I was one of four lectors at our Palm Sunday liturgy this weekend. The Passion was divided into parts (not the customary dramatized parts, just a way to give the long narrative a variety of voices). Perhaps because the passage about Judas (Matthew 27:3-10) fell to me, I noticed it more than I might have otherwise. Or perhaps, as so often happens when I hear the Passion narrative each year, current events made it stand out.
The chief priests and the elders responded to Judas with such distance and detachment. How is your suffering any concern of ours? Concerned with their power, their status, their reputation, they needed to be rid of the rabble-rousing prophet, and they used one of his own disaffected followers to make the arrangements.
How carefully they gathered up the 30 pieces of silver Judas flung into the temple in his despair. Waste not, want not! And yet they knew it was blood money. They knew it couldn’t be used for sacred things. They knew what the law said. In our own day, they might have said, “Our lawyers have advised us….”
And so a guilty man hung himself, feeling at least some remorse for what he had done. And an innocent man was put to death on a cross. The Son of God died a humiliating death and his followers were scattered. And even then, the chief priests and the elders were still only concerned with the stories that might be spread by his followers, stories that would make them look bad.
We begin Holy Week with a prayer that all of us, bishops, priests and people alike, will overcome the temptation of distance and detachment, embracing instead Paul’s words to the Philippians: “He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of slave, being born in human likeness” (6:6-7)
Our God will always stand with the voiceless, with the powerless, with the victims. That is where we must stand as well, if we say that we stand at the foot of his cross.