better selves.”
“Our human weakness gets in the way of our ability to live the Gospel, and yet the whole point of the paschal mystery is that God forgives us. So when we sincerely go to Him, seek out His mercy, the Lord never tires of giving us another chance and offering us His mercy. If we’re faithful to that process of reconciliation, gradually God heals our hearts and strengthens our resolve to carry the cross, to be witnesses of the Resurrection,” reflects Bishop Hying.
Many martyrs were tempted to do small things to save their lives—worship a statue or take an oath contrary to Church teaching—but they chose to go to their deaths rather than betray Jesus. We may never be faced with the treat of martyrdom, but Bishop Hying says, “those temptations to betray are small, but so are the acts of faith and fidelity … it’s in those little things that we betray or live the Faith.”
Let’s not overestimate our strengths and in humility, recognize our own small betrayals of Christ. Take time to reflect on how we have added to the weight of His cross. Think about how our pride has pierced Jesus’ flesh with thorns. Ponder how our selfishness has pounded the nails into his hands and feet. Above all, surrender yourself to His profound mercy; ask Him to forgive your betrayal and help you to move forward with faith and love.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
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