Tuesday of Holy Week – Gospel

Commentary on John 13:21-33,36-38

Today’s Gospel is a sad moment of a double betrayal. First, that of Judas. Judas is no outsider, but one of the inner circle of the Twelve.

Jesus announces solemnly:

Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.

The statement comes like a bombshell. For all their weaknesses, they cannot imagine any one of them planning such a thing. Peter asks the Beloved Disciple, who is closest to Jesus (in every sense of the word) to find out who it is and Jesus responds:

It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.

Jesus hands over the morsel, a symbol of sharing. It is probably part of the bitter herb, dipped in salt water which was a feature of the Passover meal. Jesus hands it over to the one who will hand him over to those who wish to be rid of him. This is an act of friendship which makes the coming betrayal doubly treacherous. The bitterness of the morsel is also significant.

In that very moment Judas knows he has made his fateful decision as Jesus tells him,

Do quickly what you are going to do.

None of the other disciples realised the significance of these words.

As soon as he has left, it is no wonder that the evangelist comments: “And it was night.” Yes indeed. It was a moment of utter darkness. This is a gospel which constantly contrasts light and darkness. Yet at that very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of his being glorified and of God also being glorified.

To do this, Jesus is going to leave his disciples. He will leave them in death but he will also leave them to return to the glory of his Father.

Peter, well-meaning but weak, swears that he will go all the way with Jesus, even to death. It is the second betrayal. Worse in some ways. At least Judas made no wild promises. What will save Peter will be the depth of his repentance and later conversion.

We too have betrayed Jesus and those around us so many times. We have broken bread with Jesus in the Eucharist, and then turned our back on him by the way we treat those around us. We have promised at Confession, with his help never to sin again, and then gone and done what we have just confessed.

Let us pray that we, like Peter, may weep bitterly for all the wrongs we have done and all the good left undone.

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