Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before the Passion: The Judas Factor

In the world you shall have distress, but have confidence; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33

Before the Passion...

The Great Council of the Sanhedrin had decided to arrest Jesus. In regard to the time, it was probably on Wednesday that the council assembled. It may have been “at the hour when Our Lord assured His disciples that He would be crucified, on the Feast of the Pasch: ‘You know that after two days shall be the Pasch, and the Son of Man shall be delivered up to be crucified.’

“The meeting place of the Council was not, it would appear, the assembly room in the Temple, but the palace of Caiphas the High Priest, because the decision was kept secret, and all care was taken to avoid attracting attention.”

“Nevertheless, the Sanhedrin seemed to have been represented in every essential point, for the three classes – chief priests, ancients, and scribes – of which it was composed, are mentioned. It was, therefore, an official session. The subject of the deliberations was no longer whether or not to put Jesus to death – that had been decided upon long ago, but the manner in which is was to be accomplished - whether openly by force, or secretly by crafty surprise. The occurrences of the last few days, the complete defeats by which Our Lord has put His enemies to shame, His increasing influence – all of this urged them to sudden action.”

“As we know, their decision was that the arrest was to be secretly, by craft.” Their plan was to surprise and take Our Lord, but when and how they could best do it was their dilemma.

They had decided that Jesus’ execution was not to take place on the feast day, but after the Pasch was over. “This was because they feared the people. At the Paschal season, there were multitudes of people in Jerusalem, and the crowds were much inclined to disturbances and tumult. Our Lord had many adherents among them, especially among the excitable Galileans.”

So the Sanhedrin feared only resistance and risk, especially if the Romans would be forced to interfere. “For this reason, the arrest must be made whenever it could be done best, but secretly, and the sentence was not to be passed until after the feast days, when the people had dispersed. Such was the decision of the Council – and such their dispositions for the great feast. They feared – not God, but the people.”

And then, suddenly, a boon - Judas, apostle of Jesus Christ - went to Our Lord’s enemies.

“What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” What a terrible question Judas asked of the Sanhedrin! “To put Jesus into competition with Self! Judas had entertained the thought of the betrayal of Our Lord for a long time. No one suddenly falls away from faithfulness to Jesus – “it is neglect in little things which gradually leads to a serious fall.”

How did Judas come to such a resolution? What were the causes? As Meditation on the Passion explains it:

1. “The fundamental cause was probably the shallowness, untrustworthiness, and superficiality of his character. He seems to have been a man of no depth or moral stamina.”

2. “The second cause was his worldliness, ambition, and avarice. One can scarcely conceive of his ever having had any idea of the Kingdom of the Messiah other than that which the majority of Jews entertained – a temporal king, a temporal kingdom. Judas allowed himself to be wholly influenced by a worldly spirit – the same spirit which is directly opposed to the spirit of Jesus Christ.”

The world is Our Lord’s enemy and therefore the enemy of the Catholic Church and all Her members. The world is composed of those who center their happiness in earthly things, who detest and shun poverty, suffering and humiliation while they worship wealth, pleasure, and personal dignity, esteeming these as the only treasures worthy of man’s ambition, and deliberately sacrificing their souls in order to attain them.”

Our Lord Himself formally excluded the world from His last solemn prayer for His disciples on the night of His Passion. He predicted, too, that as the world had hated and persecuted Him, so would it persecute and hate His followers. If we really desire a place near Our Lord, we must, like Him, engage in an unceasing conflict with His mortal foe. Jesus Christ is light, and the world is darkness; and as light and darkness cannot exist together – because one casts out the other – so neither can Our Lord and the world be one. When the spirit of the world gets entrance into the human heart, Our Lord is cast out and rejected. And in proportion as the Holy Spirit of Our Lord gains ground in the soul, the spirit of the world is cast out and rejected.”

‘If any man love this world, the charity of the Father is not in him’ ” (John I: 2:15). Judas’ downfall is a sad confirmation of this great principle – i.e., that Jesus Christ and the world are mortal enemies. By generous, persevering efforts to rid ourselves of everything savoring of the worldly spirit, we shall make solid, genuine advance in sanctity. To triumph over the world is not the work of a moment, but of a lifetime. Therefore, we must follow faithfully in the footsteps of God’s servants, the Saints, by generous fidelity in lesser trials, by which we merit Divine Help in greater ones.”

