For those who don’t use Facebook, please see below Tuesday’s reflections by Fr Ashley…
Today and tomorrow at Mass the gospel readings focus not only on Our Lord but on the tragic and key figure of Judas Iscariot – today in the account of him dipping his bread in the dish at the Last Supper in John’s gospel, shown here in a fifteenth century Russian icon. We are invited through the liturgy, even though we can’t be present at Mass physically, to reflect on this disturbing figure.
In some of the posts last week I drew attention to the paradox that on the one hand our readings from the Jewish scriptures, the Old Testament, especially at this time of year, root our experience of the Passion and death of Our Lord in the life and history of the Jewish people – shown today in the first reading from Isaiah 49; but at the same time we have to be aware of the terrible and painful relationship between Christians and Jews for centuries, and in particular the crimes committed against Jews – expulsions, depredations, book burning and massacres. Since the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church has begun to make amends, but this demands that we reflect about this liturgically and spiritually. In this sad and shameful history the figure of Judas has often been used, particularly in art, as part of this culture of hatred: he has often been portrayed with exaggerated features, as an archetypal Jew, somehow passing on his betrayal to the whole Jewish people. As we think about him in this Holy Week it’s worth remembering this and resolving to move away from this legacy of suspicion and malice.
In the current crisis it is important that we all reflect on what is going on in the light of the Church’s moral teaching. At St Mary’s University my colleague Professor Philip Booth has set up a new blog – https://catholicsocialthought.org.uk – in which a number of us attempt to reflect about how public authorities have acted. Please continue to pray this week for all those suffering from the virus and those who are caring for them
Take care and God bless
In the narrative of today’s gospel reading (John 13:21ff.) we have very good examples of the author’s sense of drama in his narrative. At one particular point in the story, we’re told that Satan enters Judas ‘at that instant’ after he takes the piece of bread from Jesus. This a dramatic turning point. It is followed up, a little later on, with a description which is both factual and symbolic: ‘Night had fallen’. John’s gospel describes a perpetual conflict between light and darkness focused on the ministry and teachings of the Lord: what we’re invited to see here is the coming of a temporary reign of darkness because Satan has entered Judas.
And the narrative is not just about Judas. He’s the betrayer, with Satan in him, but he’s not the only one who will let Jesus down. We’re immediately shown Simon Peter’s vainglorious promise to Jesus that he’ll lay down his life for him, the sort of rash undertaking which fits his characteristics which we see in the gospels – impetuous, full of himself. Jesus’ reply, predicting his denial before the cock crows thrice, is dramatically chilling.
Traditionally in Holy Week we’re invited to look at our lives and at the ways in which sin leads us to be like Judas and Peter, denying or even betraying Our Lord. While Judas has often been demonised in our traditions, Peter becomes the Head of the Church; the truth is that we’re a bit like both of them at times; and penitence, seeking forgiveness, is the right thing for us to do. Pope Francis and other Christian leaders have used Lenten and Passiontide imagery to describe where the world is at the moment in this terrible virus – ‘Night had fallen’ are helpful words.