One of my favorite cartoons growing up was the Family Circus. I loved the energy the children and how the cartoonist, Bill Keane, portrayed them as they fell in and out of trouble. My favorites were when something broke and the “invisibles” would show up. They had names like “Not Me”, “Nobody”, and “Ida Know”.
I was thinking about this cartoon today during Mass. The gospel reading was from Matthew 26:14-25.
Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from then onwards he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go to a certain man in the city and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.” ‘ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came, he was at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating he said, ‘In truth I tell you, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not me, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn, ‘Not me, Rabbi, surely?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is you who say it.’
What struck me about this passage was not the fact that Judas was reluctant to reveal his impending betrayal. I mean, you can hardly to expect him to own up to it. What I did notice, however, is the fact that none of the other disciples asked the question, “Who is it?” You would think that finding out the betrayer’s identity would be a top priority for them.
Instead, they scramble. They look inward. “Is he reading my mind?” “Can he hear my doubts?” “Does he know I’m still wondering if he’s for real?” And so, they all try to cover their own tracks. “Surely, it is not I, Lord?”
This reminds me of another story read in Mass recently…the woman caught in the act of adultery. We are not told what Jesus writes in the dirt. Only that after he has written, the men who brought the woman to him for judgement, all leave. Was it the Law? Was it their names? Their sins? We aren’t told. But in this case, we know whom Jesus is referring to. At least, in part.
The immediate answer would be Judas. But what else did Jesus say? “Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me.” But…they had all dipped their hands into the dish with Jesus. We have all dipped our hands into the dish with Jesus. So, maybe when Jesus said he was to be betrayed, each of the disciples was examining his own conscious for betrayals.
How do I betray Jesus? When I allow things to take the place of spending time with him. When I place people in higher esteem than him. When I worship anything above him. What prevents me from staying loyal to Jesus? Television…social media…the list is endless. Even good works can keep us “too busy” to listen to Jesus’ voice.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, had a verse that really stuck with me. Chapter 50, verse 4 says in part, “…morning after morning he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do.” I like that image: Christ waking me by whispering to me his will for that day.
As we move through Holy Week, one like none of us have experienced before, think of those things that might cause us to betray Christ. Pray that Jesus will “awaken us” to even the smallest of distractions…that we might enjoy a deepening of faith and rejoice together our risen Savior.
Jesus, open my ears that I may hear your voice. Let not busyness or indifference become a barrier to hearing your word. Instead of “not I Lord”, let us welcome your light shining on those areas of need in our lives. Be with our loved ones and those suffering during this pandemic, that they may feel your presence and your peace in the midst of this storm. Amen.