Skip to comments.On Judas Iscariot and Matthias - Never Despair of God's Mercy
Posted on 10/18/2006 7:51:19 PM PDT by ELS
On Judas Iscariot and Matthias
"Never Despair of God's Mercy"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, dedicated to present the figures of Judas Iscariot and Matthias.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
On completing today the review of the Twelve Apostles called directly by Jesus during his earthly life, we cannot fail to mention the one who always appears in the last place: Judas Iscariot. We want to associate him with the person who was later chosen to substitute him, namely, Matthias.
The name Judas alone arouses among Christians an instinctive reaction of reprobation and condemnation. The meaning of the name "Iscariot" is controversial: The most used explanation says that it means "man from Queriyyot," in reference to his native village, located in the surroundings of Hebron, mentioned twice in sacred Scripture (cf. Joshua 15:25; Amos 2:2).
Others interpret it as a variation of the term "hired assassin," as if it alluded to a guerrilla armed with a dagger, called "sica" in Latin. Finally, some see in the label the simple transcription of a Hebrew-Aramaic root that means: "He who was going to betray him." This mention is found twice in the fourth Gospel, that is, after a confession of faith by Peter (cf. John 6:71) and later during the anointing at Bethany (cf. John 12:4).
Other passages show that the betrayal was underway, saying: "He who betrayed him," as happened during the Last Supper, after the announcement of the betrayal (cf. Matthew 26:25) and later at the moment Jesus was arrested (cf. Matthew 26:46.48; John 18:2.5). However, the lists of the twelve recall the betrayal as something that already occurred: "Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him," says Mark (3:19); Matthew (10:4) and Luke (6:16) use equivalent formulas.
The betrayal, as such, took place in two moments: first of all in its planning phase, when Judas comes to an agreement with Jesus' enemies for 30 pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16), and later in its execution with the kiss he gave the master in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:46-50).
Anyway, the evangelists insist that his condition of apostle corresponded fully to him: He is repeatedly called "one of the twelve" (Matthew 26:14.47; Mark 14:10.20; John 6:71) or "of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).
Moreover, on two occasions, Jesus, addressing the apostles and speaking precisely of him, indicates him as "one of you" (Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; John 6:70; 13:21). And Peter would say of Judas "he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry" (Acts 1:17).
He is, therefore, a figure belonging to the group of those whom Jesus had chosen as companions and close collaborators. This poses two questions when it comes to explaining what happened. The first consists in asking ourselves how it was possible that Jesus chose this man and trusted him.
In fact, though Judas is the group's administrator (cf. John 12:6b; 13:29a), in reality he is also called "thief" (John 12:6a). The mystery of the choice is even greater, as Jesus utters a very severe judgment on him: "Woe to that man by whom the son of man is betrayed!" (Matthew 26:24).
This mystery is even more profound if one thinks of his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Matthew 27:3-4). Though he departed afterward to hang himself (cf. Matthew 27:5), it is not for us to judge his gesture, putting ourselves in God's place, who is infinitely merciful and just.
A second question affects the motive of Judas' behavior: Why did he betray Jesus? The question raises several theories. Some say it was his greed for money; others give an explanation of a messianic nature: Judas was disappointed on seeing that Jesus did not fit the program of the political-military liberation of his country.
In fact, the Gospel texts insist on another aspect: John says expressly that "the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him" (John 13:2); in the same way, Luke writes: "Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).
In this way, one goes beyond historical motivations, explaining what occurred by basing it on Judas' personal responsibility, who yielded miserably to a temptation of the evil one. In any case, Judas' betrayal continues to be a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Matthew 26:50), but in his invitations to follow him on the path of the beatitudes he did not force his will or prevent him from falling into Satan's temptations, respecting human freedom.
In fact, the possibilities of perversion of the human heart are truly many. The only way to prevent them consists in not cultivating a view of life that is only individualistic, autonomous, but in always placing oneself on the side of Jesus, assuming his point of view.
We must try, day after day, to be in full communion with him. Let us recall that even Peter wanted to oppose him and what awaited him in Jerusalem, but he received a very strong rebuke: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mark 8:32-33).
After his fall, Peter repented and found forgiveness and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into despair and in this way it became self-destruction. It is an invitation for us to always remember what St. Benedict says at the end of Chapter 5 -- fundamental -- of his Rule: "Never despair of God's mercy." In fact, "God is greater than our hearts," as St. John says (1 John 3:20).
Let us remember two things. The first: Jesus respects our freedom. The second: Jesus waits for us to have the disposition to repent and to be converted; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness. In fact, when we think of the negative role Judas played, we must frame it in the higher way with which God disposed the events.
His betrayal led to the death of Jesus who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love and in self-giving to the Father (cf. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2.25). The verb "betray" is the Greek version which means "to give up." At times its subject is also God himself in person: Out of love, he "gave up" Jesus for us all (cf. Romans 8:32). In his mysterious plan of salvation, God assumes Judas' unjustifiable gesture as the motive for the total giving up of the Son for the redemption of the world.
On concluding, we wish to recall also he who, after Easter, was chosen to replace the traitor. In the Church of Jerusalem, two were put forward to the community and then lots were cast for their names: "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts 1:23).
Precisely the latter was chosen, and in this way "he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). We do not know anything more about him, with the exception that he was a witness of Jesus' public life (cf. Acts 1: 21-22), being faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was added later the divine call to take Judas' place, as though compensating his betrayal.
We draw a final lesson from here: Although there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to us to counterbalance the evil they do with our limpid testimony of Jesus Christ our lord and savior.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today I conclude my series of reflections on the Apostles by speaking of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. Why did he do it? Some say he was too fond of money, and the offer of 30 pieces of silver was too much to resist.
