Reflection for April 8
Readings: Is 50:4-9a; Mt 26:14-25
In the first reading today we have the third of the “Suffering Servant Songs” from Isaiah. It is interesting that Isaiah attributes a well-trained tongue to the Messiah, but even though the song speaks of the suffering of the Messiah, the training of the tongue is not about His adversaries. Rather, the tongue is trained to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. The song goes on to speak of how the Messiah would be faithful in hearing God and carrying out His will, even when this brought persecution and suffering.
In the Gospel we are brought to the Last Supper where our Lord announces that one of His Apostles would betray Him. We have all experienced betrayal in our lives and we know how much it can hurt. To be rejected by someone we do not know or by someone with whom we have no relationship hurts, but it is fairly easily brushed aside. To be rejected by someone who claims to be our friend or by someone we hold in great esteem is devastating. In this case, one of the chosen disciples of our Lord is the one who has turned against Him. This is exactly what we read in Psalm 55: “It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship” (Ps 55:12-14).
Everything Judas had heard from our Lord apparently fell on rocky ground and was taken from his heart. If we do not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4; Lk 4:4), then Judas has a glorious opportunity to know and choose true life, that is the life God offers us. Instead, he chose the life the world offers: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16). These things St. John tells us are not from God and will pass away, but the will of God, on the other hand, abides forever (1 Jn 2:17).
Judas, we are told, had been plotting against our Lord for some time, just waiting for his opportunity. As we saw earlier in the week, it was because of our Lord’s teaching on the Eucharist that Judas decided to betray him. St. Matthew tells us Judas went to the chief priests seeking money to hand Jesus over to them. Clearly, he was not merely suggesting that Jesus was insane or that He was speaking something heretical; if that we the case, Judas would simply be reporting this to the chief priests so they could address the situation. Instead, he is making a deal for personal gain at the expense of another. We are told they offered Judas thirty pieces of silver. This, along with the fact of Judas throwing the money into the Temple, fulfills what we read in Zechariah 11:13.
There are a few things we have to recognize in all of this. First, because it was the express will of God, these things had to take place. Everything written in the Sacred Scriptures must be fulfilled. So, it was necessary that our Lord be betrayed, and it was necessary that He be crucified. As unjust as it was, it was the only way for our sins to be removed and for us to be reconciled with God. Second, as we read in the first reading: “The LORD God is my help, therefore, I am not disgraced.” At the end of the same reading it is repeated that God is the help of the Messiah, but then He asks: “who will prove me wrong?” In the “trials” before the chief priests and before Pilate, there was nothing anyone was able to find against Jesus. The chief priests charged Jesus with blasphemy, but He spoke the truth, so there was not blasphemy. No one proved Him wrong.
Moreover, Isaiah tells us the Messiah will not be disgraced. In the final Suffering Servant Song, in Isaiah 52 and 53 the treatment foretold of the Messiah would certainly make it appear that He was disgraced. In fact, He was not. The way He was treated was disgraceful, but He was not, Himself, disgraced. Yes, they beat Him and He was “despised and rejected…as one from whom men hide their faces” (Is 53:3). In today’s reading we hear about the well-trained tongue of the Messiah, but in Isaiah 53 we are told that He “opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7a, e).
When we look at what happened to our Lord and what has occurred with the martyrs over the centuries, God is with them. They were given an opportunity to prove their love for God and neighbor in the most extreme fashion. God knew how much they loved Him, so they did not need to prove anything to God. It is the rest of us who benefit from their example and their charity. God has taken them all to Heaven, which is where they wanted to be. They lived their lives for God in this world, but their real desire was to be with God for eternity. They have been proven right; they have not been disgraced.
When we are rejected by others, especially those who are close to us, we have to learn to see this as a participation in the Passion of Jesus. God will use this to help us grow in virtue. At the same time, we can offer our sufferings, with those of Jesus, for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls. Being rejected and being treated disgracefully are horrible things to endure for human beings. However, God brings a great good from them. When we are rejected by others, we have the chance to draw near to God. The fewer distractions we have from other people, the more our focus can be on the Lord. When our focus is on God, then we will not only want to love Him more, but we will want to be with Him. Like the Saints, if we are treated badly for this to happen, it is a cause for rejoicing. So, rather than talking to everyone about our hurt, learn from Jesus and remain silent. Like the martyrs, you are being given an opportunity, not only to grow in holiness, but to be an example to others. Unite your sufferings with those of Jesus and know that the disgraceful treatment received on earth will be turned by God into your glory.