There are many individuals mentioned throughout the Passion narrative who play important roles in the death of Jesus Christ – Caiphas, the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate. Of these though, the role of Judas Iscariot is the most tragic. Judas’ role was so central to the Passion that all four Gospels and writings of the Early Church Fathers make extensive note of his betrayal. There is a great lesson for us to learn from Judas!
St. Luke in his Gospel refers to Judas as “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Lk 6:16). Judas was not an evil traitor to start with whose mission was to infiltrate Jesus’ Apostles but rather something in himself turned evil along the way and led him to betray our blessed Lord.
Perhaps Judas didn’t share in Jesus Christ’s plan on how to accomplish the salvation of humanity. Perhaps Judas didn’t think Jesus was accomplishing his mission quickly enough. Perhaps it’s as simple that somewhere along the way, Judas simply stopped believing. It can’t help but be noted that in Judas betrayal he wants something in exchange for his betrayal. He barters with the chief priests asking them “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” Judas takes his eyes off Jesus and allows the spirit of Satan, who himself turned against the Father, to enter his heart and turn against Jesus and in exchange for his betrayal he received 30 pieces of silver, the price given for the death of a slave.
This is not the first time we hear of Judas’ love affair with money. Just this week St. John tells us that Judas did not care for the poor but rather he was a thief and stole contributions that were destined for the poor. Judas made his choice, he served mammon over God.
All too often money is a source of corruption, something which takes our eyes off Jesus Christ and instead becomes an idol of the world. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai he found his people worshiping a golden calf and today we find Judas betraying the Lord for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is a reminder to all of us of what we are capable of. Each and every one of us here is capable of the same evil which Judas accomplished. Each one of us here has been Judas to the Lord and often we have betrayed him for even less than the 30 piece of silver that Judas accepted. Anytime we look upon others in need and fail to help them, we betray Christ. When husbands and wives fail to love each other as Christ loved the Church we betray Christ. When as clergy, we fail to tend to the needs of those who have been entrusted to our sacred care and instead tend to our own needs first, we betray Christ. When we fail to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and adore him in his supreme majesty, we become another Judas.
The temptation to become like Judas is real and we can see it all around us. The temptation of the world is to simply live today like any other day – to treat today as merely a day off and the beginning of a three-day weekend. We don’t betray Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver, we betray him when we fail to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, we betray Him when we fail to observe the Church’s precepts on fasting and abstinence especially on Fridays of Lent when we just decide we’re going to eat meat anyway. We betray Jesus in the form of lavish crawfish boils, debaucherous drinking, and partying on this day when we should be mourning the death of our Lord and Master on this the most somber of days in the life of the Church. We betray Christ by defrauding others of what we rightfully owe them, we betray Christ when we fail to provide for the needs of the least of our brethren. We betray Christ when we fail to admonish someone we see in serious sin because we’re afraid of what they may think of us. We betray Jesus in all these ways and all for a mere short happiness and self fulfillment. We don’t even do it for the 30 pieces of silver Judas received. How easy it is to hear of all of these things and think of others, yet we should be pointing to ourselves. It is difficult for each of us to hear these things and even more so to acknowledge our sins and to know the evil that we are capable of in the hardness of our hearts.
We are all Judas but we are also all Peter. Both betrayed Jesus Christ but both had very different endings. Judas betrays Jesus and is remorseful even to the point of returning the 30 pieces of silver. Judas, however despairs and hangs himself. Peter, on the other hand, relies on the infinite mercy of God – he finds forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
So whom will we follow? Will we follow Judas or will we follow Peter? When we have offended the Lord by our sins and failings do we despair and spiritually kill ourselves by failing to seek Jesus out in the Sacrament of Confession or do we run quickly to the Lord, seek him out, and tell him of our sins and rely on His unfathomable mercy.
We call this day Good, for indeed it is. This is the day in which Jesus Christ sacrifices His body in a bloody manner upon the cross for the sake of redemption of all humanity. It is the day in which, an innocent man takes the guilt of our crimes upon himself and is punished on our behalf. This is the day in which the lamb was slain upon the altar of the Cross. Today it is our sins that he bears! He is crushed for our offenses! There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday! This is the Good News of the Cross – that sin and death no longer have power over us. We have only need to repent of our sinfulness and return to the Father. We now lie in hope and waiting over these three sacred days for Our Lord is not here. We know that He will raise from the dead on Easter Sunday and by His Resurrection conquer death and free us from the burden on Sin. Today Christ has died but death is not the end of the story. So today, let us Glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and Resurrection!