As we stand at the mid-point of Holy Week it is perhaps a good time to pause and reflect on the story of Judas and how, in some ways, he reflects all of us — sinners and ones who so often fail to measure up to the mark or our own ideals. Institutionally we have much to reflect on in this department during this Lent and Easter. It is valuable to also take time out and reflect on the meaning to be drawn out of the betrayal of Judas in our personal lives. How much do all of us reflect Judas — or Peter and the rest of the twelve as we seek to emulate the perfect, and innocent Son of God, Jesus Christ? Daniel Gullotta prepared today's reflection as part of his recently commenced studies to become a priest in the Anglican Church in Brisbane.
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Judas Iscariot is a figure I have always had an interest in, and I think that he is someone we have all had an interest in at one time or another. His betrayal of Jesus has always been fertile ground for discussion and theological reflection. There is so little written about him and yet we all want to know about him, ultimately so we can ask the big question of why? Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we shall never know.
The Betrayal of Judas and the Arrest of Christ 1325, a painting by Ugolino Di Nerio (Da Siena) (Reproduction available from the 1st Art Gallery. Click image for larger view)
While we may speculate different theories on the issues, it remains a choice made by Judas for whatever reason. Perhaps the reason why we speculate is because we find it so hard to believe. Who would betray the Son of God? Why would someone ever want to betray Jesus? Who could be so cruel and heartless? But it is love that makes betrayal all the more devastating. Jesus was not delivered to his enemies by one of the chief priests, or even by someone who heard his preaching and rejected it. He was betrayed by a friend to whom he had just pledged his body and his blood too.
But there is a reason why before partaking in the Eucharist we remind ourselves that it happened "On the night he was betrayed", and it is because we cannot share in the bread and the cup in the smugness that we would never betray Jesus as Judas did. Again Jesus' announcement that "his hand is on the table" reminds the rest of the Twelve, and us today, that participation in the Eucharist does not protect one from sin or treachery in some magical way. The responses of the disciples is not unlike our own in assuming that we, like them, could never do such a thing. Perhaps our interest in speculating about Judas is to avoid, or confront, the awful truth that within us there is a capacity to betray and destroy those who love and trust us.
The evil in Judas' heart is something we all feel from time to time, the anger we feel when things just simply don't go our way. While Judas is a hard lesson for all of us to learn, but a lesson well learnt, when it comes to the choices we make and how they affect others as well as ourselves. We must not judge Judas, because within us there can be a Judas plotting in the dark. We all too easily assume that we are superior to others or whatever others might do we would not deny Jesus. Luke's account of the Last Supper is not for those who are afraid to confront their own capacity to sin.
You may also be interested in Daniel's long commentary written in 2007 looking at the significance of Judas. You'll find that at: www.catholica.com.au/gc1/dg/003_dg_140607.php.
The main image of Mary Magdalene used in this reflection is sourced from the 1st Art Gallery who specialise in the reproduction of masterpieces. This paining is by Piero Di Cosimo (1462-1521).
Daniel Gullotta is an occasional contributor to Catholica. This year he has moved from studying at ACU (Banyo) to St. Francis' Theological College, Milton, because he has been accepted by the Archbishop and the Dioecse to begin Formation as a Priest of the Anglican Church in Brisbane.
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[Index of Commentaries by Daniel Gullotta]