Kiss of Judas Recalled Today, Holy Wednesday

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The kiss of Judas that betrayed Jesus to the Roman soldiers sent to arrest him is remembered today, Holy Wednesday.

On this day in the last week of Jesus' life, Judas, son of Simon Iscariot and treasurer of the 12 Apostles, volunteered to identify Jesus to the arresting soldiers after accepting payment of 30 pieces of silver from the high priest of the Jews. This he did with a kiss.

Rev. Fr. Charles Scanlon, SVD, an American missionary who preached the gospel in the Philippines for 35 years, said Judas' act left its mournful imprint on the history of the world.

Judas' betrayal, he said, solved the problem of Roman and Jewish officials as to the identity of Jesus. The government's problem of Jesus' identity stemmed from the garments He and the apostles wore and even the same shoulder-length hair. Hence, it was not clear who among them was Jesus, Fr. Scanlon said.

The conspirators needed an insider from among Jesus' circle of trusted friends to point a finger at the person they wanted to arrest, punish, and later crucify.

Since that first Holy Wednesday, the world has made the name Judas Iscariot synonymous with treachery.

The Gospel of Mark says that the high priests of the Jews were searching for a "sly" way to arrest Jesus and had chosen the night before the Passover feast to avert the expected public indignation amid the rising mass popularity of Jesus.

In the Gospel of Matthew, it is cited that after Jesus' arrest, Judas became overwhelmed with guilt and decided to hang himself.

Holy Wednesday was a moment of torture for Jesus, his agony made more compelling knowing it was one of His own who delivered Him to the hands of the Romans and Jewish priests, an event written by the prophet Isaiah 500 years before it happened.

Church rites today focus on penance and cleansing

Prayers and psalms for Holy Wednesday will focus on the need to do penance, confess sins, and be cleansed as the faithful are encouraged to reflect on two Gospel narratives today: the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for 30 pieces of silver coins, and the story of the sinful woman who anointed the head of Jesus with an expensive jar of alabaster shortly before His Passion.

Also known as Spy Wednesday being the day when Judas first conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus, the Biblical accounts "remind the faithful of the constant need to resist temptations, and of Christ's merciful and loving nature to forgive and liberate the conscience of sin."

Most parishes will extend confession time services today to allow more churchgoers to go to confession.

"Confess sins if we want to receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion during Easter. We need to cleanse our souls especially of any mortal sin through the Sacrament of Penance," Church officials said.

Often celebrated on this day is the Liturgy of the Tenebrae, which means "shadows" in Latin, and is characterized by the gradual extinguishing of candles or lights while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited, until the sanctuary is in complete darkness to emphasize the mournful and penitential mood of the season.

Holy or Great Wednesday is also meant for the solemn celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Unction, a sacrament of faith intended for any sick person in the hope of healing although, according to the Church, "its essential purpose is to allow the person to share in the victory of Christ and to raise him in the realm of God's Kingdom as we acknowledge Christ's supreme power to grant both physical and spiritual healing. …