1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
Your Son Jesus Christ
had to undergo the humiliation
of being betrayed and denied
by those He called His friends. But He made His suffering and death
into instruments of love and reconciliation.
Make us with Him, people-for-others,
who accept difficulties, even betrayals
and misunderstanding of our best intentions,
and turn them into sources of life and joy
for those around us.
Keep us faithful to You and to one another
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 13:21-33, 36-38
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."
• This is the third day of Holy Week. The texts of the Gospel of these days place before us the terrible facts which will lead to the imprisonment and condemnation of Jesus. The texts not only present the decisions of the religious and civil authority against Jesus, but also the betrayal and the negotiations of the disciples which rendered it possible for the authority to arrest Jesus and contributed enormously to the suffering of Jesus.
• John 13:21: The announcement of the betrayal. After having washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:2-11) and having spoken about the obligation that we have of washing each other’s feet (Jn 13:12-16), Jesus is profoundly touched. And it is no wonder. He was fulfilling that gesture of service and total gift of self, while at His side one of the disciples was planning how to betray Him that same night. Jesus expresses His emotion saying: “In all truth I tell you one of you is going to betray Me!” He does not say: “Judas will betray Me”, but “one of you”. It is one of His group who will betray Him.
• John 13:22-25: The reaction of the disciples. The disciples are frightened. They did not expect that declaration, that is, that one of them would be the traitor. Peter makes a sign to John to ask Jesus which of the twelve would be the traitor. This is a sign that they did not know one another well, they could not succeed in understanding who could be the traitor. A sign, that is, that the friendship among them had not as yet reached the same transparency that Jesus had with them (cf. Jn 15:15). John reclined near Jesus and asked Him: “Who is it?”
• John 13:26-30: Jesus indicates Judas. Jesus says: “It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread that I dip in the dish.” He took a piece of bread, dips it in the cup and hands it over to Judas. This was a common and normal gesture which the participants at a supper used to do among themselves. And Jesus tells Judas: “What you are going to do, do quickly!” Judas had charge of the common fund. He was in charge of buying things and of giving the alms to the poor. This is why no one perceived anything special in the gesture and in the words of Jesus. In this description of the announcement of the betrayal is evoked the Psalm in which the psalmist complains about the friend who betrays Him: “Even My trusted friend on whom I relied, who shared My table takes advantage of Me” (Ps 41:10; cf. Ps 55:13-15). Judas becomes aware that Jesus knew everything (cf. Jn 13:18). But even knowing it, he does not change his mind but keeps the decision to betray Jesus. This is the moment in which the separation between Judas and Jesus takes place. John says at this moment Satan entered him. Judas rises and leaves. He places himself at the side of the enemy (Satan). John comments: “”It was night”. It was dark.
• John 13:31-33: The glorification of Jesus begins. It is as if history had waited for this moment of separation between light and darkness. Satan (the enemy) and darkness entered into Judas when he decides to carry out what he was planning. In that moment the light was made in Jesus who declares: “Now the son of man has been glorified, and in Him God has been glorified also. 32 If God has been glorified in Him, God will in turn glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him very soon!” The decisions had already been taken by Jesus (Jn 12:27-28) and now by Judas. The facts follow one another hastily. And, Jesus announces it: “Little children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going you cannot come”. There is little time left before the Passover.
• John 13:34-35: The new commandment. Today’s Gospel omits these two verses on the new commandment of love, and begins to speak about the announcement of the denial of Peter.
• John 13:36-38: Announcement of the denial of Peter. Together with the betrayal of Judas, the Gospel also speaks of the denial of Peter. These are the two facts which contribute the most to Jesus’ suffering and pain. Peter says that he is ready to give his life for Jesus. Jesus recalls and reminds him of reality: “You are ready to lay down your life for Me? In all truth I tell you, before the cock crows you will have disowned Me three times”. Mark had written: “Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned Me three times” (Mk 14:30). Everybody knows that the cock crows rapidly. When in the morning the first cock begins to sing, almost at the same time all the cocks crow together. Peter is more rapid in his denial than the cock in crowing.
4) Personal questions
• Do I love so much as to protect someone who betrays me too?
• Satan prowls like a lion looking to devour souls. It happened to Judas. What do I do to prevent Satan from entering me?
5) Concluding Prayer
You are my hope, Lord,
my trust, Yahweh, since boyhood.
On You I have relied since my birth,
since my mother's womb You have been my portion,
the constant theme of my praise. (Ps 71:5-6)