Wednesday, March 23, 2016

'Satan entered into him': a reflection for Wednesday in Holy Week

May my words be in the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

It is clear from our reading tonight that Jesus not only knew that he would be betrayed but who it was that would betray him. St John tells us that he was troubled in spirit by this – which is something that Jesus is not very often is. He is troubled at the grave of Lazarus; he is troubled earlier in this Gospel when only a short time before he speaks of his death on the cross. And now he is troubled at the thought of his betrayal. We can but speculate as to why he is troubled, as the evangelist does not specify; but part of it is surely the enormity of the sin about to be committed by one close to him. Jesus called this man, taught him, sent him out to teach others; and now he is about to hand him over to his enemies so that they may kill him. Jesus loved all his followers; and those closest to him most of all. So he surely must have had a great love for Judas; and the knowledge of the consequences of what Judas was about to do, not only for Jesus, but for Judas' own immortal soul, would have undoubtedly troubled him greatly.

The evangelist tells us that after Jesus gives Judas the piece of bread he had dipped in the dish so as to indicate to the beloved disciple – in other words himself – who it was would betray him, that Satan entered into Judas. But I think it better to think here that it was at this point that Satan claimed him fully for his own. This was the point at which his path was fixed, and his decision to betray Jesus was final. But he had long been slipping down the path that leads to damnation. Had not Jesus before this night said that one of the twelve was a devil? Had not Judas long been tempted by the money he carried on behalf of the group, stealing from it, using what was intended for the good of all the disciples, and also for helping the poor, for his own benefit? And was it not before this night that he had gone to Jesus' enemies and agreed to take money from them in return for handing his master over to them? And earlier in this very Gospel passage, St John tells us that the devil had put it into his heart to betray Jesus.

So Satan had long been nipping at the heels of Judas. And this night the prince of devils, the father of lies, claimed him for his own, entered fully into him. And Judas was lost.

His fate should make us tremble. We think of Judas as being the most terrible man in history, someone whose name can not be spoken without loathing at worst, and extreme pity at best for the wretched fate he brought down upon his head by his own actions, a wicked, evil man. But he was not always evil. He must have been good once; a seeker after truth like all the others. He went out to bring the good news of Christ to the towns and villages like his brother apostles; and like them he returned joyfully, recounting to his master how he had cured the sick in his name and cast out demons. The words of our Lord 'I saw Satan fall from the sky like lightening' – his response to the deeds of power they had done – were spoken as much to Judas as to Peter, John, and all the others. And yet Judas was to ultimately fall prey to Satan – and a more spectacular fall was never seen before or since, from the height of being an apostle to the depths of being a minion of Satan himself.

How was this brought about? We can not be sure. But avarice, greed for money, certainly seems to have been a weakness of Judas'. Perhaps his downfall began with a coin here, a coin there from the common purse he carried; with Satan whispering in his ear that it was OK, it was only a small amount, and he was working so hard and doing so much good that he deserved a little something extra every now and again. When it began and how long it went on for we can not know. But his reaction to Mary's anointing of the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume is illuminating. He explodes with anger with what he calls a waste; even as his heart lusts for the valuable ointment to be sold and the money put into the purse he carries so that he can help himself to it. Illuminating also is the fact that he took money to betray Jesus. Many in the modern age have tried to find excuses for Judas' actions, attempts made to argue that he didn't really know what he was doing. But the fact remains that he took money to lead men armed with swords and clubs to his master – men working for those Jesus had made clear time and again sought to kill him. Judas knew what he was doing, and that what he was doing was wrong – he was even warned by his master of the dreadful fate that awaited the one who would betray him, that it was better that he had never been born - and still he handed him over to his enemies of his own free will.

And as I said earlier, his fate should make us tremble. For we also betray Jesus, many times daily; we fall prey to temptations and let them lead us into sin. Christ will forgive us – just as I think he would have forgiven Judas had he only sought his pardon – but only if we repent. And without it, our fate is that of Judas', we will let small temptations lead us to greater and greater wrongs until at last Satan will enter into us and claim us as his own for all eternity. Let us end this night by praying for forgiveness, brothers and sisters, for all we do wrong and the grace to resist all that tempts us; and not only because we fear to suffer the fate of Judas, but even more out of love for God and all that he has done for us in Christ. Amen. 

No comments:

Post a Comment