Reflections On Today’s Gospel Reading

Tuesday of Holy Week

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus announces his betrayer. Betrayal by a close friend or associate is probably one of the most painful of human experiences. If we are betrayed by someone close to us, we have to painfully conclude that the friend was not what he seemed to be. Jesus had to come to terms with the realization that one of his closest associates in whom he had invested so much time and energy, whose feet he had just washed, was not the disciple he appeared to be but was intent on betraying him to his enemies. It was one of Jesus’ many sufferings in the final hours of his life. It is a different kind of suffering to the physical suffering of his crucifixion he would soon endure. It was a suffering of the heart and spirit. The gospel reading declares that as Jesus announced the presence of his betrayer at the table, ‘he was troubled in spirit’. Many people are suffering physically at the moment because of the coronavirus, because they have contracted it. Many more are suffering at the level of heart and spirit, because they are anxious about the future, or because of a sense of isolation or because they have to forego activities that are important to them, whether it is grandparents not being able to hug their grandchildren or people of faith not being able to come to Mass. This is a different kind of suffering to physical suffering but every bit as real. It is a suffering that Jesus understands because he endured it himself. He knows what it means to be ‘troubled in spirit’. Yet, Jesus saw his suffering, including this suffering of his heart and spirit, in the setting of God’s greater purpose for his life and the life of humanity. As Jesus says at the end of the gospel reading, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and in him God has been glorified’. Jesus shows us how to place our own suffering against that broader canvas of God’s greater purpose for our lives and the life of humanity, a purpose which always has in view our present and ultimate wellbeing, our ‘glory’.

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