Reflecting the current realities, isolation, distance and loneliness have been themes shaping these reflections on the events of Holy Week. Reading of the experiences of Jesus, there is a sense of the growing isolation he faced, his experiences may serve as an encouragement to all who face isolation in their own lives.
It was the broadcaster Terry Wogan who introduced me to the idea that the Wednesday of Holy Week was called “Spy Wednesday.” Watching his 7 pm weeknight BBC television programme on a Wednesday before Easter in the early 1980s, he appeared on screen and welcomed his audience on this “spy Wednesday.” Many, if not most of his audience, must have wondered what he was talking about: was this just a piece of Limerick eccentricity, or an Irish custom that he brought to London with him? Few would have heard of Judas Iscariot, fewer still the story of Judas arranging to betray Jesus.
In Chapter 26 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Judas’ agreement with the enemies of Jesus is described,
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Jesus has been aware of Judas’ intentions, aware of what would happen, yet not once does he share with his friends what Judas will do. At the Last Supper, when Jesus tells Judas to go, the disciples assume Judas is being sent to perform some practical task. Just hours away from the arrest of Jesus, they have no inkling of what lies ahead.
To know that you are going to be betrayed, worse, to know that someone who has been trusted by all of your friends is the traitor, must create a feeling of intense isolation. What is there that could have been said? To have shared Judas’ secret would only have brought a sense of bewilderment among the disciples. What could anyone have done that would have made a difference?
Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, knew what it was to be betrayed. The revelation to the Nazis of the Frank family’s hiding place in Amsterdam cost the lives of all of Otto Frank’s family; only he survived the Holocaust. Otto Frank knew isolation, he knew utter desolation, he could have focused upon the bitterness and anger he could justifiably have felt. Otto Frank chose to use his experiences in a positive way. After the war, he was given his daughter Anne’s diary by Miep Gies, his former secretary. He used the diary as a means of educating the world about the Holocaust.
In the Gospel, betrayal emphasises the isolation of Jesus, it emphasises the distance between he and his friends, but it is accepted as a step in the path that he follows.
Contemplating the isolation and distance of the current days, how might we feel if betrayal was added to our experience?