Friday, April 6, 2007

Great and Holy Friday

I've been thinking about Judas Iscariot.

Last night we read the 12 Gospels of the Passion of our Saviour, and, as I have done from time to time, I reflected on which character I would be most like if Now and Then were conflated and Christ were crucified before me.

In the past I have generally ended up wondering whether I would flee immediately (like most the apostles), flee but then follow at a distance (like St. Matthew), follow Christ into the courts of the High Priest but then deny him (like St. Peter), follow Christ right through His Passion (like St. John), or whether I would be the closet believer (like St. Joseph of Arimathea or St. Nicodemus) who showed up and revealed myself as a disciple at the end.

I have never given much thought about the thirteenth person at the Lord's Supper - unless, coming to an awareness as to how my sins were a betrayal and my "devotions" a Judas kiss, I compared myself with he who betrayed Christ to His enemies.

Until I stopped musing over the act of betrayal itself, and I asked myself why Judas betrayed Christ. What I see scares me a little, because it takes Judas from an archetype of evil and a caricature of sinfulness and makes him a simple sinner within the realm of possibility of any one of us: all that is needful is a dominant Passion and a tendency to despair.

Judas, the evangelist tells us, was a thief from the beginning and regularly took money from Jesus and His apostles. His Passion was a love for money.

I can see him now, it dawning on him that Jesus was not the Christ he had been expecting, not the Messiah that would kick the Romans back to Rome and free the Jews from yet another Gentile occupation. I can see Judas, angry, bitter, falling rapidly - easily, how easily - into his dominant Passion, money ... looking for a way to get money, speeding up an "inevitable" confrontation between Christ and His enemies. Getting 30 pieces of silver for a simple introduction, he might think. Or maybe he didn't care - it was money.

Afterwards, he tried to undo what he had done, horrified at the criminality of his action, only to be informed that the deal was closed, the consequences irrevocable, Christ's blood on his hands. And Judas went out, despairing, and despairing he hung himself.


I don't know about you, but I struggle with at least one besetting Passion; I know how easily a moment of weakness, unhappiness, rebellion can translate into a moment of triumph for the demons and a moment of bondage to the Passions. Addicted, enslaved, prone to crack along a given faultline of sin, I tumble into the ease and comfort of my native sty.

Then comes the moment of insight, of self-awareness, where the depths of depravity are realized, and the impact I have had on those around me is felt, and I perceive my distance from a Holy God...

... sometimes I despair and sometimes I "repent", my repentance despair in religious clothing, and sometimes - how rarely - I truly repent.

My dominant Passion isn't money, but if Christ were here and I were tempted by my pet sin? Could I guarantee that His presence in the flesh would ensure any better behaviour than now? I doubt it.

Mix in a little despair, and I can see an outcome for me not unlike that of Judas.

And that is a scary thought.

- V.


Anonymous said...

I have heard it said that Judas made up his mind at the same time as many of the disciples left Jesus, as St. John the Evangelist recounts in Chapter 6 of his Gospel. They couldn't accept the hard to understand concept of the Eucharist as the real body and blood of Christ, our bread of life.

I've also heard it said from a priest commenting on the lament by a penitent that he found himself confessing the same sins over and over, "What? You want new sins?"

I would ask the question, what is the difference between Judas and St. Peter? Not the money, I think. St. Peter asked for forgiveness from a repentant heart and he found it.
If Judas had come back in true contrition and asked for forgiveness, Christ would have forgiven him as well. Perhaps his final, truly mortal sin was in believing in himself that he was unforgivable. Today we call that the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, it is our faith in the forgiveness available from Jesus Christ that separates us from Judas.
In my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...


It should be pointed out that we don't know for sure that Judas did not ask for and receive forgiveness at the last moment of his life.

It is our habit to assume otherwise, but I suppose we will find out for sure one day, one way or the other.