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
Whoa dude/dudeette !! You lost me at the Papacy. I'm having trouble finding that word in the "Catholic"(your word) New Testament. You'll probably point me to the part where Jesus says to Peter about the Rock upon which He'll build His church. Jesus is The Rock upon which the church is founded. Peter if you'll recall denied the Lord three times. Poor foundation there. The apostles authority and power were present as long as they were connected to God. Through God all things are possible. Without God - not much is possible.
*The New Testament teaches otherwise, Bob. The first time Jesus met Simon Bar Jonas, He told him He would change his name to Rock.
Are you speaking of the 12 Apostles who followed Jesus?
borncatholics response above clearly states the NT is a collection written by Catholics. News to me as well.
You've completely lost me. Who do you believe wrote the New Testament?
Early Christian converts who were for the most part Jews.
LOL! In other words, Catholics.
OH NO!! You've done it now. Called in for reinforcements.LOL You were doing fine on your own.
This is one of the clearest and most informative brief synopsis of the questions and Biblical references I've ever seen and delivered in a very interesting manner. Is this a unique approach by Pope Benedict XVI or is this the way earlier Popes presented such teachings? From having read a good bit about the controversy surrounding the quote from the 14th century Byzantine emperor I had assumed that the style of address was tailored to the university audience I understood him to be addressing, but this is very much in the same style.
I have a feeling that it would be incredible just to sit in his presence and listen to him talk about almost anything.
On the topic at hand, I am in the camp that is open to the idea that Judas was forgiven his sins, or at least that the forgiveness was possible. My own personal belief is that God's forgiveness is absolute and unequivocal and that Jesus sacrifice was the proof of that. "You, all of you, did this to Me/My Son and I still forgive you... get it?" The key, for me, is that we have to believe that. We don't have to convince God of anything. We have to convince ourselves to accept His forgiveness. The "trick" is that we won't be able to rationalize or hide any of our sins from ourselves. We will know, absolutely, every moment where we failed to live up to His expectations.
I have a feeling that might be considered blasphemy of the darkest type by some. Given this piece, even if he tells me I'm absolutely wrong, I would be fascinated to ask Pope Benedict XVI that question and I willing to bet I'd accept his explanation and be able to explain it to most anyone else, whether it's "your completely wrong" or "here's where you messed up." He seems an excellent teacher.
I am too poor an excuse for a Catholic to presume to argue the fine points of our doctrine. I must defer to my superiors. :)
He is indeed.
Nonsense. If it is too complicated, something is wrong. Jesus had a simple message of love. His obstacle to this message was world values. People chase power and money. All we need to know is contained in the Ten Commandments. Love God and love your fellow man. We are unable to do this completely without Gods help though.
You give me too much credit. That, or you've not had the honour of reading one of Mrs. Don-o's posts.
Given that the change was made by some of the same men who wrote your New Testament, it seems rather silly to defer to them in print and not defer to their authority in person.
Then again your New Testament was canonized by a church which had been celebrating Easter and worshipping on Sunday for about three centuries, and that doesn't seem to bother you.
I seriously doubt any writers of the NT were alive when this change was made. It can't be proved one way or another. The scriptures are Gods Word to us. They don't belong to any one church. Yes God used your church to keep His Word "safe". Does that make you happy?
Upon the death of Pope John Paul II, it was (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in his capacity as Dean of the College of Cardinals, who assumed the responsibility of notifying the Cardinals and organizing the funeral and subsequent period of mourning. On the morning of the Conclave to elect the next pope, it was again Cardinal Ratzinger who led the Cardinals in the Pro Eligendo Mass. One of the Readings at that Mass was Eph 4: 14. In his homily on all of the readings, Cardinal Ratzinger provided deep reflections.
I just happened to awake early that morning, and turned on the tv at the point in his homily where he said:
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
I was totally captivated by his teaching. It was such an extraordinary commentary on the world around us.
The election of a new pope, we believe, is guided by the Holy Spirit. Sure, there are factions amongst the Cardinals who lobby for their favorite candidate but in the end, the choice is less intellectual and more inspirational. Can there be any doubt, reading the words of Benedict XVI, that the Holy Spirit was indeed at work that day.
You can read the entire homily here.
Better yet, you can read ALL of his homilies, speeches, letters, messages, et al, at the following link.
