“What will you give me if I had him over to you?” “What’s that man’s life worth to you?” “How much is your power, your agenda, your comfort, your security worth to you?”
We’ve heard the story and we know the answer: 30 pieces of silver.
It’s a very specific amount. In Exodus we read that 30 pieces of silver was the value of a slave. Later in the Old Testament, the Prophet Zechariah received 30 pieces of silver as payment for his work as a shepherd. Saint Matthew wants us to make those connections. And we could, of course, spend time reflecting on the theological or symbolic value of those pieces of silver, and perhaps you can do that on your own today.
But as I reflected on the Readings of this “Traitor Wednesday,” I found myself coming back to the Lenten series on morality and the Ten Commandments that led at Saint Pius X Church [in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin] these past six weeks. And, one of the basic ideas of morality that we explored in the series is our belief in the common good, that sense of seeing another person as an extension of myself, knowing that what I recognize I need for health, happiness—and those things I need to be fully alive—are also the things they need to be a healthy, happy, fully alive human person. To say that we are committed to the common good means that we recognize our shared dignity and children of God and that we work to make sure that every person has what they need to truly live.
But to be committed to the common good means that we also forfeit the right to use the language of “us” and “them.” We no longer get to talk about or think about “those people”… whomever “those people” might be. I can only imagine how different the world would be if this is how we Christians lived.
But we all have our Judas moments. We all have those times when we fail to see those around us extensions of ourselves and we reduce others to being a “them,” different from us, distinct from us. And in those moments we make judgments about their worth. Are they worth our time? Are they worth our energy? Are they worth a kind word? Are they worth the truth? Are they worth the risk?
I think that today, as we reflect on what Jesus was worth—30 pieces of silver in exchange for the security and power of the religious establishment—we might ask ourselves how we value the lives of others in this community, in our places of ministry, and around the world. If we simply go by what we hear in the news or in political debates, we might be led to believe that life is cheap—especially the lives of “those people”—but is that how Jesus lived? Is that how God sees it?
We know the answer to that because we know how much the love the Father has for the Son and how much that love cost. After all, that’s we’re celebrating in this Holy Week.
I delivered this reflection on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at the Salvatorian community Mass in the chapel of Holy Apostles Formation House.