Spy Wednesday. Hands up I am a Protestant. I had never heard of it. My friend Pádraig Ó Tuama mentioned it on BBC Radio Ulster’s Thought For The Day and I was straight onto the phone to my Catholic Correspondent Fr Martin Magill to ask about it.
Spy Wednesday? My Catholic brothers and sisters it seems concentrate their Holy Week thoughts on Judas on the day he looked for a way to betray Jesus, rather than on the day he actually betrayed him with a kiss.
All these years I have been concentrating my Judas surmises on Maundy Thursday. I can now bring him a day earlier and I am very happy about that.
You see, Maundy Thursday has so much going on. We find the humble God on his knees washing the disciples feet and then breaking bread, pouring wine and suggesting that he will do the same for the redemption of the world.
Catholics do liturgy better. I guess to be truthful even Protestants do liturgy better that Irish Presbyterians. In fact other Presbyterians do it better that Irish Presbyterians! Our theological prejudices have a habit of throwing Biblical babies out with the bath water. Oh, and there was bathwater that should have been thrown out BUT too many babies!!
I love Holy Week. I love walking through it. Theology for me is lived. It has flesh and blood. Even when I hear it preached or read about it in books unless it breathes out of real life events I am suspicious. Following Jesus is never meant to be cerebral. The word becoming flesh was the key!
So, Holy Week is all this theology tied up in the drama of Jesus Passion.
I gain a day of surmising with Spy Wednesday! I can interrogate this fascinating disciple at the heart of the drama. I can eek out where I might find myself in his attitudes and agendas.
I play U2’s Until The End of The World..The spark that lit Bono’s interest in Judas was a book of poems by Irish poet Brendan Kennelly called The Book of Judas. Kennelly’s work is quite a tome, eight years of poems, where profanity sits alongside Christ as he looks at the Judas of Gethsemane, the Judas in our culture and the Judas in us all.
In his preface, he asks questions like: Was Judas “A man whose vision of things was being throttled by another, more popular vision?”
Kennelly asks if… “Judas is a “spirit not confined to the man who bore the name Judas but one more alive and consequential now at the famined, bloated, trivialized, analytical, bomb-menaced, progressive, money-mad, reasonable end of the twentieth century than ever before?”
Most of us see Judas as Satan incarnate who sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver. If only Judas’ story was that simple. Judas and his story were so complex that Bob Dylan had wondered if Judas Iscariot had God on his side? It’s a mighty question that like so many other things we want to ignore.
Like Kennelly and Bono I use a day in Holy Week, from now on Spy Wednesday, looking into the heart of Judas, looking out for where he sneaks around in our society…
Are you there
In a society kissing God goodbye
As we write our agendas of more and more
Of building bigger barns to horde treasure on earth
Are you there
In our wee country kissing God goodbye
As we fight for a land for ourselves
That we don’t want to share with others
Because others are different
And others might impinge on our traditions and our comfort
… and then I ask God to search my own heart to see where the traces of Judas are in me.
I hear you cry from inside myself
When I get frustrated
That my prayers don’t get answered NOW
Was Judas just a guy trying to manipulate his agenda and push Jesus into doing it his way? What is my agenda that I want to manipulate Jesus into fulfilling; a political one; an economic one, a theological one?
In the end my biggest question is about other whether I still cling to my thoughts and ambitions instead of the revolutionary upside down ones that Jesus reveals in this Holy Week.