April 8, 2020
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
Responsorial: Psalm 69:8-10,21-22,31 & 33-34
Gospel: Matthew 26:14-25
Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 26:14-25. The scene of the Passover Supper is broken by an aside where Judas appears before the chief priests. While the religious leaders have looked for a man such as him, the Scriptures have him initiating the encounter: “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” Given thirty pieces of silver, he begins to look for an opportunity to betray Christ.
Jesus tells his apostles during the meal that one of their numbers would betray him. While John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ distress, this passage from Matthew refers to the Twelve as “deeply distressed.” They know their weakness. They have a profound sense of their unworthiness and guilt. That is why they question, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus offers no answer but in an effort to ease their consciences, says that the one who dips into the dish with him is the betrayer. Singled out, Judas echoes what the others have already asked, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” The response is a literary form called a “half-affirmative.” Jesus answers, “You have said so.” The deception or lie of Judas collapses. Rather than an outright condemnation from Jesus, the admission of guilt is placed upon Judas’ own lips. The question itself consequently implies guilt. What he does, he does to himself. This is the last we hear about Judas at the meal. Absent is the dialogue in John’s Gospel where Jesus dismisses him. However, we can assume that Judas has left their company after this engagement. Notice that Judas is identified as the betrayer prior to the words of Eucharistic institution. The Gospel of Mark follows a similar chronology and we can presume the exit of Judas. It is unclear in John. Luke seems to make him present. Regardless, one in their small fraternity (priest or not) proves to be faithless and unlike Peter, will not repent and seek Christ’s merciful love.
What is sometimes regarded as a divine curse is really just an observation made by Christ. While providence may be hidden from us, such is not the case with God’s Son: “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” The apostle John speaks of an evil spirit entering Judas, but the aside here shows premeditation. Judas has substituted for his Lord the spirit of the antichrist. St. Paul teaches that such people are seduced by the deception of the evil one. Jesus will tell Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth and as a stoic, the procurator will ask, “What is truth?” Those cast as Judas do not even ask such a question. One must love and receive the truth so as to be saved. The devil exudes a deceiving power so that we might embrace the lie. Did Judas lose faith in Christ? Did he seek to force his hand? Similarly today, there are many who say they are Christian but is there any real evidence to convict them as such? The faith is a gift given to us and the truth is what it is. However, too many renounce the truths of Scripture and Sacred Tradition, both about the identity of God and the dictates of the moral life. The light of Christ seeks to break through this veil that numbs consciences to the most basic truths about God and about right and wrong. Some are blind even to the basics of nature. There is unbridled greed, human trafficking, and oppression. Senseless violence culminates in crime, war and the destruction of children in the womb. We experience hatred of minorities and those who are different. Marriage and family is ridiculed while we normalize gender dysphoria, sexual disorientation, depravity, excess and infidelity. There is a spiritual blindness where a false caricature of Christ is worshipped in idolatry to the fads and fashion of men. Instead, we need to proclaim the truth not with rigidity but compassion. When Judas awakens to what he has done, he despairs. What happens to him is a wakeup call for you and me. We still have time to change our moral trajectory. Many are now sick and we know some who have died from the pandemic. We do not know the day or the hour that God will call us home. Do not waste this time. We can change. Walk with Christ. Stay safe. Keep the faith.