The mystery of Judas is very deep. Over the years many people have tried to expound on what happened with this iconic betrayer. The 1971 Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, is another modern example which gets Judas wrong. Some people mistakenly think that poor Judas was doomed by fate and had no choice - a mere pawn.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers an important clarification of the issue:
"Jesus' violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God's plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: 'This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.'
This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God. To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of 'predestination', he includes in it each person's free response to his grace:
'In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.' For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness" (## 599, 600).
Seen in this light, there might be a deeper meaning to Judas. Could it be that our merciful Jesus was doing everything possible to win Judas back even before the betrayal? At the Last Supper Jesus mentioned the betrayal out loud. He also performed an affectionate gesture of offering a hand dipped morsel to Judas. This might have been Jesus reaching out to Judas, inviting him to rethink the satanic plans of his heart.
Judas and Peter both betray Jesus. Both Judas and Peter were remorseful for their betrayal. Peter's humble repentance leads to mercy and forgiveness. Judas' prideful remorse seems to lead to despair. Like Judas and Peter, we all betray Jesus every time we sin. Let us pray for the grace of true contrition for our sins, a contrition which leads to mercy and forgiveness!
Have a blessed Holy Triduum,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, New York, New York
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