I Spy

Happy Spy Wednesday.

What? You forgot to send a card? You didn't finish your shopping? You're waiting, perhaps, for the After Spy Wednesday Sales at Target?

Relax. It's not a feast day, or a holiday, and this holds no formal place on the Catholic calendar. This simply marks the day before Holy Thursday, and it is traditionally considered the time when Judas set about plotting his betrayal of Jesus—"spying" for an opportunity to turn him in.

If you want to consider this merely a curious date that stands outside the proper of the seasons, and doesn't have any real significance, think again.

Spy Wednesday throws a spotlight, however briefly, on Judas, the one whose very name to this day is synonymous with betrayal. But the glare also falls on each of us. We might consider this an unofficial feast day for the human race: a day when each of us has to face the painful reality that we are sinners, and that we are guilty of an unspeakable crime.

If you want to be honest about it: we have all betrayed Christ.

We have all been Judas.

The gospel for today recounts how Judas set about his work, meeting with the chief priests, negotiating his payment, then dutifully watching for "an opportunity to betray him." He found it, conveniently, the next night—and when Christ declared that someone there at the table would turn against him, Judas chimed in, "Surely, it is not I, Rabbi?"

And surely, it was.

The one who betrayed Jesus was one who had followed him from the beginning—one who had listened to his teaching, witnessed his miracles, even ventured into villages to preach and to convert and to heal. He heard the parables and welcomed the coming of the Kingdom of God. He knew Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Christ's extended family of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He undoubtedly broke bread with Jesus often, and spent more than one Passover in his presence.

But something happened to change his mind. Something caused him not only to reject Jesus, but to conspire, to plot, to actively work against him. Even this apostle, one of the original twelve handpicked by Jesus, turned against him. Others would abandon Christ, and one would deny knowing him. But this one, Judas, betrayed him utterly.

Think he was the only one? Think again.

How many of us do that ourselves?

How many of us break bread with Christ on Sunday—sharing a dish, savoring his grace, experiencing his presence—only to damn him on Monday?

How many of us veer away from living the gospel as soon as it becomes too hard, too challenging, too complicated?

How many of us lose heart, lose trust, lose faith?

How many of us cling to petty disagreements, refuse to forgive, disregard those we dislike?

How many of us believe we know everything, and that everybody else knows nothing?

How many of us are convinced of our own moral superiority?

How many of us find excuses for the inexcusable, rationalize the irrational, and justify the unjustifiable?

How many of us are led into temptation, and then stick around to enjoy the view?

Surely, it is not I, is it?

Well. Yeah. It is.

Every conscious act of disloyalty to God—every sin—is, in fact, an act of betrayal. We betray everything Jesus stood for, and stood up for. We dishonor what he died for.

We become, in ways large and small, Judas.

This day, Spy Wednesday, will always be intimately linked to Judas. But it belongs to the rest of us, too. All who walk with Christ until the road gets rocky; all who falter and stumble; all who promise fidelity and then drift; all who pledge allegiance and then run and hide when the battle becomes hard or the sacrifice too great. This is humanity's dark moment, the cloudy calm before the flashing storm, and we are all in good company—the liars, the cheaters, the adulterers, the thieves, the murderers, the mockers, and even just ordinary, mundane sinners who are guilty of the fudged truth or the snarky put down. We're all here. Welcome to the club.

The good news in the Good News is that even when we wander away, even when we betray The One we claim to love, we are always welcomed back. We can start over. God looks for us, and waits for us. His love is limitless. His mercy is boundless. He paces the floor, waiting and watching and worrying. He will give anything to help us, to rescue us, to see us saved.

And the next three days will prove that.