I would like us to reflect on 3 details found in today’s Gospel. The 1st detail is that Judas betrays Jesus Christ. The word “betray” is mentioned 6 times in today’s passage. Judas makes a deliberate decision to hand Jesus over to death for money. Jesus is not betrayed by an enemy; he is betrayed by one of the Apostles, by someone who broke bread with him.
Ultimately, this passage is not about Judas. It is about us; we are meant to see ourselves in Judas. We, who break bread with the Lord at this table, are betraying and rejecting the Lord each time we make the decision to sin.
Are we not selling Jesus out each time we make worldly attachments such as wealth, power, honour and pleasure the priority of our lives rather than the values of the Gospel? Are we not turning our backs on Jesus each time we choose to satisfy selfish and self-serving desires rather than giving of ourselves in selfless service to others?
The invitation of Holy Week is not to stand before God with pious thoughts. It is to stand before God in total honesty with all our sins. We ought not to hide from God, but rather go to him with our sins.
Why is that? The answer is found in the 2nd detail: the events described in this passage take place during the Last Supper. The fact that Judas is present at the last supper is exceedingly good news for us.
Bishop Robert Barron puts it this way: “It means Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power in order to bring the light. If even Judas was invited into the Lord’ s presence, so are you”. What Bishop Barron is saying is that, in our weakness, in our brokenness, in our sinfulness, we are loved. Jesus loves the sinner.
As sinners, we betray Jesus. But Jesus never betrays us. Jesus is always in our corner, welcoming us, inviting us into a close and intimate relationship with him.
As you know, the Mass has its roots in the Last Supper. That’s the reason for which, as sinners, the Eucharist is our most important prayer; it is also our best prayer. No other prayer or devotion is superior to the Mass; no other prayer or devotion is better than the Mass. Attending Mass ought not to be viewed as a mere obligation. What a gift, what a privilege, what a blessing it is for us sinners to be here in the presence of the Lord.
Why is this the case? The answer is found in the 3rd detail: the Last Supper is a Passover meal. To this day, Passover meal recalls a significant event in Jewish history. The meal recalls how the Israelites “passed” from slavery in Egypt “over” to freedom. During the meal, a slaughtered lamb is roasted and eaten. Why is all this important? Jesus is our Passover Lamb who rescues us from the power of slavery.
How does Jesus rescue us from slavery? Scripture tells us that death enters the world as a result of sin. Sin causes death. By conquering the consequence, Jesus also conquers the cause. By defeating death, Christ also triumphs over sin and destroys all evil. What Jesus has done becomes ours. Jesus’ victory over sin is our victory over sin.
Jesus gives us freedom from slavery to sin. As sinners, we stood condemned before God. Jesus, who was sinless, stood in our place. The Lord sacrifices himself for us on the Cross; he washes away our sins in his own blood.
The break in the relationship with God caused by sin is now restored. Yes, we are all sinners, but the sinful human condition does not have to possess us. Our sins do not have to enslave us because Jesus has purchased us for himself with his own blood. With God’s help, our hearts can be free from the powers that belong to darkness. Rather than being overcome by evil, we have such great potential to overcome evil by doing good.
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who frees us from sin, who saves us from sin. That’s the reason we call Jesus “Saviour”. The name “Jesus” means “the one who saves from sin”.
How can we experience this reality of Jesus as our Saviour? The answer is the Eucharist. In every Eucharist, Jesus is truly present among us with his saving and freeing power.
Lent ends tomorrow. The celebration of the Easter Triduum begins with the Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
As our Last Mass of the Lenten season continues, let us look forward to celebrating the Easter Triduum with joyful and grateful hearts. Jesus is the new Passover lamb, bringing new deliverance to us, his chosen people, at this moment in history.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
March 31, 2021