Wednesday of Holy Week 2013: Spy Wednesday

Today we read Matthew’s account of Judas’s betrayal (you can read the text in both Greek and English here). We sense the shiver down the spine of Jesus as he looked at his friend and knew him for what he was. If you read what some people say about about that moment, you could be forgiven for thinking Jesus was prohesying eternal punishment — ‘better for that man if he had never been born!’ — but I wonder whether that is true. Does it square with what we know of him in other circumstances, what we know of him from our own experience? Isn’t it more likely that when Jesus looked at Judas he saw the depths of despair and misery into which he would fall? My own, possibly heretical, reading of this gospel is that Jesus’ heart ached for Judas. He longed to spare him the suffering he knew would be his.

That presents us with a problem. God is infinitely just and does not condone sin; he is also infinitely merciful and forgives readily. So, is Judas eternally damned or among the redeemed? We do not know, and the fact that we do not know should give us pause. Sometimes Christians speak of Judas with a fury which tells us much more about them than it does about him. There is no place in Holy Week for that kind of vicarious anger. We do not need to look very deep into our own lives to see the sins that mar us. Today would be a good day for repenting of hasty judgements and hardness of heart, and allowing God to forgive us.


6 thoughts on “Wednesday of Holy Week 2013: Spy Wednesday”

  1. I’ve often wondered about whether Judas was forgiven or not. The Gospels say that once he realised the enormity of what he had done, that he went back to offer the money he was paid back for Jesus’ freedom, but was mocked and told NO. He than went away in sorrow and killed himself.

    When I was brought up, Suicide was treated by the Church as a mortal sin (self-murder) and Suicides were buried in unhallowed ground, normally without a funeral service. This treatment of suicides seemed to me to refer back to that of Judas. I thought that the Churches view had changed (certainly the Anglican one has) but suicide seems still be regarded as a mortal sin by the Catholic Church.

    Can it still be possible that even today, people are condemned for an action that might be outwith their control due to mental illness of incapacity?

  2. Taking one’s own life is a grave wrong, and helping another to take their life is similarly a grave wrong; but whether it is a mortal sin or not, as the Church understands it, depends on several factors including the degree of knowledge, free will, etc operative. So, for example, one can argue that when Judas took his own life the balance of his mind was disturbed so it was not a fully willed act and did not meet the (very strict) conditions for mortal sin. The article you cite mentions precisely those qualifications I have mentioned.

    By the way, to ‘commit suicide’ is a legal term I have tried to avoid since I learned that it refers to a criminal act. It can cause great distress to the families of those who have ended their own lives. I think Fr Saunders would have done better to use an alternative phrase, but remember that he is American where words may be used differently.

  3. Not heretical at all. Jesus looked at all people with compassion and that included Judas, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers torturing him, the crowds baying for his blood, those crucifying him……. And each of us.

  4. I always felt sorry for Judas. Someone had to be the betrayer and in a way he was just fulfilling his destiny but there was no glory for him only condemnation.

  5. As I contemplated this scene I remembered my own experience of a personal betrayal, and the exchange of glances between myself and the person who´d done me wrong. I have to confess, even years later it is not compassion that rises up in my heart!
    I still have a long way to go…

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