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Tuesday of Holy Week

March 22, 2005

Blessed Tuesday!

Readings:
Isaiah 49:1-6 (despite apparent defeat, God has prepared Jesus for a mission to both Jews and Gentiles)
Psalm 71:1-17 “I will sing of your salvation”
+John 13: 21-33, 36-38 (Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal & Peter’s denial)

This is a time of waiting, days of preparation for Jesus’ personal Passover (death), in which are mingled anticipation and dread. “I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited! I have a baptism to receive. What anguish I feel till it is over!” (Luke 12:49-50). Yet Jesus does not give in to fear. He does not become defensive, self-protective or self-absorbed as we so often do under threat of danger. He remains open-hearted, vulnerable. He faces the oncoming suffering squarely without letting it turn Him aside from His appointed task or away from those who need Him. Right now that task involves preparing His disciples as much as possible for the days to come.

Up to this point, Jesus has been prepared, protected, hidden. Time and again He has faced death and dodged it. Now the time draws near for Him to be glorified, to be the light of the Gentiles, even to the farthest part of the earth (see Isaiah 49:1-6). This glory, this global radiation of influence, will be brought about through His death, when He will stretch wide His arms to embrace the whole world. His disciples do not yet understand this. Little by little, He tells them what they are able to bear.

Today, Jesus prepares Judas, shedding a private Light into his heart to reveal to him the horror of his sin. There is still time to repent. Judas, preferring darkness to this Light, slips out into the night to carry out his heinous crime. Then Jesus breaks into a triumphant cry: “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). Betrayal is glory? It is by the time God gets done with it! Judas, in his own twisted way, is announcing to the rulers of Israel that the King is ready to receive His thorny crown, to ascend the throne of the Cross.

Jesus goes on to explain to His disciples that He will be leaving them soon, and that they will not be able to follow Him. He’s talking about death. To Him, this too is glory; or rather, glory will shine through it. Peter protests: “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for you!” (John 13: 37). How great is Peter’s open-hearted love, that he would rather die than be separated from his Lord! Here, however, as in the Garden of Gethsemane, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:38-41). Jesus, knowing this, prepares Peter, as He has prepared Judas, for what is to come. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied Me three times” (John 13:38).

There is something of Judas and Peter in each of us. With each sin we betray Jesus. We deny Him.

Jesus shines His Light into our hearts too. Will we receive that Light with an open heart, as Peter did in the high priest’s courtyard, and go out to weep bitter tears of repentance (Luke 22:61-62), ultimately professing our love for Him (John 21:15-17)? Or will we follow Judas’ example, preferring darkness to Light and ending in suicidal despair (Matthew 27:5)?

Now is the time to prepare our hearts, to practise that humble receptivity that served Peter so well. Then, when the hour of trial comes hard upon us, repentance and trust in Jesus’ mercy will come more naturally (although it will never be easy!).

May God strengthen us to keep our hearts open, that we may receive His Light and let it purify us,
that we may shine in this darkened world.

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