Tuesday of Holy Week
Imagine what it was like for Jesus to realize, in His heart, that one of His closest friends would betray Him. “…Jesus was deeply troubled…” The Greek is even more revealing: “…Jesus was disturbed to the spirit…” Right down to His soul; the realization of Judas’s betrayal literally pierced Him to the quick.
And then a very shocking thing happens: “After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.” Satan, Christ’s chief opponent, had been welcomed into the heart of one of Jesus’ closest friends. Inside of himself, Judas had surrendered his heart to the enemy.
Our passage says they “reclined” at table; it was customary to rest on one’s left side, with the right hand and arm free to reach for food. John, leaning “back against Jesus’ chest” therefore was on Jesus’ right. Here is the shocking thing: the seat of honor was at the host’s left, and it was likely that this is where Judas reclined. We can deduce this because he was the one who received the morsel: the host would take a small bit of the meal and feed it to the guest of honor. Having only his right hand free, it would be easiest for Him to turn to the left to give it to Judas. Also, it seems as though the other disciples don’t quite know what Jesus and Judas are talking about; Judas therefore was close by. Even with this great honor and affection shown him, Judas’s heart could not be softened; what was given out of love by Jesus was received with hate, and such a hate that this apostle left the service of his King and went to stand under the standard of the world’s soon-to-be-overthrown prince.
And so we consider ourselves in light of St. Ignatius’ meditation on the Two Standards, or banners. The saint asks us to consider how Satan dispatches his minions all over the world, admonishing them “to set up snares and chains, how first they should tempt people to covet riches, so that they may more easily come to vain honor from the world, and finally to surging pride…and from these three steps the enemy entices them to all the other vices.” Judas was the keeper of the community purse, and it is mentioned elsewhere that he would steal from it (John 12:6); he would betray Jesus for a paltry thirty pieces of silver. Did Jesus give him the seat of honor, or did he take it for himself?
In contrast we consider Christ’s banner, and how Jesus exhorts His servants and friends to “aid all persons, by attracting them first to the most spiritual poverty and also, if the Divine Majesty should be served and should with to choose them for it, even to no less a degree of actual poverty; and second, by attracting them to a desire of reproaches and contempt, since from these results humility…then from these three steps they should induce people to all the other virtues.” John sought no riches and even took, perhaps, the worst seat in at the table: the only seat at which a person would have their back to Jesus. But when we look at any painting of the Last Supper or consider it, whose seat do we always wish to have? The one closest to the beating Heart of Christ. He took the humble seat, and though he had his back to his Beloved Jesus, it was Judas who turned his back.
Under which standard do we find ourselves? Where do we wish to stand?