Holy Wednesday 2015
Today is known as Spy Wednesday – from the verse in Scripture, Matthew 27:14-16: Judas spied for an opportunity to hand over Jesus to the authorities.
Judas goes out and betrays the Son of Man for 30 pieces of silver. The amount that was a reward for capture of a thief, equal to four months’ pay for an average worker – that is how desperate the priests were to catch Christ. Mary is called in the Roman Catholic litany of Loretto house of gold – Jesus is the gold that was within her. For this golden man, this priceless Son of God, Judas gets his infamous 30 pieces of silver, and goes out and buys a field with it to start a farm on. In Luke’s account, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles, he later goes to inspect his land, trips on a rock and falls down and is killed in a bloody end, and that this becomes Akeldama, blood field. That field, blood field, was a place where pagans and renegade Israelites conducted child sacrifice, murdering their own babies and throwing them into the fiery pit of the god Moloch, it became another word for hell. Of all the properties in Jerusalem, this is what Judas buys! The locals called it Gehenna, which became another word for hell, as Jesus calls hell eleven times. To make the decision to reject God, to do so for flimsy reasons, can lead a soul into the danger of perdition, to damnation. Judas’ betrayal with a kiss tomorrow night is a heinous crime, used even by communists as an example of perfidy, of disloyalty. But here we see just how awful Judas’ crime is – he sells our Lord so as to literally buy a piece of hell, and then the very land rises up against him and kills him. To me, this is even worse than the story of him hanging himself in despair!
The anonymous woman who anoints Jesus with the expensive myrrh covers him with this aromatic substance used for both healing the sick and preparing the bodies of the dead for burial. The Giver of life is going to become the first-born of the dead, and this woman who is supposedly a public sinner is so consumed with remorse for her sins that she gives of herself like this to Him. She weeps over His dirty feet, cleaning off the caked muck from the streets with the power of the tears gushing out of her swollen eyes. We don’t know her name – she is not Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Bethany, or anyone from their company. It is an anonymous woman, who stands for all of us anonymous sinners, who should weep for our sins and failings with such feeling that our tears will wipe away real dirt and spiritual dirt.
Our Lord promises that her memory will be kept alive, as we do tonight. In memory of her loving action, preparing Christ for His burial and burying her sins in her tears, we celebrate the holy mystery of anointing — this sacrament that heals us of all sickness, in soul and body, but which demands our sorrow for our sins first.
The prayers tonight emphasize
-deliverance from sin’s effects,
-healing strength for our bodies
– God’s enormous capacity for forgiveness
-eradication of the punishment due to us for our sins.
Jesus comes to deliver us from every infirmity and from death — He can heal us in our minds, bodies, souls; He conquers death – as on Holy Saturday He descends to Sheol and raises up Adam and Eve and all the just who died since original sin until his crucifixion; and He continues to conquer death by guaranteeing us eternal life. The proposition is this – eternal life, but where? Door #1: In paradise and so continuing to learn about God, His love, His eternal trinity; with the saints, with our beloved, with answers given to all our questions, on the greatest adventure of all? Or Door #2 with Satan and his minions, rejecting God, cursing God, perpetually dying and refusing to love. We’re here so we’re going for Door #1 – but are we really trying as hard as we can, are we truly ready to give up our bad habits, our addictions, our anger, our pains? To live with Christ means dying to a lot of stuff – and it means learning so much more and growing constantly. Judas took the short road to some easy money and getting his goal – that plot of land that would kill him. The world leads us in wrong directions constantly – with shining temptations that are so appealing – but no peace. Christ is the prince of peace, the physician of souls and bodies, the eternal Friend, Lover and Beloved.
When we come forward tonight, bring our physical pain and our psychic pain, our hurting bodies, memories, feelings and ask Jesus to heal us in this holy mystery and strengthen us in the days ahead to Pascha. And let us be truly, truly thankful to Him.