Each Pope has his own style, but they are all teachers. Benedict XVI has a magnificent gift to be able to present complex ideas in a very understandable, articulate and eloquent manner.
I have a feeling that it would be incredible just to sit in his presence and listen to him talk about almost anything.
You and me both!
He seems an excellent teacher.
Before he became a bishop, he was a university professor. He is an academic at heart, a true scholar in the best sense of the word. He has tens of thousands of books and loves to read and write. While he was a Cardinal he entertained hopes of being able to retire to read and write books at his home in Germany near his brother, Georg. Alas, that did not come to pass. However, the role of Pope gives him an extraordinary opportunity to teach the entire world.
Benedict XVI also has the ability to beautifully craft his answers to different audiences. I am thinking of a public audience he gave to children who had received their First Communion within the past year. A handful of the new communicants were given the opportunity to ask him questions about the Sacrament of Communion. Their questions were pretty typical of young children. His answers were substantial yet he didn't talk down to them or over their heads.
I see NYer has already given you a link to the various communications of Benedict XVI during his pontificate (and a brief period before). If you are interested in reading some of the books he has written, you can find them at Ignatius Press, which publishes his books in English.
"I have a feeling that might be considered blasphemy of the darkest type by some."
Yeah, I know what you mean, I don't think anyone wants to be perceived as being soft on Judas. He does ellict a response though.
Here's another such question that I hope doesn't put me into the "blasphemy zone". I happened to kick around with some of my 8th graders last year, but never actually got them a certifiable answer.
What do you think about the idea that Judas had free will? Was he able discern what he did for himself? He did give into Satan's temptation, but was this "pre-destined" and was he simply manifesting God's plan? Essentially, did he really have a choice?
Jesus clearly knew who the betrayer would be and that he would betray him.
Can anyone point me to an resource for such an answer,...opinions are fine, too.
As we all are. I am grateful to Cardinal Ratzinger for saying, "Acceto" [I accept] when presented with the question of whether or not he would accept the decision of the other Cardinals (with the help of the Holy Spirit) that he be the new Pope.
Nope: the feast of Easter does not have pagan fertility origins.
The word "Easter" may be derived from Eostre, meaning in the month of April (Eoestrmonat). Whether that in turn is derived from a goddess is unclear.
I've heard that some Christians, objecting to any pagan etymologies, like to call Easter "Resurrection Sunday," --- which is just a little odd, since "Sunday" comes from the worship of the Sun, like "Monday" (Moon day), "Wednesday" (Odin's day), "Thursday" (Thor's day), "Friday" (Freya's day), or "Saturday" (Saturn's day.)
On the other hand, Easter may be a shoretened form of auferstehen --the German word for resurrection!
Do you think the Apostles hid eggs and hunted for them? The (prolific)rabbit and eggs (sign of fertility) got mingled in with traditional religious observances. The term Easter was used in the post and therefore I merely pointed out . . . and we all got sidetracked. As I pointed out I have seen "Easter" in some KJ versions but have not checked any Douay-Rheims for cross reference.
But just for emphasis, please don't take it amiss if I say this: the bunny and egg things are just innocent fun. I don't read that the Apostles were opposed to making hot cross buns on Shrove Tuesday; or serving a cake with a coin in it on Epiphany; or decking the halls with boughs of holly; or a bride tossing her bouquet to the unmarried girls; in fact, fun and frivolous things are very often connected with high and holy things, and no harm done.
G.K. Chesterton said something (something witty of course, and dang me, I can't remember what it was) about if you take a very slight two-degree wrong turn in theology, you end up with the singing silenced and the dancing banned, and all your ornaments smashed on the floor. That could be the Puritans -- or the Taliban.
Everythings cool. I don't get emotional anymore over these internet discussions. And my Easter egg hunt question was rhetorical (and cheeky) . I have a different religious concept than just about anybody I know. But I find it unnerving when churches have Easter activities on one of the most sacred dates on the calendar. I know, it's just me. But Jesus the Christ was the Pascal (sp) sacrificial Lamb on that particular Passover and I find it a time of quiet reflection and meditation of the cost of my sins and I cannot get into the celebratory mood. Of course, thank God He was ressurected and we do have redemption available to us. Cheers.