Tenebrae Responsories: Unus Ex Discipulis Meis

Tenebrae Responsories: Unus Ex Discipulis Meis April 9, 2019

Unus ex discipulis meis tradet me hodie:
Vae illi per quem tradar ego:
Melius illi erat si natus non fuisset.

Qui intingit mecum manum in paropside,
hic me traditurus est in manus peccatorum.
Melius illi erat si natus non fuisset.

One of my disciples will betray me today.
Woe to him by whom I am betrayed.
It were better for him had he never been born.

He that dips his hand with me in the dish,
Is he who will give me up into the hands of sinners.
It were better for him had he never been born.

Better for him, if he had never been born.

This is the third responsory in a row that has included that line.

What could make the Lord say that?

How can anyone as loving as Jesus Christ ever say “better for him if he had never been born,” about anybody?

I don’t think there’s an answer that can be spoken by mortal tongue.

But I think that in part, it’s something like this: suppose you were a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a very small person who was conceived in original sin like the rest of the human race, but who hadn’t chosen evil yet. You were as innocent as any human being except for Christ and Our Lady had ever been. You had never hurt anyone. No one was in pain because of the sins you chose to commit. No one was in want because of the good you failed to do.

And then you were born.

And then things started to go wrong.

You learned to love things, and the benefits they could give you, more than you loved the Creator who made those things for your benefit. You learned to love material comfort more than you loved people. You saw your friends as a means for gain. One day, you met the Lord God Himself, and you followed Him and did all the right things, outwardly– but only to get close to the money purse and help yourself.

You listened to everything He had to say. You could have chosen to repent of your bad intentions; you could have been converted and become His true friend and faithful disciple, but you didn’t.

And then, one day, you sold Him.

You ate at His table and dipped your hand in the dish. You could have stayed where you were– the choice was yours. You could have repented of what you’d planned to do and remained with Him. Then He would have washed your feet and given you His body and blood, for the remission of your sins and for everlasting life. But you chose to leave, and betray Him, and it was night.

You led the High Priest’s guards to Gethsemane. Again, you could have stopped at any time, but you chose to keep going. You chose to betray Him with a kiss.

It was at that moment, you had just an inkling of what you’d become.

You repented as best you could. You gave back the money– not an easy thing, since money was what you valued most.

But you were so used to being without mercy yourself, living only for your own benefit and not for anybody else, that you couldn’t imagine a God who would have mercy on you. So you hanged yourself.

And for all anyone knows, you repented again. For all anyone knows you were struck with true contrition at the moment the rope tightened and it was too late to take it back.

But whatever the case, there you were before the Judgement, seeing your whole life as the Lord saw it. You saw that you had once been a person who had done nothing wrong– and then, through your own fault, you were a person who had given yourself wholeheartedly to wrong.

I don’t know what the horror of that realization would be like. May God have mercy and save us, I pray that I never know.

But I think that, if you tried to put it into human words, it would sound something like, “Better for me if I had never been born.”

Of course, better still if you were born from Above.

Better that you were never born, than that you become a person who chooses evil. Evil is that serious a thing. But better still to repent, and die to yourself, and take up the new life of the Gospel. To die to yourself again and again day to day, whenever you find that you are a person who chose evil– to repent again and again, and return the new life of the Gospel. To say a thousand times, “Better for me if I’d never been born,” and to return a thousand times to the nourishing and life-giving womb of the Gospel.

Better for you if you had never been born, than that you become the disciple who betrays Christ. And we have all betrayed Christ.

Thankfully, that need not be the end.

(image via Wikimedia Commons) 



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