Last night the Gospel presented us with that wretched figure of Judas Iscariot. We do well to ponder his miserable death during Holy Week, not only because his betrayal preceded Gethsemane and the pieces of the jigsaw are now falling into place, but because we can learn much from how the devil ruined him.
It began with dishonesty. Here was a thief who robbed from Christ, his fellow apostles, the Church and poor. Why? Because these were no longer his priority in life. Faith had become but a tool in the service of his real love- the self.
In that flaw he is, sadly, not lonely. We might think of many wicked and ambitious clergy who use the institution of the church for twisted purpose. Sex abusers, the power hungry, those who seek social and financial gain. And it isn’t only clergy! We might consider politically motivated Christians for whom this or that agenda ever trumps the authentic Word. Who use the Church to advance crusades. Playing ingenious games with the plain teaching of scripture to obscure its truth in favour of desired outcomes.
What such people always have in common is wayward devotion. Though called by the Lord they come to deny him for their true love is other than Christ. Though living alongside him, day by day, they come to lose sight of him entirely for their true love is other than Christ. Though benefiting from his holy church – they think nothing of damaging it for their true love is other than Christ. They are, in a word, Charlatans! And the problem with spiritual charlatans is that, when the supernatural aspect of faith dies within them, when devotion and prayer grow cold, as it must….betrayal is always the final outcome.
Thus they morph from believers into false followers who neither know the Lord nor love him. Who give the appearance of being a disciple but with hearts pledged to another- be it greed, sex, cultural Marxism, nutty fascism- anything! Soon they do not value Jesus much at all. In Judas case he came to be worth less than 30 measly coins. It speaks volumes. As does the cheap looking sanctuary with unwashed altar linen to the sloppy liturgy in which God seems absent or the miserly giving or impoverished prayer life. By their fruit shall ye know them.
And recognise the betrayal was not the calamity- every disciple abandoned Christ that day. Peter thrice before the cock crew! No it really was that filthy wayward heart. That is what stopped Judas, unlike Peter and the others, returning to the Lord. That is what made him unable to find God again even when entirely penitent- he returned the coins and admitted ‘I have betrayed innocent blood’. It seems a poisoned soul abandons God when overly full of despair and shame- the sinners lot. The tawdry double life is what ultimately killed Judas rotting him from inside out.
Tragic when you consider that just two more days of trust would have helped him experienced the grace and power of resurrection.
Confessions will be heard throughout the morning of Holy Saturday. Do not let shame build up in your life to the point you lose sight of God. Repentance, amendment of life and the reception of God’s mercy. Where would we be without them? It was for these things he hung on that tree.