“IS IT I, LORD?” (Mt 26:14-25): 19 March 2008 (Holy Wednesday)
I haven’t seen the movie, but I read Khaled Hosseini’s first novel The Kite Runnersometime last year. Set in Afghanistan, the story revolves around two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan. Hassan is the son of the servant of Amir’s father, and is his loyal kite runner–the one who runs to fetch the kites that Amir defeats in the game of kite-fighting. To avoid spoiling the novel or the movie, all I will say is that Amir ends up betraying his friend, and for many years, long after he has moved to a faraway country, he is haunted by the memory of his treacherous act.
But one day, he gets an unexpected phone call from his father’s old friend who tells him enigmatically: “There is a way to be good again.” What this man means is that there is a way for Amir to make some reparation and perhaps to obtain forgiveness.
During the Last Supper the Lord looks around the table and announces to the Twelve that one of them will betray him. The disciples, including Judas Iscariot, all turn to him and take turns asking him: “Is it I, Lord?”
The question haunts me because it’s a question I will never be able to bring myself to ask the Lord. The reason? I already know the answer. After all, I know my own history of betrayals like the palm of my hand. I have betrayed the Lord in the things I’ve done in my life, as well as things I’ve chosen not to do–through the harsh and uncharitable words I’ve spoken and the unkind and wicked acts I’ve performed. I’ve betrayed him in the kindness that I failed to extend to others, especially those in greatest need of it, because I was too self-centered or too proud or simply too busy. I don’t want to ask him a question that will make him answer the way he did Judas: “You have said so.” It’s a pained response that’s probably prompted by Judas’ insincerity. To have to ask when he already knows–all too well–what the answer is.
But what strikes me most is what Jesus says and does to Judas. In Matthew, he makes a speech about what’s about to happen:
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
In John, however, the Lord goes further. He dips a morsel of bread and hands it to Judas–like a peace offering, a tender gesture of friendship as if to reach out and say: “Judas, there is a way to be good again.”
But we’re told that after receiving the morsel, Judas leaves the room, and–the evangelist adds–“it was night” referring to the darkness outside, but also in the clouded heart of Judas.
Here’s a Quick Question for you: “Do you recall a time when the Lord reached out and offered you a way to be good again?” Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: cover of The Kite Runner)