The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens, wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother's sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me. (R./)
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (R./)
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not. (R./)
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, "The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man must go as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so."
Today is “Spy Wednesday,” so called from the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the inner circle. Poor Judas was doubtless a talented man, probably very astute, who was moved by idealism to follow Jesus; but when it came to the test he proved unreliable, profoundly untrustworthy. The Gospels offer some clues about what led to that ultimate act of treachery: selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. We might even feel a twinge of pity for Judas, about whom those chilling words were spoken, “It would have been better for that man not to have been born!” But rather than spend time trying to assess the level of Judas’ guilt, or guessing at his motivations, why not ponder how we ourselves can be untrustworthy and in need of repentance. The story of Judas is a sobering lesson for every reader. “There but for the grace of God go I!” we may well say.
The fate of Judas invites us to pray especially for people who have tragically taken their own lives, to escape from the depths of despair. We pray that any poor soul who is tempted to suicide may find compassion and new hope with the help of their friends. We could support the Samaritans who offer counselling to troubled people, and invest some of our time to just listen to others in their time of need. On the example of Jesus, each of us could ask the Lord God to help us be healers who share the gift of encouragement, “that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
The evangelists were painfully aware that Jesus was handed over by one of his friends. But while this was embarrassing, they made no attempt to gloss over the fact. When Jesus predicted that one of them would betray him, all were “greatly distressed.” The idea of betrayal alarmed the whole circle of his friends.
Any of us can have a painful experience of betrayal. Perhaps we confided in someone who later used our personal secrets against us. The message of “Spy Wednesday” is that malice need not have the last word; God had the last word by raising his Son from the dead. From this betrayal and the many other injuries suffered by Jesus, God brought great good. Good can also emerge from any of the misfortune we have to bear in life. This story invites us to trust that God can work in life-giving ways in us, no matter how others may treat us.