Jesus is betrayed by Judas, and captured by the Soldiers.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas, and captured by the Soldiers.
“Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?”—St. Luke xxii. 48.
COMFORTED by the Angel’s visit, and feeling His strength renewed, Jesus went for the third time to His apostles. Again finding them asleep, He aroused them, saying reproachfully: “Sleep ye now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Then resuming His usual sweetness of manner, He subjoined: “Rise, let us go: behold, he is at hand that will betray Me.” Accompanied by Peter, James, and John, He then proceeded towards the spot where He had left the rest of His disciples. Here He halted to await the arrival of Judas the traitor, who approached with armed soldiery to arrest Him.
This wicked disciple, who knew well the place where Jesus was accustomed to pass whole nights in prayer, obtained from the chief priests a band of soldiers, armed with swords, clubs, and ropes, and also one of the servants of the chief priests; and, placing himself at their head, he led this wicked band, in the silence of the night, from the city of Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemani. Some carried torches and lanterns and went on before the multitude; but all were under the command of Judas, who, previous to leaving the city, had given them a sign by which they might easily recognize Jesus. He said to them, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He: hold Him fast.”
Thus equipped for the accomplishment of their nefarious designs, the enemies of Jesus approached Gethsemani. Through fear of being discovered they walked in profound silence, but the light of their lanterns and torches gleaming through the foliage of the olive-trees gave the signal of their arrival. Jesus and His disciples saw the lights, arid soon caught the sounds of approaching footsteps; but instead of attempting to escape, they advanced to meet their enemies. When they had come face to face, Judas came forth from among his followers, threw his arms around his Master’s neck, impressed a kiss upon His sacred brow, and said, “ Hail, Rabbi!”
The Holy Fathers and other expositors of the sacred text, commenting on this terrible incident in the history of the betrayal of Jesus, express the greatest horror at the enormity of the crime.
St. Augustine among others, considering the manner in which it was perpetrated, is filled with a holy indignation, and exclaims: “O sacrilegious sign! by which war is begun under the appearance of peace. Perfidious apostle! dost thou not experience horror throughout thy soul at the thought of shedding the blood of the Just under the guise of friendship? Durst thou, under cover of a sign of affection, deal a cruel blow to the loving heart of Jesus? Durst thou deal a death-blow under the false sign of peace? What iniquity! The servant be trays his Lord! the disciple sells his Master!”
But the loving Saviour, who still desired the conversion of Judas, even at the moment when that unhappy apostle was perpetrating his horrible crime, said to him, “Friend, whereto art thou come?” Then, in accents of paternal reproof and loving entreaty, He subjoined, “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?” which was as if Jesus had said: “What have I done to deserve such treatment from thee? Oh, return to My friendship and love! O child, return to the arms of thy loving Father! Think on what thou hast done! Repent of thy crime, and then give Me another kiss; but let that be a kiss of peace, of love, of repentance, and I will repay thee with a kiss of forgiveness. Fear not, O son of My mercy! Remember that I came down from heaven to save sinners. Remember the parable of the prodigal son, and know that I am that tender Father whose pleasure it ever is to welcome back the erring one. Come, O my son! Return to Me and receive the kiss of peace!”
Thus the loving Jesus spoke to the heart of the sacrilegious Judas, but in vain; for the devil had already taken possession of the traitor, and had secured his heart against every emotion but despair.
Let us ponder well the twofold excess which this consideration presents to our mind: the almost incredible iniquity of Judas on the one hand, and the ineffable love of Jesus Christ on the other. An apostle betrays his Divine Master with a kiss, and the Master calls him friend during the very moment that the horrible crime is being consummated.
