Tuesday of Holy Week
A common spiritual exercise when reading Sacred Scripture is to place one’s self in the role of the various characters encountered in the biblical story. Today’s gospel reading presents for our consideration, three of Jesus’ disciples: Judas, Peter, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” commonly thought to be John but never specifically named in the Gospel.
It may be difficult to contemplate ourselves in the role of Judas. Who wants to identify with the most notorious traitor in history? And yet, Judas becomes a focal point for reflection on how quickly one can fall from grace and out of the company of Jesus’ disciples. We can never truly know what motivated Judas to betray Christ. Was it greed, disillusionment, excessive zeal, or some other misguided intention? The sheer number of possible explanations should give us pause to consider how easily it is for any of us to turn away from the Lord, allowing Satan to enter our hearts.
Peter is always a complex and perplexing figure. Within just a few short verses, we see him confused and bewildered (“Master, where are you going… why can I not follow you now?”), brash with bravado (“I will lay down my life for you!”), humbled and embarrassed (“The cock will crow before you deny me three times.”). My guess is many of us at some point have experienced mercurial, roller coaster rides in our spiritual lives akin to that of Peter. Like him, we have a sincere love and desire to follow Christ, but often find it difficult to say or do precisely the right thing.
Finally, we have the disciple whom Jesus loved. He appears to enjoy a special relationship with the Lord, not to mention a more immediate access to Jesus than even Peter, who must rely on him to get inside information about the traitor’s identity. This disciple has Jesus’ confidence, he reclines at the Master’s side, and his closeness to the Lord is epitomized by the fact that he is able to physically lean in and speak privately with him. I suppose we all yearn to be the disciple whom Jesus loves; to have the kind of intimacy and trust conveyed in this passage.
As our Lenten journey draws near its conclusion, we prepare to enter into the Paschal Mystery that we commemorate in the upcoming Triduum. May we also seek the grace we need to be ever more faithful in our daily response to the Lord’s call to discipleship.
Kenneth D. Snyder, Ph.D.
The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity