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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spy Wednesday

Today, the Church traditionally calls this day, "Spy Wednesday".  The day's Gospel reading sets the wheels in motion for what will happen at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.

 [14] Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, [15] And said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver. 
[16] And from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray him.

[17] And on the first day of the Azymes, the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the pasch? [18] But Jesus said: Go ye into the city to a certain man, and say to him: the master saith, My time is near at hand, with thee I make the pasch with my disciples. [19] And the disciples did as Jesus appointed to them, and they prepared the pasch. [20] But when it was evening, he sat down with his twelve disciples.

[21] And whilst they were eating, he said: Amen I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me. [22] And they being very much troubled, began every one to say: Is it I, Lord? [23] But he answering, said: He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. [24] The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born. [25] And Judas that betrayed him, answering, said: Is it I, Rabbi? He saith to him: Thou hast said it.

Judas had spent the better part of three years with Jesus as an Apostle.   He had been hand-picked by Jesus to be one of His followers.   Jesus considered Judas his friend. 

In Dante's Divine Comedy, as Dante makes his journey through Hell, he finds Judas Iscariot in the lowest bowels of the inferno, in a place reserved for those who, in the author's opinion, commit the worst sin of all:  treason. 

While Dante's work is fictitious, the Church has never defined the question as to whether or not Judas Iscariot is in hell.  Nonetheless, his betrayal of Jesus is both sinful and tragic.  However, what does his betrayal say to us, some 2,000 years removed from the transgression?

A prelate friend of mine preached eloquently on the issue.  He noted that when we sin, we, too, betray Jesus.  We betray the immense love that He has for us.  Sin mars us. It blurs the vision of our souls.  It distorts us.  Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.  Like the chief priests and scribes  who entinced Judas with silver, Satan dangles things in front of us: power, riches, influence, material goods and other seemingly attractive things.

Judas came to the realization that he had done something evil, something despicable, something horrific.  However, in his remorse, he committed an even worse sin, that of despair.  Perhaps he thought that his crime was too great for him  to receive forgiveness.  Perhaps he thought that what he did was beyond the Divine Mercy of God. 

That was his fatal flaw.  St. Matthew's Gospel records Judas' suicide, noting that he hung himself from a tree.  St. Matthew juxtaposes Judas' hanging from the tree, the instrument of his death, while Jesus was preparing to hang from another tree, the tree of our salvation, the real Tree of Life.  From one tree, death came about; from another tree, real Life, an eternal ocean of mercy, sprang forth.

We need to remember that no matter how scarlet our sins are, Jesus stands ready to forgive.  Judas could have experienced this divine mercy if only he had believed and trusted Jesus.  Once he took his eyes off Jesus and turned his gaze inward, that was it.  We need to keep our eyes on Jesus.  Only then, can we overcome our daily betrayals and transgressions.


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