Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week: Betrayal and Help from Unlikely Sources

I have two quotations for today. In the one, a beloved member of the inner circle unexpectedly betrays his Lord and all his friends. In the other, a great genius tells how help never came from all the people and places that he had expected it, but only from the place he least expected.

The Gospel reading traditional for Wednesday of Holy Week recounts the events that occurred when Jesus' disciple Judas took a bribe to betray Jesus:

Matthew 26:1-5, 14-25 (New International Version)

"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, "As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.

"But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' " So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"

Jesus answered, "You yourself have said it."


Albert Einstein, from Time Magazine, Dec. 23, 1940:

"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom;
but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . .

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly." Albert Einstein

Both are historical statements made by men who actually lived through the events. They may be debated, protested and denied, but they remain matters of fact and truth.

The Church has always, from its very beginning, suffered from weak people within it who betrayed their brothers and sisters in Christ by doing evil deeds. It is not "magic", it does not suddenly make us perfect or remove our free-will to do wrong things.

Today's reading reminds us of that, reminds us not to judge the Church, or Jesus, or sincere Christians, by the conduct of those who have betrayed God and themselves by wrongdoing or misconduct.

And both readings, from Matthew and Einstein, remind us that the Church has always been hated in advance of such betrayals, without cause. That is the "blindness" referred to in the song "Amazing Grace". Even a man with one of the greatest minds in history, who uncovered secrets of the universe no other human had even imagined, was blind to the Truth about the Church - until his eyes were opened, and then he could see the actual Truth.

Only when our eyes are opened can we see God's Truth.

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