SCRIPTURE (John 13: 21-33, 36-38)
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus' side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him,
"Master, who is it?"
"It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it."
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
"Buy what we need for the feast,"
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.
When he had left, Jesus said,
"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you."
Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?"
Jesus answered him,
"Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later."
Peter said to him,
"Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you."
Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times."
Consider the very different stories of Judas and the good thief called Dismas.
Judas spent the entire ministry with Jesus, witnessing the words and deeds of Jesus as “…one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken…” (Acts 1:21-22). Nevertheless, he rejected and betrayed him in the end.
On the other hand, Dismas (whose feast day was March 25) spent a criminal life fighting and stealing until his arrest and execution. Only at the last minute did he turn to Jesus with the words, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).
In Mark 6:7-13 Jesus sends the twelve to preach the good news, to anoint and to heal the people. Judas was among them as they did so, as Peter stated in Acts 1:17, “He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry.” Maybe it was the Master’s instructions to “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no money in their belt” that Judas found impossible to accept. Maybe he felt betrayed by Jesus, “This is crazy, I didn’t join for this. Where’s the kingdom he promised?”
When the full realization of what he had done hit home – the greatest crime ever committed on earth of leading God’s Son to his trial and death – he hung himself on the property he had purchased with the thirty silver coins. The thirty pieces of silver was the bounty placed on the head of Jesus, paid to the one who handed him over to the authorities.
Maybe Judas could see the cross from where he was hanging, and in that final moment his eyes met the eyes of Jesus across the valley, and just as it was for the good thief hanging next to Jesus, there was mercy and forgiveness for Judas as well. We do know that “Judas, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” 27:3-10).
Who knows what passed through the mind and heart of Judas during the last seconds of his life. Maybe the stories of Judas and Dismas were not that different after all, for only God “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Maybe Judas too managed to breathe his last with the words “Jesus, remember me…” I’d like to think so, “For man this is impossible, but for God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
This leads one to wonder, does anyone ever pray for Judas? It seems impossible to find any public prayer on the part of the Church where this is done – not on All Souls Day or during Holy Week. The only reference to him indirectly is during the Liturgy of the Eucharist when the priest says just before the consecration, “…on the night he was betrayed…” Yet the question remains, should we as followers of Jesus pray for Judas? Did Jesus pray for him? We have on that point the very words of Jesus, “Pray for your enemies…pray for those who persecute you.” Surely Jesus “walked his talk” and prayed for Judas.
So, maybe we can pray for Judas, and for all the enemies of the Christian community, as Jesus taught. If you are so inclined, please share this prayer from time to time:
“Heavenly Father, in Jesus name I pray, for Judas and all those who have shed innocent blood, that he is in the peace and joy of your loving and merciful embrace, that in the end he has come home to you. Amen –may it be so”
And let us remember to pray for one another that we may be true followers of Jesus and never betray him by our own words and actions. But if we do, let’s remember to turn immediately to God’s merciful embrace, for as Pope Francis has reminded us, “God never tires of forgiveness; it’s we who tire of asking for it.”
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House, a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20, will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
- Who have you betrayed? How have you attempted to heal those wounds?
- What motivated your betrayal?
- Who has betrayed you? How have you or will you seek healing?
FAST from judging those who have made poor choices - choices that have hurt others.
PRAY for those who have betrayed goodness, faith and God. May they own their actions and accept God's mercy.
GIVE comfort without judgement to someone whose life has been a struggle through their own doing.
Ron Zeilinger is the Executive Director of Dismas Ministry- a service site for 12plus1. He holds a master's degree in Theology from Sacred Heart School of Theology.