Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.
According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.
Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.
Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.
So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.
It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.
Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.
Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.
That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.
There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?
Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.
Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?
But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.
In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.
Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?
It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?
I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.
He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”
One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.
Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.
But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart.
Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.
Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.
Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.
The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.
No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.
Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.
Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.
However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.
If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.
Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.
Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.
Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.
The other went out and hanged himself.
They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.
Pope Francis displayed St Peter’s bones at the closing mass of the Year of Faith.
These pitiful shards of bone are all that’s left of the earthly body of St Peter. But the Church which Christ built on his efforts is vast and growing.
Our corporate media lines up hard against working people. They extol the virtues of the rich and proclaim the necessity of robbing the worker in every situation, from maintaining an unequal tax structure that permits some to pile up great wealth while forcing workers to pay more than the Biblical ten percent on every loaf of bread and gallon of milk they buy.
They yammer constantly about the totally fallacious “necessity” of cutting Social Security or putting it into the stock market where the wealthy can get a bite of it, but they say nothing about the vast corporate welfare and “privatization,” (Which is just a form of graft that attaches corporate profits to the tax base.) that is actually bankrupting the country.
You would think, listening to them, that a living wage was robbery and robbing retirements and social security so that we go back to the practice of putting our elderly people in poor farms was righteousness.
Who are working people?
I believe that would be you and me. And a few others in our past and present. Let’s have a look.
And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth …
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …
I am going to die.
You are going to die.
Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.
Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.
We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.
Our ending, according to them, will be our end.
But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.
The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.
God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.
But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.
“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.
God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”
He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.
Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.
Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”
“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”
Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.
You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.
But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.
That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.
Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.
Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”
The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.
Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.
Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.