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S.P. 42: "Borromeo" Liturgy of the Hours miniated by Cristoforo de Predis, Cent. XV
Ambrosian Library

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested


V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Gospel according to Luke. 22:47-53

While Jesus was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?" When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."


Amid the olives of Gethsemane, plunged in darkness, a small crowd now comes forward: leading them is Judas, "one of the twelve", one of Jesus’ disciples. In Luke’s account he does not say a single word, he is merely an icy presence. It almost seems that he does not succeed in kissing the face of Jesus, stopped by the one voice that rings out, the voice of Christ himself: "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" These words are regretful but firm; they lay bare the knot of evil lodged in the restless, hardened heart of the disciple, who may have been disillusioned, disappointed and on the verge of despair.

Down the centuries, that betrayal and that kiss have become a symbol for countless infidelities, apostasies, deceptions. And so Christ faces another trial: betrayal and its resulting sense of abandonment and isolation. This is not the kind of solitude he loved when he would withdraw to the mountains to pray, it is not the interior solitude which is a source of peace and quiet, since it gives us a glimpse of the mystery of the soul and of God. Rather, it is the bitter experience of all those persons who, at this very moment when we are gathered here, as at other times of the day, find themselves alone in a room, facing a bare wall or a silent telephone, forgotten by everyone because they are elderly or infirm, foreigners or outsiders. Along with them, Jesus drinks from this chalice, which contains the gall of abandonment, loneliness and hostility.

* * *

The scene of Gethsemane, then, suddenly comes alive: the earlier picture of prayer, solemn, intimate and silent, is now replaced, beneath the olive trees, by agitation, uproar and even violence. Yet Jesus remains always at the centre, unmoved. He knows full well that evil encircles human history with its shroud of bullying, aggression, brutality: "This is your hour, and the power of darkness".

Christ does not want his disciples, ready to draw their swords, to react to evil with evil, to violence with more violence. He is certain that the power of darkness – apparently invincible and never sated by its triumphs – is destined to be defeated. Night will give way to dawn, darkness to light, betrayal to repentance, even for Judas. That is why, in spite of everything, we must continue to hope and to love. As Jesus himself taught us on the mount of the Beatitudes, if a new and different world is to come about, we need "to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us"[5].


Pater noster, qui es in clis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in clo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a malo.

Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.


[5] Matthew 5:44


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