Wednesday 28 March 2018

About Today Readings

The crowning with thorns, 1603 Kunsthistorisches Museum, vienna

Wednesday in Holy Week.

Isaiah 50:4-9. Psalm 68(69):8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34. Matthew 26:14-25.

Lord, in your great love, answer me— Psalm 68(69):8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34. 

I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.

The prophet Isaiah says in the reading for today that ‘each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple.’ This is often our experience with scripture. No matter how well we know a passage, the Lord keeps waking us to new and deeper encounters with its heart.

Think about today’s Gospel which seems full of arrangements. Judas meets the chief priests and the disciples need to find a place to celebrate the Passover. But there is a deeper theme of responsibility. Judas does not stipulate a price. He simply asks ‘what are you prepared to give me?’ In other words, he wants someone else to make this decision for him, even in a matter of life and death. Again, it says that Judas looked for an opportunity. He wants circumstances to do his dirty work. He won’t take the responsibility of creating an opportunity.

Jesus, as always, finds him out. When Judas, playing a game, says ‘not I surely?’ Jesus replies ‘it is you who say it’. Jesus pushes him to take responsibility for his own words and actions. Something similar can be seen in Caravaggio’s ‘The Crowning with Thorns’. Two figures are exerting themselves to inflict what must have been excruciating pain, forcing the thorns into place. Yet the man who is obviously in charge is sitting on the side, dressed in armour to protect himself, his cuffs immaculate. We cannot see his face. He is another figure of darkness, despite the white feathers in his hat. They, like the thirty coins, are a symbol of status and power. The crown Jesus wears is a symbol of the opposite.

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