The message of Spy Wednesday: Love is never a transaction.
A Reflection for Wednesday of Holy Week
“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Mt 26:15).
The Wednesday of Holy Week has an amusing name: Spy Wednesday, named after the Gospel story of Judas’s betrayal. The name is a bit dramatic. It reminds me of the TV show I have been watching recently, “The Americans,” about two Soviet spies doing dangerous intelligence work in the Reagan-era United States. Was Judas really some kind of conniving, covert mastermind?
I think not, and we do ourselves a disservice by over-dramatizing his character.
Judas is not irredeemably evil. Rather, he is a man who has neglected love in favor of a beneficial transaction. In this transactional mindset, everything has an exchange value. This of course is necessary in many ways. I pay eight dollars for a sandwich from the deli rather than expecting it for free. But we also carry this mentality over to our interpersonal relationships. I am kind, sympathetic and attentive only to those who act the same toward me.
In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis warned us to be aware of this: “[Jesus] asks us to break out of the mindset that says: ‘I will love you if you love me; I will be your friend if you are my friend; I will help you if you help me.’” Everything is calculated, and nothing is gratuitous.
We must allow the passion of our beloved Jesus to shatter the illusion that love should only be given out in calculated doses.
A transactional mindset stifles the love of the Gospel, the love that Jesus has preached about and lived during his public ministry. It is a creative, spontaneous, self-giving love, attentive to the needs of others and open to the surprising invitations of the Holy Spirit. The next few days will be the final test of this love. Tomorrow, Jesus will get to his knees and tenderly wash the feet of the same disciples who will abandon him. On Friday, he will give himself up to die like a criminal. There’s no fair trade to be had, no last-minute deal to win himself a better fate.
So long as we keep thinking in terms of transactions, we are not so different from Judas. “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” Thirty pieces of silver makes it a “fair” transaction but a tragic one.
We must reject this transactionality in our lives. We must allow the passion of our beloved Jesus to shatter the illusion that love should only be given out in calculated doses. We must say yes to the love that leads to the cross—and also to the beauty of resurrection.
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What are you giving up for Lent?
Alcohol. Put more positively, I hope that not drinking will encourage me to be more intentionally present in social situations.
Do you cheat on Sundays?
Who wrote this question? “Cheating” implies that I am doing something wrong. Yes, I usually break my fast on Sunday. My grandmother did it, so it’s not cheating.
Favorite non-meat recipe
Baked feta, a simple dish with feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, onions, parsley and olives (no olives for me though). Serve with homemade pita chips. Delicious.
Favorite Lenten hymn
“Were You There.” It gets me every time.