1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
when the hour of Your Son Jesus had come
to accept suffering and death
out of love of You
and His saving love for us, He did not refuse that suffering and deep pain.
In the hour of trial
that we may have to pass through,
do not let us become rebellious
but keep us trusting in You,
for You save us
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 26:14-25
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The teacher says, my appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."' The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born." Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so."
• Yesterday the Gospel spoke of the betrayal of Judas and of the denial of Peter. Today, it speaks once again of the betrayal of Judas. In the description of the Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the failure of the disciples is strongly stressed. In spite of having lived three years together with Jesus, not one of them defends Jesus. Judas betrays Him, Peter denies Him, and the others flee. Matthew narrates everything, not to criticize or to condemn, neither to discourage the readers, but in order to underline that acceptance and the love of Jesus exceed the defeat and the failure of the disciples! This way of describing the attitude of Jesus was a help for the Communities at the time of Matthew. Because of the frequent persecutions, many were discouraged and had abandoned the community and asked themselves: “Will it be possible to return? Will God accept and forgive us?” Matthew responds by suggesting that we can break the relationship with Jesus, but Jesus never breaks it with us. His love is greater than our infidelity. This is a very important message which we get from the Gospel during Holy Week.
• Matthew 26:14-16: The Decision of Judas to betray Jesus. Judas took the decision after Jesus did not accept the criticism of the disciples concerning the woman who wastes a very expensive perfume only to anoint Jesus (Mt 26:6-13). He went to the chief priest and asked: “What are you prepared to give Me if I hand Him over to you?” They agreed on the sum of thirty silver pieces. Matthew recalls the words of the Prophet Zechariah to describe the price agreed upon (Zc 11, 12). At the same time, the betrayal of Jesus for thirty silver coins recalls the sale of Joseph by his brothers, decided by the buyers for twenty coins (Gn 37:28). It also is reminiscent of the price of thirty coins to be paid for the wounding of a slave (Ex 21:32).
• Matthew 26:17-19: The preparation for the Passover. Jesus was coming from Galilee. He did not have a house in Jerusalem. He spent the night in the Garden of Olives (cf. Jn 8:1). In the days of the feast of the Passover the people of Jerusalem increased three times in number because of the enormous number of pilgrims who went there from all parts. For Jesus it was not easy to find a big room to celebrate the Passover together with the pilgrims coming from Galilee. He ordered His disciples to find a person in whose house He had decided to celebrate the Passover. The Gospel does not offer any other information and allows the imagination to complete what is missing in the information. Was this a person known by Jesus? A relative? A disciple? Throughout the centuries the imagination of the Apocrypha has tried to complete this information, but with little credibility.
• Matthew 26:20-25: The announcement of the betrayal of Judas. Jesus knew that He will be betrayed. In spite of the fact that Judas did things secretly. Jesus knew. But in spite of that, He wants to act fraternally with the group of friends to which Judas belongs. When all were together for the last time, Jesus announces who is the traitor “Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with Me will betray Me”. This way of announcing the betrayal renders even clearer the contrast. For the Jews, the communion around the table, to dip the hand together in the same dish, was the maximum expression of intimacy and trust. In this way, Matthew suggests that in spite of the betrayal made by someone who was a friend, the love of Jesus is greater than the betrayal!
• What strikes us in the way in which Matthew describes these facts? Between the denial and the betrayal there is the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26:26-29): the betrayal of Judas first (Mt 26:20-25); the denial of Peter and the flight of the disciples, afterwards (Mt 25:30-35). Thus, he stressed for us the incredible love of Jesus, which exceeds the betrayal, the denial, and the flight of the friends. His love does not depend on what others do for Him.
4) Personal questions
• It seems obvious that Judas will betray Jesus from our reading the Gospel, but put yourself there at the time. Would you have suspected one of your close group to do this? How would you interpret the indications Jesus was giving at the time?
• In Holy Week it is important to reserve some moments to become aware of the unbelievable gratuity of God’s love for me.
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing to God, play music to His name,
build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,
rejoice in Yahweh, dance before Him.
Father of orphans, defender of widows,
such is God in His holy dwelling. (Ps 68:4-5)