Today is Spy Wednesday – and ordinary morning Masses stop after today until Sunday; we’re reaching the most intense and sacred time of the year. Like yesterday our focus is on Judas, hence the traditional name for today, and this time we look at him through the lens of Matthew’s gospel (26:14-25). Giotto’s fresco here shows him seeing the priests and being given money. It is only in Matthew that we’re told how much money (thirty silver pieces was the standard price at the time for a slave). There has been much speculation over the centuries about the motives of Judas, but for Matthew financial gain and greed is given a big profile.
If we take seriously the moral teachings of Christianity about God’s love for the poor it’s clear that one the big ways in which we can betray Jesus is through love of money, always insidious and dangerous. If we look at our consciences – something we should do in Holy Week even when we can’t get to confession – we know that there are so many crafty ways in which try to justify or explain away monetary greed. Like everything else we’re also enlightened in a disturbing way by the current crisis. We’re called to focus on things that really matter in life, as the Bishop of Portsmouth pointed out in his ‘Thought for the Day’ broadcast on Radio 4 this morning; but sadly we still see continuing examples of financial greed and exploitation of which people and businesses suffering at the moment are victims. The fate of Judas should always be a wake-up call.
The precise amount given in Matthew reminds us that the Scriptures portray Our Lord as the suffering servant or slave, drawing on the imagery from the second part of the book of Isaiah which we hear at Mass this week (today Isaiah 50:4-9). Through his Passion Jesus turns upside down the conventional ways in which servants and slaves (in the ancient world there wasn’t much distinction) are treated with contempt; this identification as a servant and slave is a big part of how we try to strengthen the ministry of those called to be deacons in the Church – so please pray this week for them and those in formation to be deacons: our deacons here Sean and Duncan, and our students Sandy and Ray.
The slave-price should also prompt us to pray for contemporary victims of slavery and human trafficking and for organisations like the Santa Marta Group and Caritas which try to support them; also for Bishop Pat Lynch, our local bishop, who leads the Bishops Conference work in this area, and those engaged also in this work at St Mary’s University through research and study.
As we prepare to enter the ‘Sacred three days’ (‘Triduum Sacrum’) please continue to pray for those suffering with the virus and those caring for them, especially health and other essential workers from our parish family.
God bless and take care