3. The third cause of Judas’ fall was unbelief. Gradually, he lost the faith he first had. Loss of faith is the usual result of worldliness.

4.The fourth cause was weariness and discomfort of the life led by Our Lord and the Apostles. Judas loved his own ease and comfort. He grew tired of the life He led with Jesus – one of poverty and constant labors and journeys. He was especially tired of Jesus’ personal disinterest as He labored for others.

Judas was absolutely selfish, and so “he had acquired the habit of thieving from the purse that Our Lord entrusted to him. He tried to make use of his position for worldly gain. The enthusiastic love and devotion of the other Apostles, much less His followers, must have annoyed Judas. How exaggerated and extravagant they must have seemed to him, until at least he took a positive dislike to the presence and Person of Jesus. This dislike to the Person of Jesus showed itself plainly when Magdalen anointed Our Lord’s Sacred Feet at Bethany. The unbelief, irreverence, and callousness of Judas on this occasion almost stun us.”

5. “A last cause - which, however, was also at work in all the other influences – was the influence and seduction of the devil, which grew more powerful the more Judas gave way to unbelief and passion. And thus it was that his diabolical resolution to abandon Jesus became matured. Under these circumstances, Judas wished to see Jesus’ plans thwarted and the company of the Apostles dissolved, that he might be freed from all the inconveniences – and he thought he might as well gain a little something by it, too.

“How mean, cowardly and disgraceful was this act of Judas – he, an Apostle, a friend of Jesus, a member of His family! Judas’ conduct meant no small slight shame, and no small pain to the tender, loving Heart of Our Lord. And Judas took this step quite of his own accord. He hastened to the priests himself, and he asked, in the most shameless and unblushing manner, what they would give him for his treachery. Judas knew well the men he had to deal with, and yet he promised to deliver Our Lord Jesus - his Master, his Benefactor, his God and greatest Good – for the price of killing a slave.

“And to whom does Judas sell Our Lord? To His worst and most bitter enemies who lie in wait to devour Him. Judas delivered Our Lord to all the tortures of His Passion and Death. Self-interest, avarice, ingratitude, cowardice, faithlessness, hard-heartedness, and cruelty are all included in Judas’ act. And oh, what pain, what deep humiliation, it brought to our dear Lord and Savior!”

What a terrible thing for a Christian to be the slave of worldly principles, of a selfish spirit, of human respect! Our Lord declared expressly and positively that He would die on the feast, and by a violent death. The Son of God knows the counsels of God and the hearts of men. No on can work against God, not even in secret. His Providence guards His own. He watches over His faithful servants – not a hair of their heads can be touched without His permission. Nothing can happen without the permission of God.”

Jesus had his Judas. And since the servant is no better than his Master, as Our Lord taught, it stands to reason that Christ’s Bride, the Catholic Church, will always have Judases in Her midst, and that we, members of the Church Militant, children of the Bride, and members of the Mystical Body, will also suffer from “the Judas Factor” in our own lives.

Here we have serious matter for reflection – God wills that we know, love and serve Him, but if we wish to rightly and justly serve, we must get to know ourselves. “Self-knowledge is a most necessary step to the knowledge and love of Jesus – no one is safe until well grounded in self-knowledge. If Judas had known his own evil nature, he might have been saved. He would have distrusted and dreaded himself and clung to Jesus, Who would have saved him, for He loved Judas and called him to be His disciple with the sole view of saving him.”

But Judas used his free will to thwart the tender, merciful designs of Jesus – and no one can be saved against his will. “What a terrible lesson is here given! Like Judas, we also have our evil dispositions – our weaknesses, which, unless known and fought against, will lead us to very serious consequences.”

What have we to say to our Divine Lord? What graces do we ask of Him? What thanksgiving do we make? What reparation, sympathy, and love do we have to offer the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Sweet Jesus, Savior of my soul, deign in Thy Goodness to hear my petitions, strengthen my will to give Thee my best, and give it fearlessly and with all the love of my heart.

Mother of God, my mother, help me to remember that a ‘valiant lover standeth his ground in temptation and yieldeth not to the crafty persuasions of the enemy.’

Have pity on me, Lord Jesus, have pity on me according to the mercy of Thy loving Heart. The thought that I am yet be made holy, that I can yet become a true and loyal disciple of Thy Heart, encourages me. Help me, O Jesus Most Merciful, and give me courage. Behold, dear Lord, now I begin!”

“O Mother, I have need of Thee!”

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