John 13: 21-33, 36-38
Who betrays Jesus? If we learned anything from Palm Sunday, we know that we all do.
One of the most powerful aspects of the Passion reading on Palm Sunday (which is observed in some places) is when the assembly takes the part of the crowd and we say, “Crucify him.” We all acclaim Jesus when we sing “Hosanna” at the entrance procession and we all condemn him when we say “crucify him.” This always reminds me that our sinfulness places us side by side with the people who condemned our Lord. Luckily, our sinfulness does not have the final word in this story. God’s mercy does.
In this reading from the Gospel of John, Judas plays a central role. He leaves the table and sets in motion the final drama of Jesus’ execution. When we think of the question, “who betrays Jesus?” the first, most clear answer that comes to mind is simple: Judas. And yet, Peter’s betrayal is also foretold in the very same passage. Even as he promises to lay down his life for Jesus, he is told that he will deny Jesus three times. From the most notorious sinner in human history to the rock of the Church, we all betray our Lord.
I have always found it interesting that the Catholic lectionary reads the full Passion narrative on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. It’s almost as if the Passion reading at the beginning of Holy Week introduces the full theme of our journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and then we go back through the events leading up to the crucifixion, like a tragedy playing out in slow motion. Holy Week is not an easy journey. Today’s gospel reading shows us that we all betray Jesus, like Judas and Peter. Judas turns his back on Jesus in a final and permanent way. Peter betrays Jesus through his weakness and failure to understand. Sin is inevitable. But will we sin like Judas or sin like Peter?
Glorious Jesus, You offer us the bread of life. Inspire our desire to follow You wherever You lead and protect us from any temptation to deny You. We ask this through Your most holy name, as you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.