Cunning Love: What is Spy Wednesday and why should I care?

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Every name signifies a mystery to be revealed. While this predominantly applies to the names of human persons, it also applies to other names, such as titles for days throughout the year. When the Catholic Church crafts names for her holy days, her children ought to be curious about those names and the mystery they signify. 

April 5 was Wednesday of Holy Week. So why does the Church name this day, “Spy Wednesday?”

The immediate answer is that today’s Gospel from Matthew begins with Judas approaching the chief priests and asking, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” As the Church ponders Judas spying out an opportunity to betray Jesus, the filth of concupiscence is at the forefront of her meditation. A friend betrays a friend. A creature places a price on God. The dark drama of the Passion begins.

But this is not a drama which we disinterestedly watch, but one we must enter. For we too are Judas. With every biting word, act of overindulgence, and slothful resistance, the soul betrays Christ for a moment of fleeting pleasure that is often even more worthless than 30 pieces of silver. With every unworthy Communion, Christ is betrayed with a kiss.

Judas will eventually respond to his treachery and sin with unquenchable despair. This is exactly what Satan lusts for in our moments of failure and betrayal. He wants us to turn so far inward that all we see is the sinful, disordered soul and not the merciful eyes of Jesus Christ.

If all we did on Spy Wednesday was gloomily sit around and only think about Judas’ wickedness, we would be doing what the evil one wants. So who is the true spy of Spy Wednesday?

Immediately after the Gospel narrates Judas’ act of betrayal, it recounts Jesus’ instructions for the Passover. Mark 14:13-15 best captures the cryptic nature of these instructions.

“He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.””

This is an awfully strange way to answer the straightforward question, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” But this mystery may be the key to not only unlock the depths of Spy Wednesday, but the floodwaters of Jesus’ merciful love.

Some claim that Jesus uses this cryptic language because Judas cannot know ahead of time where the Passover will be celebrated. If Judas knows, then the chief priests can simply come and arrest Jesus at the Passover.

But this absolutely cannot happen! Jesus needs to institute the priesthood and the Eucharist. The flesh of the new covenant must be consumed.

While the ins and outs of soteriology are not something I’m qualified to write about, I do know that I can sing the love which has transformed my life: the love within the Eucharist.

2000 years ago, He saw you. He saw your sin and stupidity and nevertheless he thirsted for you with an infinite love. So great was his love that he did not want to wait for heaven to unite himself to you. So every day he gives himself away in the Mass. Night and day, the Lord sits in the tabernacle on campus, just in case you will stop by and be with him.

Spy Wednesday celebrates a lover who goes above and beyond to ensure that nothing will prevent him from being near the one he loves. Jesus Christ knew that he had to take extra precautions to even hold the Passover. He already knew that Judas would betray him. He also knew that he would be ignored and desecrated in the Eucharist until the end of time. But he beheld you and extended an everlasting love which eclipses all the flashiness of evil. 

The Church names Wednesday of Holy Week, “Spy Wednesday,” because she celebrates a spy outwitting a spy for the sake of his beloved. If, in the words of the Song of Songs, “Deep waters cannot quench love,” then neither can betrayal and rejection.

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