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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Judas Iscariat

Wednesday of Holy Week brings us face to face with Judas Iscariot, who engineered Jesus’ death by betraying him to his enemies. In recent years, there have been a few attempts to “rehabilitate” Judas, explain away his apparently evil intentions and paint him as someone who really only wanted to force Jesus to show his power in extreme danger.

It seems to me that efforts like that say a lot more about us than about Judas. We love victims of previous era’s prejudices because accepting them confirms how enlightened we are. Even Judas, whom the poet Dante put in the lowest pit of hell, becomes a foil for our sense of superiority.

Judas kissed Jesus, the Gospel tells us. Did Jesus forgive his betrayer? Jesus died praying that his Father would forgive his enemies, and that would include Judas. We don’t know Judas’ eternal fate, but we do know that forgiving your enemies means you can’t feel superior to them.

I like to read the Psalms because they are filled with threats against the Psalmist’s enemies, and at times, I would like to see my enemies destroyed. But our greatest enemies are our own sins. It’s hard to keep a sense of enlightened superiority when examining our sins. They put us in Judas’ league. Rehabilitation, however, isn’t a matter of finding excuses; spiritual rehabilitation follows from confessing one’s sins and accepting forgiveness with humble gratitude.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

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