" You call Me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. "(John 13:13)

On that night  of the Last Supper, having so clearly set out His Divine Authority, Jesus showed forth His astounding Humility by proceeding to wash the feet of the disciples in that scene we know so well especially for its presentation of Saint Peter's characteristic demonstration of extreme volatility, But Jesus was about to demonstrate His astounding Mercy even more thoroughly though less obviously and over a number of hours.

In every scene of Sacred Scripture, Jesus is shown as truly the Master of every situation,He knows everything,"past, present and to come", and, as Sacred Scripture says of God : "omnia quaecumque voluit fecit "that is," whatever He wishes, He does".

Jesus has freely willed to accept Death on the Cross as the means to achieve our Salvation . But His Mercy is infinite and He will not allow Judas to commit the hideous crime of betraying the Son of Man - as he has contracted to do - without allowing him every grace and choice t o avoid the great sin. So, in the first place, He lets Judas know that He knows what Judas has done and plans to do.

"Amen,Amen, I say to you, one of you shall betray Me." Note that Our Lord is careful to allow Judas every time the chance to reform with no-one else knowing what he had intended. So now Judas knows that Jesus knows his guilty secret. All of the others , sure of their present innocence but not so sure of their courage under pressure, begin their "Is it I Lord?"cries. Until with characteristic impatience to find the traitor out, Saint Peter signals to St.John to ask Him who it is.This was easy to do, because Saint John's head, in the reclining arrangements of the disciples at table, is near Our Lord's breast.Our Lord softly tells John that it is the one to whom He shall give the morsel of bread dipped in the bowl. Saint John tells us that after Judas consumed the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus knew it of course and knew that it was not possible without Judas' agreement - therefore Jesus said to the committed traitor : "That which thou dost, do quickly."  Judas went out immediately "And it was night" Saint John tells us - night the time for hidden , shameful deeds, for all manner of evil. The others automatically assumed that Judas - the keeper of the purse- had some duty to perform.
"Judas, Dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
The events of this sublime evening moved on inexorably.The Saviour of the World, anticipating the bloody Sacrifice of the morrow on Calvary had given Himself -Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as food to His Disciples and had made them the first Bishops of His Church, instituting the Sacred Ministerial Priesthood. Now, after His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane in the course of which He had accepted the burden of the guilt of every sin of mankind,past, present and to come and the Father's Will that He should be sacrificed on the Cross to redeem the sinners  who wished to  be saved. All these crushing burdens were present to Him as both God and Man, and yet...and yet..He still took care to give Judas a way out. For, as the party of Soldiers and Temple Authorities accompanied by Judas emerged from the darkness,Jesus it was Who went forward to meet them. By so doing He ensured that the disciples did not identify Judas - even now, Jesus gave him the chance to break and run.

Jesus  asks them Who they seek "Jesus of Nazareth"comes the reply." I AM HE "Our Lord firmly responds. Then showing the force of His Divine Authority all of the would be captors stagger backwards and collapse to the ground. It is enough - He has shown that if He is to be taken, it will only be because He permits it.

Now, Judas has been given every opportunity to abandon his hideously sinful intention. But he wills to proceed. Throwing Jesus' Mercy back in His Face literally, he comes forward and as the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen said : "Blistered His lips with a kiss" - How sickening a betrayal - Innocence Himself delivered into the hands of His enemies through the abuse of the great symbol of love - a kiss!
Now the disciples also knew the traitor for what he was.And indeed, Judas himself in horror realised the appalling depth of the evil he had done.The words of Jesus came crashing and crushing into his heart of darkness: "...woe to that man"by whom the Son of Man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born."( Matt.26:24)

The Gospel narratives of Holy Thursday are wonderfully rich , but we have concentrated on one aspect alone,the merciful concern of Our Lord for the Salvation of the sinner planning to betray Him.Amid all the vast riches of that evening this reality is easy to pass by. But , it is and should be, a great lesson and consolation for each of us sinners to realise what a merciful God we adore.


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