Wednesday of Holy Week
One of my favorite forms of praying with scripture is the Ignatian tradition of contemplative, imaginative prayer. Here, we are invited to listen to the scriptures and imagine ourselves within the stories we hear.
Reading today’s scriptures it can be easy to hear these words and imagine ourselves standing strong with the prophet, the psalmist, or among the disciples who cannot fathom betraying Christ. We would like to find ourselves blameless and innocent. We would like to say that morning after morning we open our ears and hearts to God and stand strong as Isaiah and the psalmist do. Doing so is comfortable.
Much more difficult however, is to identify with Judas, or later this week with Peter, who betray Christ, or to see ourselves as those who rebuke the prophet or the psalmist. Doing so requires a difficult evaluation of our own sinfulness. It requires that we confront the ways in which we have rebelled and turned our backs on Christ.
We may initially gawk at such a suggestion. “I have not plucked anyone’s beard, put gall in anyone’s food, nor exchanged someone’s life for a bag of silver!” We say to ourselves. Yet we cannot escape the scriptures through such a literal reading.
When we allow ourselves to identify with someone like Judas, we are challenged to honestly look at our daily actions and inactions and see where we fail to follow Christ. We realize the many ways we ignore the voices and needs of the poor, the marginalized, the minoritized, and the oppressed. We are confronted with the ways in which we are complicit with the structures that create such poverty, marginalization, minoritization, and oppression. We are troubled by the ways we have failed to advocate alongside our sisters and brothers. The list goes on and we find that doing so is uncomfortable.
Reflecting on our sinfulness, on the ways we have failed, is hard. We would much rather skip this part and fast-forward to Easter Sunday when Christ rises, defeats sin and death, and all seems right with the world. Yet, today’s readings remind us of the harsh reality of being a follower of Christ – a reality that is not always comfortable. They remind us that to do so, to follow Christ, requires much of us. It requires us to open our ears and hearts each day to hear Christ’s call. It requires that we respond to that call through speaking and acting against injustice as Isaiah, the psalmist, and Christ do. And it requires us to do so even when doing so puts us at risk of the rebuke and rejection we hear of so clearly in today’s scriptures.