Satan’s Great Evangelizer: Judas

The Vital Importance of Knowing the Judas in Ourselves

By Fr. Paul Scalia, The Catholic Thing:

During we remember Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, that brief moment before he was betrayed. Every Gospel writer points out that our Lord’s betrayer was one of His closest friends. At the beginning of our Lord’s public life, when He calls the Apostles, Judas is already pegged as the one “who became traitor.” (Lk 6:16; cf. Mt 10:4; Mk 3:19). In the account of his going to the chief priests, he is “one of the twelve.” (Mt 26:14; Mk 14:10; cf. Lk 22:3). In John’s Gospel it is the Lord Himself Who makes this observation: “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.” (Jn 6:70-71)

In a sense, the repeated phrase “one of the twelve” states a simple historical fact. Jesus was not just put to death by His enemies but betrayed by one of His own. In a deeper sense, however, the line serves as a warning to all who follow Christ – and, indeed, to those closest to Him. Judas was with our Lord for the same three years as the others. With them, he heard the sermons, witnessed the miracles, and was sent forth by Christ. And yet he betrayed our Lord. We should never think ourselves beyond the wickedness of Judas. Proximity to Jesus does not always mean intimacy with Him.

So it is a healthy thing to look at Judas’s negative example. Not with a view to condemning him all over again or to feel our own superiority. Rather, we do so with a certain empathy, aware that we labor under the same human weaknesses and are likewise capable of grave sin – of betrayal. What then do we find in the betrayer that we might also find in ourselves?

The Faults of Judas

Judas kisses Jesus

First is Judas’s failure to persevere in his conversion. Our Lord chose him just as surely as He chose Peter and John. He did not do so begrudgingly or out of necessity. When our Lord addresses Judas as “friend” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:50), He does intend it as irony or sarcasm. At some point, Judas’ conversion seems to have faltered. Perhaps it was simple sloth. Perhaps it was a teaching he couldn’t accept. John hints that the Bread of Life discourse was Judas’s undoing – hence the Lord’s reference to him as “a devil” at the end of it.

 Or maybe Judas felt betrayed by the Lord. He may have had expectations of the Messiah that Jesus did not fulfill – expectations of glory and power hard to square with the repeated references to the Son of Man suffering, being rejected, and killed. For three years, he followed this rabbi and the anticipated glory had not arrived. He grew impatient with the Lord’s talk about suffering. In this regard Romano Guardini observes: “That he did not leave, but remained as one of the Twelve was the beginning of his treachery. Why he stayed, we do not know. Perhaps he still hoped to muddle through inwardly, or he wanted at least to see how things would develop – unless he already dreamed of profiting by the situation.” (The Lord)

Judas’s Greed

Which brings us to the next point: Judas’s greed. Judas objected to Mary’s anointing of Jesus with costly ointment not out of concern for the poor but “because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” (Jn 12:6) Greed is grasping. It’s really not so much about possessions but control – about having such means at our disposal that we do not need to rely on others, or even God. It is “practical” in the worst sense of that word. And Judas was an eminently practical man. In fact, one theory is that he foresaw our Lord’s coming defeat and was hoping to set himself up politically and financially by the betrayal. A very practical consideration.

Seeing Things in Worldly Manner

Further, there seems to be a superficiality or shallowness about Judas, a tendency to see things in only natural, worldly terms (not surprising in the practical man). At the Last Supper, our Lord says to His Apostles, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They ask Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Except Judas. He asks instead, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (Mt 26:21-25) The others saw Jesus as Lord. Judas saw Him as only a rabbi, a teacher.

Of course, a teacher is important. But one does not worship a teacher. A teacher’s words can be powerful, perhaps even life-changing. But they are ultimately human, limited by the world’s wisdom and time itself. Jesus’ words endure: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35) Judas does not seem to have realized the depth of our Lord’s words or have entrusted himself to their authority. They were for him perhaps interesting and challenging, but not authoritative. How often we hear that about His teachings today?

Regret Versus Repentance

Finally, and sadly, Judas fails to repent. No doubt, he feels remorse over what he has done. And this is no small thing. In the tangle of his heart he still bore at least some love for Jesus. But notice: he returns not to Jesus but to the chief priests – to his coconspirators. To them, he acknowledges his sin. Judas possesses not repentance but regret. By repentance we look to the good God, to the Redeemer, to the one Who is Mercy. In His light, we reject sin. By regret we look to ourselves, turn further inward, and close ourselves off from the reconciliation and healing that come from God alone.

In Holy Week, we would like to be more like John, who stood faithfully at the foot of the Cross, or like Mary Magdalene, who kept a sorrowful vigil at Calvary. But that would be to give ourselves too much credit. This is the hour to think not of our strengths but of our weaknesses. It is no time to look askance at Judas but to realize that we labor under the same wounded human nature as he.

Like Judas, we fail to persevere in our conversion. We settle for piety instead of holiness. We turn aside if things get difficult and fail to deepen our devotion. We may even feel betrayed by the Lord – if He has not answered a prayer the way we want or catered to our own imaginings of Him.

Grasping  Control

Like Judas, we grasp for things – for money, possessions, power. In a word, for control, trying to keep our dependence on God at bay. Like him, we tend to superficiality, making our faith only a matter of human wisdom, interesting insights, psychological comfort rather than an encounter with the Word made flesh. We adopt a worldly view of religion rather than put on the mind Christ.

