Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25
We find it easy to place ourselves in Jesus’ presence in the holy three days about to start. But we also see how Jesus is fulfilling the Israelite prophecies.
The first reading is Isaiah’s Third Suffering Servant Song. The following psalm reminds us that God constantly forgives us even as we selfishly sin again and again. The scene in the upper room is where Jesus identifies Judas as the one who will betray him. Even at this tragic moment Jesus seeks a conversion. His response, “You say so!” has the meaning that “yes, since you asked”, leaving space for Judas to be reconciled.
I wonder often what Jesus thought of the Suffering Servant Songs as he was becoming aware that they describe the messiah’s life, passion and death. (cf., Phillipians 2:6 ff.) My curiosity is “what did he know and when did he know it?”- to borrow a historical question from our recent past. Meanwhile Jesus is becoming aware that he is the Messiah all through his public life.
Isaiah is promising that the Lord will always be present to us, even as we suffer for righteous sake. Psalm 69 continues the same theme: that God will always be with us “in his great love” to help us in crisis.
The gospel today immediately follows Mt 26:13 but the action in the two parts of Mt 26 are so different. Jesus on his way to the City stops by at his friend’s house in Bethany. There an anonymous woman anoints him out of love and respect. And Jesus tells his disciples that she should not be stopped since she is anointing him for his death.
Then the very next verse takes us into the description of the preparation for the Passover meal. All Jews celebrate this seminal event of their history but this “Last Supper” is different. It is the fulfillment of that first Passover promise.
But before the passion story is described we have the tragic scene of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. How do we transfer this event to be a lesson for us? We sin, of course, and occasionally in our life-time we have seriously sinned. But we the readers of these weekday reflections need to appropriate this betrayal into our own lives.
God has blessed us so often, so lovingly, that at times we take it for granted or worse, we feel we are entitled to his blessings. But any prayerful thought will lead us to feel true sorrow for how we have offended God because he is so good and loving and we have not responded properly to his friendship.
Our prayer these next three days is to enter into this mystery of God’s love and friendship so undeserved on our part.
By Paul Mahowald