Betraying Jesus wasn't the worst thing Judas did. His ruin came because he lost hope. His fate was not sealed by his kiss, but by his pride.
Admit your guilt in God's sight. Then with good heart, with courage and confidence in His mercy, start over again.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - "Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings Rabbi!" and kissed him. Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Matthew 26:49-50
"Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night you will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. Mark 14:29-31
Peter and Judas are not all that different, it seems. They are almost the same story, but for two very different endings. It could be our own story... which end will we choose?
Betraying Jesus wasn't the worst thing Judas did. As painful as that offense was, it was not Judas' downfall. His ruin came because he lost hope; he either did not believe in forgiveness or did not trust it would be given him or he decided he could not, would not forgive himself, and so he gave in to despair. It seems like his despair was proof of his great sorrow for what he had done to his friend and Lord, but it's not the sorrow Jesus wants from us.
Sorrow that is profitable for our souls leads us toward the One we have betrayed. If our sadness is merely disappointment with ourselves for having failed (which is pride) then we will choose to beat ourselves into despair and call it our just punishment. But then, why did Jesus die? If we can be punished enough to atone for our sin, then the Cross was a waste of perfect blood and Jesus a fool.
Jesus does not wait with a stick to beat me, nor does He unload on me a lecture about how I've failed. It is not proof of my love for Him to dwell on my failures or nitpick my flaws and defects. It is not proof of the depth of my sorrow to say, "I just can't forgive myself." If I cannot forgive myself, it simply means I prefer my wounded pride over His suffering. He suffered greatly at my expense; He was crucified for my sake. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
If I now refuse to receive His forgiveness and get up and try again, I am saying His suffering wasn't enough. His wounds are insufficient for my healing. The punishment He endured has brought peace for others, but not for me. I may deceive myself into thinking I am humbling myself, feeling the weight of my sin and bearing it nobly, but Jesus grieves all the more because I choose despair over hope.
Judas' betrayal of Jesus was a truly terrible act, but it was not so different from Peter's denial of Jesus. Both men surely felt great remorse, shame, and bitter sadness at what they had done to their Master and Friend. Perhaps Peter wished for his own death just as Judas did, thinking for a moment it was the only way out of his guilt. The only difference was that Peter chose hope, and Judas chose despair. Judas refused the forgiveness he could have received. His fate was not sealed by his kiss, but by his pride.
Every one of his disciples that night left Him, denied Him and betrayed Him in some way. Judas' sin garners the most attention because it seems so much more scandalous than the others, but we miss the point if we only see his act of greed and not the true cautionary lesson. They all abandoned Him in one way or another, just as we do. They all betrayed Him to some degree, just as we do. They all surely were sorrowful, scared, and filled with regret over their sins, just as we are. But only Judas chose guilt over redemption.
How tempting it is and how the enemy of our souls loves to deceive us into believing that the forgiveness Jesus offers is a fairytale. It's crazy how we often choose to wallow in self-pity thinking it is humility. It isn't. It is the enemy convincing us to make a mockery of the Cross. The truth is, we have sinned. You have, I have. You will again; I will again. In big and small ways, we will all wound Him and run away. The truth also is, He died knowing that; He died because of that; He died to heal that. There is only one response from us that is needed, only one response that will benefit our souls; to run back to Him and try again.
Judas, upon realizing his sin, gave back his silver and ran to hang himself in a tree out of despair. Peter, after weeping bitterly over his sin, ran toward the tomb where His Lord was buried, hoping. And Jesus showed Peter extra care and tenderness through the angel: "Go, tell his disciples, and Peter..."
Was not the same compassion available to Judas? Of course it was. But like everything Jesus gives to us, it must be taken by us freely. We can't cling to sin with one hand and forgiveness with the other, believing we are pious and humble. And it is Satan, not Jesus, who berates us with our failings til we are stuck in prideful despair. Judas only lacked hope because he lacked humility.
It doesn't matter how many times I fail or fall down or deny Him provided I run back to Him each time and humbly begin again without indulging in "oh, woe is me." Jesus knows I will do the very thing I vowed not to do; I will sleep when I promised to keep watch with Him; I will leave when I promised to stay. Yet He is always waiting for me to return and ask for His grace once more. This does not give me an excuse to sin or a "free pass" to go my own way, do my own thing and then come insincerely to take forgiveness when my conscience is guilty - that is simply rebellion.
But if I truly desire to follow Him, if I say I love Him and mean it, then my sorrow over my sin must compel me toward Him, like Peter as he ran to the tomb. Seeing how Peter was received by Jesus, with forgiveness and love, gives each of us confidence that He waits for us with mercy and affection.
"Don't be anxious to condemn yourself every time you fall. Instead, patiently, gently, pick yourself up and start all over again. Why are you surprised when the weak turn out to be weak, and the frail, frail? When you turn out to be sinful? When you fall, be gentle with your frail, weak heart. Lift your heart gently, accept your failure without wallowing in your weakness. Admit your guilt in God's sight. Then with good heart, with courage and confidence in His mercy, start over again." St. Francis de Sales
Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, an Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven). She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online on topics of Catholic faith, family, Life and politics. She is also a serious chocoholic. Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
We all love to celebrate Easter with brightly colored hard boiled eggs, candy, cute pictures of bunnies and chicks and we all love to gather together to party! Regardless of how you celebrate Easter, don't forget the real reason for the holiday. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for children to find on Easter morning. However, the association between a rabbit and the resurrection of ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, Pope Francis stood before pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square for the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, the pontiff stood before the packed square to speak of Jesus ... continue reading
By Alex Basile
Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to tomb of her friend and teacher. Fighting back tears and ... continue reading
By Fr. James Farfaglia
With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted. When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of a godless life; we are freed from the unhappiness of a life filled ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all ... continue reading
By Fr. Randy Sly
Just as the Chief Priests and Pharisees gathered with Pilate to plan on keeping the tomb sealed and guarded with Christ inside, many today want to place a stone in the entrance of the Church, to keep him inside again. On Holy Saturday we remember that no matter how ... continue reading
By Michael Terheyden
Pope Francis said something during his first general audience that inspired me to reflect on the suffering Jesus endured during his Passion for the sake of our redemption. He said, "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross. ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty, he sends a spring of living water from the wound, which the spear opened in His Side. From the wound in Christ's side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His Bride. ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
"Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy" (Catechism of the Catholic Church) . ... continue reading