He got the full treatment, Judas did – just like the rest of the disciples.
This thought had never occurred to me before, owing in part to a quirk in the Lectionary cycle for Holy Week. We hear, on Tuesday of Holy Week, the gospel passage recounting the moment of great darkness – when Judas up and leaves the company of Jesus (John 13:21). And then only later in the week, on Holy Thursday, is told the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:2).
So it’s easy enough to assume Judas might have missed out on this most tender act of compassion – leaving to betray his friend while yet mired in filth. But no, he was there for it all. Jesus humbly held Judas’ dirty feet in his divine hands, too, and wiped them clean.
Why had it so little effect, I am tempted to wonder. Why was Judas not moved to turn away from his dark design, and embrace the cleansing grace Jesus offered him in the moment?
Then I realize, none of us is so unlike Judas. None of us resists temptation all that well. We may think we are strong – that it’s enough to merely touch the tassel of Christ’s garment from time to time. But Holy Thursday’s great sacrament, and Holy Thursday’s liturgy, both bid us to go deeper – to recognize just how blind we often can be.
St. John Henry Newman put it well, in this reflection on knowledge of God’s will:
Christ had been washing his disciples’ feet. He did so at a season of great mental suffering. It was just before he was seized by his enemies to be put to death. The traitor, his familiar friend, was in the room. All of his disciples, even the most devoted of them, loved him much less than they thought they did. In a little while, they were all to forsake him, and flee. This, he foresaw; yet he calmly washed their feet, and he told them he did so by way of an example – that they should be full of lowly services, one to the other, as he to them…They knew the truth and admired it; they did not observe what it was they lacked…
In your Christian kindness…Please consider supporting the work of our Kairos Prison Ministry team as we serve the residents of Menard Correctional Center this spring. You can make a tax-deductible “green agape” donation to help defray the cost of the retreat. Click here to contribute: https://bit.ly/3JIZNf7 (Designate “Menard State Prison”)
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.