Tenebrae

Today, Wednesday is the eve of the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week, the real Christian holidays. This week focuses on the cheering mobs on Palm Sunday to the jeering mobs on Good Friday, with the entire Good News sandwiched in between. I call this the essential Christian Holidays (or “holy” days) because the range of human emotion can be seen in the stories of these days. Tomorrow is the celebration of the “Last Passover Supper” when the old was renewed and the great invitation to love was generated. (It will be demonstrated on Good Friday). Today is also known as “Spy Wednesday” in some churches. I remember it being called this when I was a youngster. I thought it had to do with being the CIA’s feast day. Well it sounds like it doesn’t it? Never mind. It was the “day” that Judas sold out Jesus to the Sanhedrin for money. Even though I could run with this to explain the happenings in certain parts of the country, I will, just today, restrain myself. Let your mind wander. (Just as an aside, this is one of those weeks where the Roman Church gets it right. There is so much symbolism and ancient pageantry for just about everyone during the three days leading up to Easter)

The readings today involve Isaiah 50:4-9

For the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

And Matthew 26:14-25 – The set-up and payoff to Judas of 30 pieces of silver to turn his teacher in.

Then 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.

Two interesting passages side by side. First the prophet Isaiah says, “Hang in there. You are not alone. You know what the right thing to do is, so just freaking’ do it, already” (My translation from an obscure Aramaic text which came to me in a dream) And the second reading from the Gospel of Matthew, focuses a response to the invitation to love. Love in Jesus’ mind is a choice not a feeling. And Judas makes his choice. He then really really regrets it. He seems not to have the emotional or spiritual strength described by Isaiah to stand against the wind as Ignatius Loyola counseled his followers. He feels himself, alone. When I was a kid Judas was the bad guy. Dante Alighieri drops him in the lowest ring of Hell in his La Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy). He gets no respect especially in the paintings of him. In case you missed it, he’s the real ugly apostle with a huge nose in those paintings.

I may be heretical, but I feel sorry for Judas Iscariot. I think he was a fearful man, not motivated by money as many would portray him. His fear led to him selling out his friend, Jesus. Haven’t you made bad decisions under stress, under fear? I certainly have. And I, too have regretted them. But I think this Gospel passage has us pause for a moment about how we make our decisions and what motivates us to make the decisions we make. That is really the thought for the Wednesday before Holy Thursday 2010. What have I chosen that was not motivated by love or concern for myself and the other? How have my choices enhanced or distanced myself from what it means to be an authentic human being. What do I need to change? What more do I need to consider before making a decision?

And so it goes…