Today is “Spy Wednesday”, the last full day of Lent. It gets its name because this is the day on which Judas Iscariot slipped away to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin. His sly actions conjure up the image of a spy.
“The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.
But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees, – which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation, — have fixed this year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their Divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you?
They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm?They know the Scriptures from beginning to end; — how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver? Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with His Disciples. In the evening, He will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize Him, be able to distinguish him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem.” – (From ‘The Liturgical Year, by DOM GUÉRANGER, Abbot of Soleses)
But is this “impious scheme” of Judas’ so very different to the way many of us act today? Judas was one of the chosen twelve; he must have gladly followed Jesus at first, when Jesus taught that which Judas could accept. In John 6 Jesus gives the first discourse on the Holy Eucharist, announcing that He is “the living bread” and “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” and repeating it again to make His meaning clear, and adding: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” Many said this was “a hard saying” and “no longer walked with Him.” Immediately after Jesus speaks of one of the Apostles as “a devil”, and John tells us that He was speaking of Judas! So it seems clear that Judas, like many of the Disciples, did not like what he heard… just like so many Catholics in the Church today who do not like what they see as “hard sayings”, though these are Jesus’ own teachings given to His Church. They go along when Christianity agrees with their own ideas and views, and abandon Our Blessed Lord and His teaching when it requires faith, trust, humility and sacrifice. Judas is what many of us can become: fine with Catholic teaching when it suits our needs, but scandalised when confronted by a vision that violates our own reasoning.
From Benedict XVI’s Wednesday Audience of Holy Week in 2007:
“In today’s Liturgy the Evangelist Matthew presents for our meditation, the brief dialogue between Judas and Jesus that took place at the Upper Room. “Is it I, Master?” the traitor asked the Divine Teacher when foretold, “Truly I say to you: one of you will betray Me.” The Lord’s answer was incisive: “You have said so.” For his part, John concludes the narrative announcing Judas’ betrayal with a few portentous words: “It was night.” When the traitor left the Upper Room, thick darkness gathered in his heart; it was an inner night. Bewilderment increased in the hearts of the other disciples, they too were moving toward ‘night’; while the steadily darkening twilight of abandonment and hatred hung over the Son of Man, Who was preparing to consummate His Sacrifice on the Cross. What we shall be commemorating in the coming days is the supreme battle between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death. We must also put ourselves in this context, aware of our own ‘night’, of our sins and our responsibility if we want to benefit spiritually from the Paschal Mystery; if we want our hearts to be enlightened through this Mystery, which constitutes the very centre of our Faith.”