Wednesday of Holy Week: More than forgiveness; freedom from sin

Wednesday of Holy Week: More than forgiveness; freedom from sin

Today, often referred to as Spy Wednesday, marks the end of our quiet preparations for the rich drama that will unfurl throughout the Triduum, starting with tomorrow’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The barren aspect of Lent draws to a close; for we are on the cusp of the most dramatic act in the greatest drama of history.

In today’s readings one sees an obvious parallel between the one foretold of in Isaiah “who made no resistance, nor turned away; who offered his back to those who struck him, and his cheeks to those who tore at my beard; who did not cover his face against insult and spittle (Isaiah 50:5-6)” and the serenity of the Christ whose Passion is about to commence in Matthew’s Gospel.

Yet on another level the readings offer very contrasting accounts of discipleship: there is a lot of ground between the protagonist of Isaiah’s response to the Lord and Judas’ treachery. Today is a good time to reflect on our discipleship throughout Lent. Have we grown closer to the Lord?

We may feel that the disciple in Isaiah represents our idealised selves at the start of Lent, and feel a certain disappointment at how far we have fallen short. We might, though, find ourselves taking solace in the fact that “at least I haven’t betrayed Christ like Judas.”

We rightly view betrayal as something hugely destructive. It’s often not the particular sinful act that causes such revulsion in us, but rather the pain at the fracturing of the bonds of trust. We know that trust is what makes relationships possible, it is what holds society together, and accordingly it agonises us when we see these bonds damaged. Even when the betrayed party forgives the betrayer, the bonds of trust do not just miraculously reappear. A marriage can take years to recover from an affair, and things might not ever be the same. Abuse by a few priests in the Church has, for many, harmed their trust and respect for all priests.

However, as we reflect on our failings and our cooperation with God’s goodness, whilst some should be wary of over-scrupulousness, many of us probably need to guard against being blasé about ‘little’ sins. The little white lies we may tell erode, not only our integrity, but trust in us. What’s more we should remember, as we prepare to commemorate and live out Christ’s death and resurrection, that Christ did not die just to save us from the punishment due for our sins, but to save us from sin itself. We are no longer slaves to sin: “”For freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).” To view our own sins as inevitable and thus excusable is to have a lowly and mean view of what Jesus does for us. What we commemorate in the next few days is something much greater than that, and Easter can be the time when we start to live accordingly.

Fr Toby Lees is assistant priest at Our Lady of the Rosary and St Dominic's, London.