Our gospel reading brings us right to the edge of the drama of the Triduum. It is the night of the arrest of Jesus. He is at table with his disciples and he predicts that one of them will soon betray him. Jesus hands the bread to Judas, the one he knows will betray him.
The gospel reads: “So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” (John 13:30-31).
“It was night.”
Judas slips out into the darkness of the world on his mission to betray Jesus. And at that very moment, Jesus declares, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” This declaration is one of the most powerful and sublime elements of John’s Gospel. At one of the very darkest moments of human history, somehow God is glorified.
I am captured by the image of first Judas and then Jesus plunging into the night. For Judas, like for us, it is a headlong fall into our destruction. We all have had moments when we find ourselves going out into the night. For some of us, the night stands for the tragedies that mark our lives. The deaths, the transgressions, the abuses, the betrayals. I also am thinking of the dark moments of our common life.
The terrorist attacks in Brussels.
The racism and xenophobia erupting in our politics.
The crushing burdens of poverty and injustice.
It can feel like we are all plunging into the night. It can feel like we are at the darkest hour. And yet Jesus declares that at this darkest hour is when he will be glorified and the Father with him. We stand on the cusp, waiting for this to be revealed. The revelation of who Jesus truly is depends on his plunging into the night we find ourselves in.
When Jesus goes out from his last meal and into the night on his walk to Gethsemane, we can grasp the full meaning of John 3:19: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
The events of Holy Week puts into relief the darkness this world reveals. Like the disciples, we can become scattered when the evil of this world strikes, when night falls. But we can also turn to the example of the beloved disciple.
Imagine resting up against the chest of Jesus. Imagine the security and the love you would feel nestled there. Imagine choosing to be like the Beloved Disciple who stays close to the heart of Jesus. And in that choice he too is plunged into the darkness of this world.
He is brought to the foot of the cross and to the grave. He is there when darkness swallows everything up. If you choose to be like the Beloved Disciple will stand at the foot of the cross and weep. But you will realize that when it seems that death has swallowed everything up in its night, the light of Christ breaks forth.
So abide in the gathering darkness, close to the heart of Jesus, and do not fear stepping into the night.
Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski is the Duncalf-Villavaso Associate Professor of Church History at Seminary of the Southwest. Passionate about sharing the story of Christianity with his students, he is also active in Jewish-Christian relations.