26 March. Tuesday in Holy Week

Isa 49:1ff. God’s true servant, whose ministry only seems to be a failure; ultimately it bears great fruit.

Jn 13:21ff. Jesus warns of betrayals; but if they remain faithful, they will follow him “hereafter”.

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength – he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Gospel: John 13:21-33, 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples – the one whom Jesus loved – was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he sid this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival;” or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, 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? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

Two who denied Christ

Today’s Gospel treats the two Apostles who denied Christ. One, of course was Judas Iscariot whose identity is enquired about and then revealed through the normally friendly gesture of sharing with him a savoury morsel. The paradox of his betrayal is underlined by that very gesture! But Judas is unmoved from his dire purpose and after the morsel, “Satan entered into him” – this is St. John’s dark diagnosis to explain how a man chosen as an apostle could go so far astray! Hurriedly Judas left the Last Supper to do his dastardly deed and as John points out so poignantly, “it was night!” The dark had entered the very sould of Judas – and ultimately he despaired, because he had let himself fall so completely into the hands of the evil one.

The second denier is of course none other than Simon Peter. Always inquisitive, Peter presses Jesus as to which of them will betray him. He boldly pledges his personal loyalty, swearing to follow Jesus whatever happens. But Jesus knows Peter’s weaknesses and warns, “the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” Peter cannot believe that this will ever happen, but what a fall he had! We also know that he went on to become the Rock that held the early church united around the risen Jesus. His rehabilitation as a great servant of the early Church was as impressive as his betrayal was miserable. What was the difference between those two apostles? One repented and resolved to mend his ways; the other despaired, too proud to humbly come and ask to be reconciled.

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