Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Wednesday in Holy Week is also known by another, slightly salacious name: Spy Wednesday. Cue the music! This name, however, has nothing to do with fast cars and black-tie martinis. Rather, it is a reference to the disciple Judas Iscariot, whose story of betrayal is always featured in the scripture readings for this day.
For someone about whom we know so little (his name and that he kept the common purse), Judas has nevertheless become the source of fascination and speculation through the centuries. Of course the $64,000 question remains—Why did he do it? Perhaps we will never know. Different gospel writers give different accounts. John says that Satan entered into him, while others point to mere greed. His most favorable depiction comes, not surprisingly, from the Gospel of Judas, a non-canonical ancient writing discovered in Egypt in the 1970s and released to the public by National Geographic in 2006. In it, Judas is actually in league with Jesus himself, and not the authorities. How is that for a twist?
Neither has the art world been kind. In medieval and renaissance paintings, Judas is depicted as almost an animal. He is also used to make a not-so-subtle political point in Marcos Zapata’s Last Supper, located in the cathedral basilica in Cusco, Peru. It is said that the image of Judas (the only figure looking out at the viewer besides Jesus) is really a portrait of the hated Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. Ouch!
Whatever his motives, one thing is certain, Judas will always be known as the disciple who sealed the fate of Jesus. Indeed, his very name is synonymous with betrayal. To quote the psalmist: My name is become a very byword among men.
With this compelling story, we at St. Mary’s move into the heavy shadows of Holy Week. Where we began with shouts of “Hosanna,” we end with cries to “crucify him!” A ritual meal with Jesus’ disciples becomes the backdrop for the most notorious act of betrayal in human history, but also of tenderness, humility, and a new commandment to love as He loves. And finally, we join St. Mary and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross as we mourn our Savior’s death.
Holy Week is the most sacred and important week of the year for Christians. It is a week in which liturgically, musically, and through the scriptures, we experience the breadth of the human condition and the hope of salvation. I urge you to join your church family and Christians around the world for each very different observance this week, either in person or online. There is no resurrection without the rest of the story.