Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
In the spiritual life, Johann Tauler said, we should have “no will to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves.” This may sound more like a description of a dishcloth, but there was nothing weak or slavish about the Rhineland mystics. He meant that we should have no agenda of our own. There are many reasons why people are religious, not all of them religious. I could be using religion, paradoxically, as an escape from the deepest questions about life; I could be using it just to feed a need to be on the ‘inside’, whether socially or psychologically; I could be using it as a camouflage for bigotry, following the lead of the Pharisees…. All of these reasons are a betrayal of religion, no better than Judas’s betrayal.
Judas is mentioned constantly in the readings this week. In fact he is mentioned in the gospels far more often than some of the Twelve. He was a man who imposed his will and was unwilling to wait. John places the Beloved Disciple as near to Jesus as he places Judas away. Such dualism is characteristic of John’s gospel: light/darkness, above/below, etc. John is “reclining near Jesus,” whispering to him; but Judas goes out, and “it was night.”
But notice that there are two betrayers in this reading; the other is Peter. Jesus said to him, “The cock will not crow before you have denied me three times” (in other words, before morning). But Peter had the courage (or perhaps the opposite) to wait for forgiveness; and he was forgiven (John 21). Tragically, Judas didn’t wait; he too would have been forgiven. If he was just greedy for money he should have been happy; but instead he was plunged into despair; he must have had an agenda that went wrong – some plan to speed things up. It was typical of him, then, not to wait. There are two kinds of repentance, someone said: ice melted and ice broken. Ice takes time to melt, but no time to break. Peter was ice melted, Judas was ice broken. In a tragic twisted way Judas died for his Master. Without doubt, God the Father, “slow to anger and rich in mercy,” had pity on him. His daily presence in the Liturgical texts this week is a reminder to check our agendas.
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