1. Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them. When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over…Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.”
He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me;
but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.”
And they all left him and fled(Mk 14: 10-11, 43-50). Taken from the passion narrative of today’s Sunday gospel.
2. The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is a pathetic narrative that reveals the depth of human ambivalence. Jesus spent three years ministering gratuitously to people and their needs. They loved him and followed him in mass. The poor befriended him and the rich were eager to host him for dinner. Gradually his simplicity of life made him a threat to the powerful religious leaders of his time. He became an object of their criticism and verbal attacks. He matched their confrontations with an unequalled eloquence and intelligence. Seeing that their non violent approach was making Jesus more popular among the common folks, the leaders decided that the hitman approach would settle the problem once and for all. The decision was taken and strategies set in motion. The legal procedure should be followed so that they should not be accused of any crime.
3. The first step was to arrest him and then have him officially condemned to death and then have him crucified. They counted on their influence on the governor and their loyalty to the emperor to have a clear judgement against Jesus. But arresting Jesus was proving difficult. At this stage, Judas the treasurer of the apostolic college surfaced and offered to facilitate the task in exchange for money. He took the initiative, got paid and gave them a sign to make sure the mission did not fail. He had to kiss Jesus, a sign of love and friendship when in actual fact he was betraying him. With his arrest through the help of Judas all his followers deserted him, all who for three years have been singing his praises suddenly turned against him and began singing a new rythme:” crucify him, crucify him.”
4. What would have caused this sudden change of allegiance? The simple people turned against Jesus because they wanted to please their religious leaders. Peter disowned him because he was afraid for his life. Judas has to betray him because of his love for money. Pilate condemned him to prove his loyalty to Caesar. Desire to please those in authority, fear of being harmed and love of money are common problems that still militate against standing by the truth. It was the case yesterday, it is the case today and it will still be the case tomorrow.
5. In all these traumatizing experiences of betrayal Jesus remained steadfast in love. He never returned insult for insult. When he discovered that Judas has entered into an unholy alliance with the religious leaders he announced it to others without bitterness, when Judas kissed him he uttered no hateful word. When the elder made mockery of him he remained silent. When questioned by Pilate he made no defense, so much so that his attitude frightened Pilate, making him to send him to Herod to save himself from the undue pressure from the Jewish authorities. Before the soldiers he remained calm and took all their torture. In this way he left an excellent example for his followers, teaching them that it is possible to remain a good person in the midst of the wicked. The few times he spoke during his ordeal were to say something good like: “Father forgive them”; “Today you will be with me in paradise”; “Mother behold your son”; “it is finished”! He was bent on accomplishing his mission. He therefore remained good and loving till the end.
6. You must have noticed your own ambivalent attitude in the face of the exigences of daily life. You must have seen the times you firmly stood by what is right and how difficult it was to stand till the end. Perhaps you have also experienced moments of fear, desire and ambition that made it difficult for you to truly stand for what you believed to be right. May be you have been betrayed by someone you loved and respected or you may have betrayed someone in spite of yourself. The experience of Jesus is there to teach you that you can become an undeserved victim and that you can pull through the trials by remaining good and loving as against the common expectation that wickedness should beget wickedness.
May this Holy Week help you to become like Jesus: good, loving and forgiving till the end.