Wednesday of Holy Week
“The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!”
Yesterday, I wrote about Judas’ betrayal in comparison with Peter’s denial when reflecting on John’s gospel. A similar passage appears today in the gospel of Matthew, where the author described the transaction behind the betrayal — a mere thirty pieces of silver. Today’s account is a precursor to chapter 27 where we read about the destiny of Judas. This is in stark contrast to the fate of Peter, even though both of them had their fair share of denials. I believe the author deliberately placed the denials of Peter and Judas in the same chapter, followed by their reactions to the condemnations as a reminder to us Christians on the importance of confession and not praying, especially in the face of temptations. Jesus had explicitly called upon His disciples to pray in preparation for the trials that they were going through, which the disciples experienced shortly in the Garden of Gethsemane and throughout His passion.
We, as readers of the gospel thousands of years later, might deem the fate of Judas as unsurprising, since wicked men should answer to the consequences of their crimes. However, was Judas pure evil and immoral to the extent that forgiveness should not be accorded to him? Judas acknowledged to the chief priests that he had sinned and betrayed an innocent person. This was full testimony to the character of Christ; but the rulers were hardened. Discarding his ill-gotten gains, he left and hanged himself, probably in anguish of despair and unable to deal with his conscience. He had a conscience! He was truly remorseful. It was the final act of a man who could not live with himself and the memory of what he had done. In the ultimate irony, Judas died even before Jesus did. He did not wait to see if the Messiah he once followed could save Himself from the cross. Before we start making a mockery of Judas’ outcome and make light of our own sins in comparison to his betrayal, let us not forget that Judas wasn’t the everyday scum loitering the streets of Jerusalem. He was an apostle, personally chosen by Christ himself. He spent years following our Lord, bearing witness to His ministry and attesting to the miracles performed in person. Above all, he was the treasurer of the Twelve, a keeper of the money bag. Surely there must be a certain level of trust and loyalty that they saw in this man. Even when Jesus provided hints to the identity of the betrayer during the Last Supper, none of the apostles suspected him. This is a testimony to the conviction everyone had of this man.
Rather than using the term ‘betrayal’, we should ask ourselves if we could be another Judas. We might not have the opportunity to betray Jesus in person; we do not have the luxury of having Him alongside us in the flesh. But is there anything that could make us renounce our faith, or to occupy a place of importance in our lives that is greater than Christ? Could that be money, career or fame? Could we have been the one uttering, “Surely not I to betray you”? There is definitely a need for healthy self-examination in our Christian lives from time to time. No one should take for granted their commitment to Christ. Are we a true follower or merely going through the motions every time we attend Sunday Mass? Have we trusted Jesus as our Saviour or are we simply a fairweather church-goer? These are searching questions that don’t come with easy answers. If an apostle of Christ can be tempted and waylaid, what more could be said of us?
Brothers and sisters, as Christians, we should continually search our hearts and acknowledge our failings. And though we may fall, as it should be, let us imitate Peter instead of Judas; that whatever sins we have committed, no matter how grave they are, besides feeling remorse and guilt, we should turn back to our Saviour and seek His forgiveness. For He is infinitely merciful and His compassion knows no bounds.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we remember the tragic passing of our Lord and the sufferings He went through, we pray that you would speak to our hearts and let us recognise the gravity of our sins and what it deserves. Help us to move towards Jesus even in our most shameful and desperate moments. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your endless mercy and compassion, causing Your Son to die for the sins of mankind in order for us to reconcile with You. We are utterly undeserving and unworthy, and we can only praise and glorify you in return.