Hence, we do not entrust ourselves to His words as we should: Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. . . .He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. . . .Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. . . .as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.

And most of all we fail to deepen our repentance. We feel regret for our own sake, because our sins made us look bad. For all these failings and sins the Lord has granted us now the opportunity for real repentance. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

Slight editing of headlines and bolding.

Mary, Destroyer of All Heresies

By , The Catholic Thing:

In Pascendi dominici gregis, Pope Pius X invokes the Blessed Virgin Mary by the title Destroyer of all heresies. He took this curious appellation for the gentle, sweet maiden of Nazareth from the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The title had particular meaning in Pascendi, which was written in 1911 against modernism, the “synthesis of all heresies.” Faced with that crisis, it was proper to appeal to the Destroyer of all heresies. The title still applies, however. Indeed, it describes something that has always been true of our Lady – and is perhaps even more urgent now.

But how? How does she destroy heresies? Mary never preached a sermon against error. She never conducted an inquisition or excommunicated anyone. She never (God forbid) presented a paper at a theological conference.

Why is Mary, the Destroyer of All Heresies?

BOW008_LHow? Well, look first at the zeal she inspires. It’s a mark of the defenders of the faith that they have a devotion – often disarmingly childlike – to our Lady. From Saint Irenaeus writing against the heresies in the 2nd century, to Saint Dominic preaching against the Albigensians in the 12th, to Saint John Paul II teaching against modern errors in our own time, devotion to Mary has always been something of a calling card for the Faith’s defenders. In one of those beautiful Catholic paradoxes, these men became fierce defenders of the faith by first becoming childlike towards her. Devotion to her brings purity to the soul and therefore clarity to the mind.

We can look also to her intercession. Only in eternity will we know how it all works. Meanwhile, we know for a certainty that the Church has, time and again been, delivered from darkness and error because the faithful cried out to her in need.

But most of all she is the Destroyer of all heresies by virtue of who she is. It is the truth of who she is – or, rather, the truth of what God has done for her – that vanquishes heresies. Her very being guards the truth about God and man.

She Reveals the Truth about the Human Body

Today we see another dimension of Mary as the Destroyer of all heresies: she defends the truth about the human person. Specifically, by her Assumption, she reveals and destroys the error that plagues us now: the error about the human body. Today’s heresy (seen most of all in the new Gnosticism of gender ideology) is a recapitulation of an ancient, recurring error. Rather than knowing man to be an embodied soul, we see him as a soul that happens to have (or be trapped in) a body.We see this early in the Church’s history. When the Council of Ephesus solemnly defined Mary as the God-bearer – Theotokos – it was as a way of defending the divinity of Christ. The heresiarch Nestorius’s refusal to acknowledge Mary as Mother of God alerted the fathers to his error about her Son. To proclaim the truth about Mary was to defend the truth about Jesus Christ. In the 19th century, Pius IX’s solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception defended God’s initiative and grace against modernity’s infatuation with human ingenuity and the growing desire for complete human autonomy.

Errors Exposed

To be human thus means to be a soul – and do with the body as you will. The body becomes a plaything, a tool, a possession, a curse, etc. Indulge it while you are healthy, and discard it when you are not. The body means nothing and tells you nothing about yourself. You can be one thing physically and another spiritually.

Again, this is a perennial error precisely because all of us experience the dis-integration of body and soul to some degree. By the sin of Adam and Eve, we lost original integrity, including that perfect union of body and soul God intended from the beginning. Our souls do not always get along so well with “brother ass.” The difference now is that this discomfort has been raised to the level of an ideology, and that ideology is being imposed by cultural and governmental strongmen.

Her Body Magnifies the Truth

Mary, assumed into heaven, reveals the truth and upends the errors. All saints are in heaven spiritually. They await the last day when their bodies will be raised and reunited with their souls. Our Lady, however, assumed body and soul into heaven, already enjoys perfect blessedness in the fullness of her human nature. In her very being she teaches the essential union of body and soul.

Her Assumption has to be understood as one with her entire life. By her Immaculate Conception, Mary is kept free from original sin and its effects. She does not suffer the opposition of body and soul that the rest of us do. Her perpetual virginity further confirms and reveals this perfect union. Her body and soul are so perfectly one that her body participates in and manifests that pure spiritual gift of herself to God.

In that singular grace granted to the New Eve – in her Assumption – we have a reminder of what we were created to be and a proclamation of what God’s grace can accomplish. We see that God created us as a body/soul unity. Man’s body and soul are one, and a society designed around their opposition is contrary to his good. Further, the grace of Christ reconciles us with God and therefore also with ourselves. We find in our prayers and in the Church’s Sacraments the medicine for healing the division within us.

Old Latin prayers beg for grace by the power of Maria assumpta. Not just by the Assumption of Mary or by Mary’s assumption but by Mary assumed – Mary, the Assumed One. The phrase calls attention not just to an event but to who she is. She herself, by virtue of what God has done for her, assists us.

Let Us Appeal to Her

Unfortunately, the obligation to attend Mass on the Feast of the Assumption does not apply this year. That means that fewer people will have the benefit of celebrating God’s works and meditating on what has been accomplished in Mary – on what it means for us and how we are to follow. Let us then appeal to her even more as we strive to live that integrity of body and soul in our own lives – and as we also likewise struggle against the confusions of our culture and the assaults of our government.

Maria Assumpta, ora pro nobis.