Prayer for the Church

To watch the Prayer for the Church from the Church of Sant’Egidio click here.

Matthew 26:14-25

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 goes 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.’

The story of Judas’s betrayal always gives rise to feelings of bewilderment for Judas sells his teacher for thirty pieces of silver (the price of a slave’s ransom). How bitter are the words that begin the passage of the Gospel we heard today: “One of the twelve!” Yes, one of his closest friends. Jesus had chosen him, loved him, and taken care of him. He had defended him from the attacks of his enemies. And now he is the one who sells Jesus to his enemies. Judas fell into the seduction of wealth. The distance between him and the Teacher grew until he conceived the betrayal and then put it into practice. Jesus himself had said it clearly: “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Mt 6:24). Judas ended up preferring wealth. And he walked down that road. But what he saw at the end of the road was very different from what Judas thought. Perhaps Judas’s anguish began just when he became worried about figuring out how and when to “hand Jesus over.” And the moment was about to come. It would have coincided with Passover, when the lamb was sacrificed in remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Jesus knows full well what awaits him and he said it to the disciples, “My time is near.” Jesus asked them to prepare the Passover meal: a lamb dinner. With this decision, Jesus showed that in truth it is not Judas who “consigned” him to the priests. Jesus himself “consigned” himself to death out of love for all. The question about love that Jesus posed that evening continues to be asked of every disciple and of every man and woman. Jesus’ passion has not ended. The demand for love arises especially from the poor, the weak, the lonely, the condemned, and those who are martyrized by human wickedness. We all are encouraged to listen to this question and to distance ourselves from the betrayal hidden in the heart of everyone. Judas also that evening, to hide his feelings from the others, dared to say, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Let us ask ourselves about our betrayals, not to be overwhelmed by them, but to bind ourselves all the more to Jesus who continues to take upon his shoulders the sins of the world.