Jesus, help me to return to your merciful love when I turned away from you through sin.

Since the days of the early Church Wednesdays and Fridays have always been days of fasting and abstinence, particularly during the liturgical season of Lent. Most of us are familiar with fasting on Fridays, but why Wednesdays? Today’s Gospel reading and this Wednesday of Holy Week hold the key to understanding this beautiful tradition we share. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, goes to the chief priests and offers to sell out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He decides to sell the fulfilling riches of a relationship with Christ for the passing riches of this world. Before we judge Judas too harshly here, let us look within our own hearts. How many times have we abandoned or traded our relationship with Christ through grace for the seeming pleasures of this world? We do this every time we sin, especially through mortal sin.

When we betray or deny Christ we are not alone, “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” St. Paul says in Romans 3:23. Even St. Peter denies Christ three times. Yet, Peter is a saint while Judas is not, how can this be so? We see here two paths we can take when we find ourselves separated from Christ, the path of despair and the path of reconciliation, seen respectively through Judas and Peter. Judas initially regrets his betrayal of Jesus and returns to the chief priests in the Gospel, “‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, Judas departed; and he went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:4-5) Judas initially repents and tries to undo his actions, but when his attempt fails he falls into the ultimate despair. Peter finds himself in a similar situation upon uttering his third denial, Jesus looks at Peter and Peter flees the scene, weeping bitterly. Only through an encounter with the Risen Christ in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel do we see his threefold acceptance of the love of Jesus and his restoration into right relationship with Christ. The difference between Judas’ and Peter’s repentance is apparent: Judas tries to fix and undo his sins by his own power and Peter weeps and turns to the power of forgiveness and healing that can only be achieved through the Crucified and Risen Lord.

This is why we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, because of man’s response to God, which is sin and our need for repentance. On Fridays, because of God’s response to man, which is grace and reconciliation. We cannot achieve repentance of our sins by our own power, but only through Christ’s power can we find our hearts truly healed from the wound of sin caused by our betrayal. Let us turn like Peter in our sorrow and find joy in the affirmation “Yes Lord, you know that I love you”. (John 21:15-17)

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.