Maundy Thursday marks the occasion when Jesus hosted a divine dinner party with his closest friends. The whole time he was eating and drinking with them, he knew something of which they were not fully aware – that this would be the last time he would do this with them. The events that would unfold the next day would change everything for them. In fact, the events that would unfold that first Good Friday would ultimately change the world.
But Maundy Thursday is a precursor to that. It sets the table for what would happen next. Jesus initiated this most holy of weekends with a meal which is, at its heart, one of reconciliation and wholeness. 2,000 years later we still commemorate this meal wherein we celebrate the fact that, through some divine mystery, Christ strengthens and rebuilds the connective tissue of humanity into the renewed Body of Christ.
Sometimes those connections to others are challenging, particularly when the world around us seems itself to turn on division. There is so much that divides us – race, class, religion, nationality, political ideology – and yet I deeply believe that Jesus is committed to “lose nothing of all that [God] has given him” (John 6:39).
In Simon Ushakov’s icon depicting “The Mystical Supper,” it is clear that the attention is on Jesus. He is, after all, the founder of this great feast. And yet, I cannot help but be drawn to the only person in this icon who is without a halo – Judas.
I know the unspoken belief is that Judas is ultimately condemned because he betrayed Jesus, but I can’t help but be drawn back to the relentless love of Christ revealed in John 6:39 and echoed in Romans 8:39, that “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Not even ourselves. Despite what we do, I have to continue to believe that Jesus would do anything to come and rescue me.
A few years ago I stumbled across a rich Holy Week reflection by David Henson that I commend to you and your family this week. Although it is called “The Descent: Short, Short fiction for Holy Week,” I like to think of it as non-fiction.
In his reflection, David muses about what might have happened if Jesus ran into Judas as he was putting Hell out of business. In the space where we might be tempted to see eternal damnation, David places grace: unstoppable, unshakable grace. Jesus invites his friend home with all the other ransomed dead.
“’You don’t belong here. None of them do,’ Jesus said, gesturing to the souls behind him. ‘I won’t lose a single soul given to me. Come on, everyone. We’re leaving. And never coming back.’”
Ultimately, I do not know what happened to Judas. His anger, or greed, or impatience led him to betray one of his dearest friends. Scripture says that the anguish of what he had done drove Judas into such despair that death seemed like his only way out. But if Paul is right, then nothing will separate us from the loving heart of Jesus. Nothing.
A Prayer for Today
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How do you identify – or not – with Judas?