The Gnostic writers say he wanted to liberate Jesus from the shackles of mortality. But the Gospels tell us that Satan entered into the heart of Judas. He yielded to a temptation from the evil one. It is a mistake to think that the great privilege of living in company with Jesus is enough to make a person holy. Jesus does not force our will when he invites us to follow him along the path of the beatitudes.
The only way to avoid the pitfalls that surround us is to give ourselves entirely to Jesus, to enter into full communion with him, so that we think and act as he did, in total obedience to the Father. God can turn everything to a good purpose. Even Judas' betrayal became, through divine providence, the occasion for Jesus' supreme act of love, for the salvation of the world.
Finally, a word about the one who was chosen after the Resurrection to take the traitor's place, in a sense compensating for what Judas had done. All we know about Matthias is that he was a witness to the whole of Jesus' earthly life, and he remained faithful to the end. We too are called to make reparation for the sins of others by our faithful witness to Christ.
I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here today, especially the Sisters of Providence who have come for the canonization of Mother Theodore Guérin. I greet also the pilgrims from Africa, Asia, Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and the United States of America. May God pour out his blessings upon all of you, and upon your loved ones at home.
Please let me know if you want to be on or off this list.
Unless the Holy Father was speaking in English or German, I doubt he said "Easter." Most other languages have some cognate of "Passover."
Same thing, anyway. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas after what we English speakers call "Easter," the day of the Lord's Resurrection.
Not wishing to be contrarian, but the only thing Easter and Passover have in common is the date. Jews would not be celebrating Eater at the time of Jesus because Easter had not been invented. Easter does have pagan fertility orgins while Passover has God-inspired orgins.
It's matter of language. Many of the languages in traditionally-Christian countries use a varient on "Pascha," and English is an exception.
Bob, the word "Easter" in English (and German, and Dutch) has a pagan origin. But Christian festival called "Easter" in English is called by a name derived from "Passover" in all Romance languages, and in Greek. The Pope would have been speaking in Italian, where "Easter" is "Pasqua", clearly cognate to the Greek "Pascha", which comes straight from the Hebrew pesach.
The "Easter is pagan because the name comes from a pagan goddess" argument is bogus. It falls apart as soon as you realize that Christianity was brought to England and Germany by people who spoke Latin and carried a Bible translated from Greek, and who knew all about the Christian festival of "Pascha" and nothing of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre.
I guess pagans (or Celts) never borrowed Christian traditions for their own fertility rites. I still maintain neither Jesus nor His disciples celebrated or had even heard of Easter.
Of course they had never heard of the word "Easter".
If you mean to claim that the early Christians didn't have a special celebration commemorating the resurrection, which they called (if they were Greek speakers), pascha, then I should point out to you that there were disagreements over the date on which Easter (Pascha, Pesach, Passover) was to be celebrated before the last apostle had reached room temperature. Google "Quartodeciman controversy".
Easter (or Pascha, if you prefer) is the earliest distinctively Christian celebration we know of, except for the celebration of Sunday as the Lord's Day.
Another tender spot. Another celebration Christ (or his disciples) didn't celebrate. I know , I know they met on the first day of the week (as well as other days of the week). If Christ is our example - why don't we follow His example? What day is the Lords Day pray tell? Hint see Mark 2:28. Also I understand the change from Sabbath to Sunday was early on in the churches history. With no Biblical reason. If we love Him - we should do what? Hint John 14:15.
"Festivals, new moons, and sabbaths were the three kinds of feast days of the Mosaic calendar (see Neh. 10:33, Lev. 23, Num. 29:6). Paul thus states that the whole Jewish festal calendar, sabbath days included, is not binding on Christians." (James Akin, Catholic Answers)
Actually there were additional sabbaths and holy days mentioned in the OT . As far as let no man judge regarding . . . . . I agree let God do the judging. He does a lot better job than we can. What was blotted out and was contrary to us was trying to follow the law of our own will and power. The new covenant says He will instill in us a new heart. If we will follow Him, we can change our way of thinking, our desires will become in harmony with His and we will ignore the values the world tries to impose on us. Through prayer, reading the Bible and meditating on the life of Christ one may receice this new heart.
I didn't realize your post was the introduction to a polemic. I'm glad I went to bed when I did, all things considered.
*Do you have life in you, Bob?
The New Testament is a collection of texts written by Catholics to an already existing, nascent, Catholic Church. It is solely due to the authority of the Catholic Church you even have a New Testament to try and attack the Church Jesus established (Matt 16: 18,19). Google "Didache" and see what the Disciples of Jesus did.
Unless you are part of a Church which worships Jesus as He Himself taught us to Worship God, then you are on the wrong path and wasting your time castigating long dead pagans.
To worsship God in spirt and truth one must participate in the Sacrifice of the New Covenant and the New Covenant meal. That IS what the early Christians did - it is even in the Bible. Ask me sometime and I weill point it out to you :)
Now who is doing the judging?
"It is solely due to the authority of the Catholic Church you even have a New Testament"
I attribute the Bible and its contents to God. Glory be to God in the highest for He is forever merciful. As you have stated I only have my opinions.
So, when Jesus establsihed His church upon the Papacy, and commanded His Apostles offer the Sacrifice of the New Covenant and consume the New Covenant meal, He was just teachinh simple values?
*You have free will. you can read the Bible and make up your own way of folllowing Jesus, or, you can join the Church He established and participate in the Sacrifice of the New Covenant and the Meal of the New Covenant
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