The Gospel today brings into focus the betrayal of Judas. Why did Judas betray him? After witnessing miracles, healings, the profound love, the teaching- how could he do such a thing? How did his faith grow so cold as to lead him to choose the agenda of the world at the cost of estrangement from God?
Some have tried to argue Judas is misunderstood. That he was only trying to help Jesus believing the arrest would gain Jesus a fair hearing in court. Poor Judas made an error of judgment, he got it hopelessly wrong. But if true- why the 30 pieces of silver? No something more sinister than blunder is at work here.
Others argue Judas betrayed Jesus as part of a cunning plan. He was doing what Jesus required. They suggest the line ‘what you must do – do it quickly’ proves they were both in on it. Judas following orders for the sake of redemption. But if true- why the suicide? It will not do. Arguments like these are bunkum. We cannot get Judas off the hook.
The fact is Satan entered his heart. That is what scripture and tradition teach. He gave in to evil. He lost his faith. He turned from Christ. Chose the agenda of self over God. And this led to the destruction and chaos and to his loss of everything.
An unsettling truth for believers, which is why we create silly theories to soften the blow. It is uncomfortable to dwell upon Judas because, deep down, we could so easily be him. At times we are him! And if an apostle could fall so low – why be surprised when certain Cardinals today seem to have lost their zeal? When certain priests have brought such scandal on the church? When so many do put worldly agenda over fidelity.
We are, all of us weak and prone to sin. We only need to stop seeking grace, only need to drift a bit, and we cease to be children of Christ and become children of this world. The honest Christian knows- nominalism and half hearted Christianity- this is the disease of Judas. And it remains a temptation to us all. For we delight in striving for the material silver of this world not the spiritual gold of the kingdom. And thus we repeatedly hang ourselves on trees of pathetic despair and self destruction.
Could Judas have saved himself even after this? Yes. I believe he could. If Judas had only trusted in the power of confession, if he had opted for the way of the prodigal son, he could yet have survived this. His greatest sin then was not betraying Jesus but losing all faith in the power of God’s mercy. Just a three day wait could have saved his soul!
And note that his deep regret and sorrow for his sins did not bring redemption. Only love of God and trust in his mercy can do that. the restoration of our relationship with him. But he no longer believed. Either in God, in forgiveness or in himself. Thank goodness others were different…
There exists an Eastern Orthodox Icon depicting two women embracing. One is Mary Mother of Jesus- she embraces the mother of Judas. For despite the pain Judas had caused her, Mary understands both women lost a child that day. And Mary realises that bitterness and hatred are not the answer. In forgiving Judas and his family, Our Lady brings healing on herself. She remains close to the will of the Father. She mirrors the other way to which we all must cleave. No matter what you have done- it is never too late to return to God via healthy confession and trust in the power of his mercy.