Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
It has been an incredible 36 hours, following the first news of flames leaping from the roof of Notre-Dame in Paris
Many of us were glued to the television and phones, looking on with horror and disbelief as the fire took hold and destroyed the roof of a much loved and cherished iconic building. Even in a country as secular as France, it has become obvious just what Notre Dame symbolises to the French people and to millions across the world. She has been described as the Mother of the Nation, the heart of the City and of France itself. Cathedrals and churches are much more than simply stone and mortar. We learned yesterday that the building was within thirty minutes of total destruction. And yet, a wonderful photograph has been published of the darkened interior of the Cathedral, strewn with the charred rafters of the roof, amidst swirling smoke and ash. Yet shining through was the golden cross of the high altar. It is an image which encapsulates all that we are and all that we celebrate during Holy Week.
In yesterday’s gospel reading, some Greeks ask to see Jesus. And Jesus speaks to them and to his disciples, urging them to ‘walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.’ Throughout John’s gospel there is a power struggle taking place between the forces of good and evil, of light and darkness. Each of us is offered a choice that needs to be made.
In today’s gospel reading, we fast forward to the Last Supper where Jesus is surrounded by his disciples, his closest companions. Time is running out for Jesus and he knows it. With much agitation and distress he tells his friends, those who have shared everything for the past three years, that one of them will betray him. How must have his disciples felt? How must Judas have felt?
Once Judas has received the piece of bread he leaves the light of that intimate gathering and goes out into the night, into the darkness. Jesus now knows that his fate is sealed.
‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God has been glorified in him.’
There’s little in the gospel accounts to explain why Judas turned against Jesus. Was he weak and vulnerable and an easy prey for the powerful religious leaders? Was he greedy for gain or desperate for power and fame? Was he simply a pawn in God’s plan for the world? We will never fully know. It is all too easy for Judas to become a scapegoat in the drama of Christ’s passion. Far too easy for us to say with the other disciples, ‘Surely not I, Lord.’ And yet before the end of the evening Peter denies that he knows Jesus and on Good Friday most of the disciples run away, fearful for their own survival. As we reflect on the gospel we’ve just heard, we might ask ourselves the question, where am I, where are you, in the story? What choices do we make? Where do we go? Do we choose the light or opt for the darkness.
Going back to that image of Notre Dame, with the flickering glory and hope in the midst of the chaos of destruction, is there any hope for Judas?
There is an apocryphal story that in the time between his burial and resurrection, Jesus descended into the depths of Hell to bring forth the souls of the dead to share in his resurrection. Whilst in Hell, Jesus searches for Judas. Searches for him in order to forgive him. I pray that it is true.