Jesus, having now made the last effort to convert Judas, turned at once to the soldiers, and with a majesty befitting a God who has at His command all the elements of heaven and earth, He said to them, “Whom seek you?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then Jesus said, “I am the one whom you seek;” and immediately, as if stricken by lightning, the men were hurled backwards and fell to the ground, and the perfidious Judas fell also. Our Lord gave His captors this proof of His divinity and omnipotence, in order that they might have no excuse for their incredulity and hardness of heart in not recognizing Him as God. Again He asked them, “Whom seek ye?” and again they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then Jesus gave them power to arise, saying, “I have told you that I am He: if, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.” The soldiers did not become better at the sight of such power and meekness combined; but they at once arose from the ground, and seizing upon the person of the Saviour, they began to heap upon Him the foulest insults and infamies, striking Him with their fists, spitting in His sacred face, tying Him with ropes, placing an iron chain around His neck, and then dragging Him about. In a word, they covered Him with every possible insult, till in a little while He stood among them “a Man of sorrows,” as He had been foreseen in the vision of the prophet Isaias.
The apostles were present at the capture of their beloved Master, and being unable to bear the sight of His awful tortures, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Meantime, Peter, the most resolute of them, without waiting for an answer, drew his sword from its scabbard, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. This man had, perhaps, treated Jesus with more cruelty than any of His companions. Neverless, this inconsiderate act of Peter keenly wounded the Master’s heart; for the Saviour did not wish to defend Himself by returning injury for injury, but only by doing good. Therefore He immediately worked a miracle in favor of the wounded man by restoring him his ear. Then turning to Peter, He reproached him, saying, “Put up again thy sword into its place; for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of Angels? How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?”
After these words addressed to Peter, Jesus turned to the soldiers who were holding Him, and, reproaching them for the manner in which they had accomplished His arrest, said to them: “You have come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to apprehend Me. I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on Me.” This was equivalent to saying: “I have lived among you; I have instructed you; I have performed miracles before you. Why did you not make Me prisoner on some previous occasion, when it was easily in your power to do so, rather than capture Me in the silence of the night, while I was praying to My Heavenly Father? Unhappy men, do you not see that nothing is unknown to Me, that I foresee all, that I dispose of all things according to My will, and that you cannot do anything without My permission? But now your hour is come: do, therefore, with Me whatever you wish, but dare not to touch one of My disciples; let them go forth unmolested.”
Among the many points which this consideration offers for our pious meditation, we should particularly dwell on these: first, the meekness of Jesus when He reproached Peter for having had recourse to the sword; secondly, the charity and pity He showed by restoring Malchus’ ear; thirdly, the love and fidelity He showed for His disciples by securing their safety and freedom.
The fruit to be derived from this consideration is a great and ever-increasing love for Jesus Christ, our meek, merciful, faithful, and loving Saviour.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
Among those who are united in our Lord Jesus Christ by the bonds of charity, and by the desire to procure the honor and glory of God, the most profitable words are those which the Holy Ghost engraves on their hearts by the prayers which they offer for one another. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 64.
March Devotion: St. Joseph
Virtue to practice: Mortification
To thee, O blessed Joseph, do we have recourse in our tribulation, and, implored the help of thy thrice-holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that charity wherewith thou was united to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray, that thou wouldst look graciously upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ hath purchased by His Blood, and assist us in our needs by thy power and strength. Most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, protect the chosen people of Jesus Christ; keep far from us most lovely father, all blight of error and corruption: mercifully assist us from heaven, most mighty defender, in this our conflict with the powers of darkness; and, even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the supreme peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; keep us one and all under thy continual protection, that we may be supported by thine example and thine assistance, may be enabled to lead a holy life, die a happy death and come at last to the possession of everlasting blessedness in heaven. Amen.
An indulgence of 3 years. An indulgence of 7 years during the month of October, when said after the recitation of the Rosary and on any Wednesday throughout the year. A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions, If this prayer is devoutly said daily (Leo Xiii, Encyclical Aug. 15, 1889; S.C. Ind., Sept. 21, 1889; S.P.Ap., May 17, 1927; Dec. 13, 1935; and March 10, 1941). (taken from The Raccolta (c)1957).
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