Wednesday, 23 March: “Concerning Judas”

Reading – Acts 1:16, 18-20

Wednesday of Holy Week

The suicide of Judas. Fifth-century Italian ivory carving. The British Museum.

To start, I didn’t even realize before today that the Wednesday of Holy Week always featured the betrayal of Jesus by Judas or had the accompanying name of Spy Wednesday. I take it as another sign that we can always learn more about our faith, even in small matters, and thus grow in it with God’s help.

In the past decade, we have seen a different image of Judas presented by many important religious figures (such as James Martin, SJ) – and thanks be to God for that development. No longer do we have a black-hearted scoundrel out for money from the start, a murderous political activist, or – worst of all – a hateful and hate-inspired stand-in for practitioners of Judaism. Today we more often hear of a man who must have had good character and intentions at some point (Jesus chose him as one of the Twelve, after all) but that, it seems, tried to force Jesus, to force God, to go against God, to unleash his personal vision of messianic rule, to form God in his own image instead of letting the opposite take place.

Judas offers us an opportunity to look at ourselves and see where and when in our lives we have betrayed Jesus, attempted to use him for our personal agenda or our misguided visions of righteousness instead of allowing him to challenge us to realize his vision, God’s vision, on earth and to love us. When have we been Judas? Let us strive not to be so now and in the future.

We also see in the accounts of Judas’ death the effects of fear and pride on our relationship with God. With pride, as we read in the section from Acts tonight, we ignore the true God in the attempt to be our own masters or to worship a false god that consists only of what makes us comfortable and flatters us so that we can live however we choose. With fear, as we read in the account of Judas’ suicide in Matthew, we again turn from God in the false belief that our sins are too great to be forgiven, even by God. We again form an entirely false image of God – this time, a God of pure wrath and punishment, not mercy. Pride and fear, presumption and despair, are choices that can sever our relationship with God if we remain set in them.

In the end, Judas can teach us a lot if we take the time to ponder his story. He was a human like us but did not trust in the power and love of Jesus, fully God and fully human, to forgive him or to be something outside of his expectations. Please, Lord Jesus, may we let you be you, even if that means changing our vision and our lives, and may we always let you love and have mercy on us. ~


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