How many Christians have wished that they could have been present with Christ while He was here on Earth! To walk with Him, to listen to His parables, to see Him perform miracles and perhaps to ask Him questions. Greatest of all privileges: to be present at the Last Supper, the first Mass. Imagine being present when He turned bread into His flesh and wine into His blood. A true foretaste of Heaven! What Christian worthy of that name would not trade everything he owns to experience that! The mind then reels when we consider Judas.
He walked with Christ, and talked with Christ. He saw the miracles. He participated at the first Mass. Then he went out and betrayed Christ. What motivated Judas to do this, and what caused him to bitterly regret his betrayal and then hang himself? We can only guess. He was a thief and stole from the common purse that he was in charge of. He condemned the “waste” of oil for the feet of Christ, claiming it could have been used for the poor. Did he betray Christ merely because of his lust for money? I do not think so. In his remorse over his betrayal of Jesus he threw back at the feet of the priests the blood money he had been paid. If not money, then why?
Perhaps simple doubt. We are certain that we would not be afflicted by such doubt if we had seen Christ. Really? We know that the movement he created now claims the allegiance of two billion people on the planet, and we can see how the Truth He preached has endured for twenty centuries. Yet, how many of us turn away from Christ? How many of us have cherished sins that we are unable to give up? How many of us live our lives as if Christ never came to us?
Considering that, let us place ourselves in the shoes of Judas. We know he was weak or he would not have been a thief. By the time of the Last Supper he may have been filled with fear that Christ was heading towards disaster, His movement doomed to be crushed by either the Temple priests or the Romans. The way in which the Disciples ran away, the denials of Peter, demonstrate that Judas would not have been alone in such fears. Yes, it is quite likely that Judas betrayed Christ out of fear and doubt. If Christ was headed towards destruction anyway, it only made common sense to get on the right side of the powers that be. Looking at the contemporary world, how many of us make such a Judas bargain day by day, as we slowly betray Christ with our sins, our doubts and our desire to curry favor with the dominant powers that be of the World?
In his weakness and in his doubt, Judas has proven to be a horrible role model for all too many Catholics. If Judas had been an evil monster, a stick figure of a morality play, it would be easy to condemn him and forget him. However, there is too much recognition of ourselves in Judas as revealed in the Bible. As we sit in Mass tonight, let us imagine another Judas. A Judas who did not betray Christ but stood beside Him and died with Him. As Judas tightened the noose around his neck, perhaps such an image flashed through his mind of what could have been. Unlike Judas, there is still time for us. We can turn away from our betrayals of Christ and vow to stand by Him and His Truth, come what may.