Skip to comments.“For Worldly Sorrow Brings Death.” A Meditation on the Sad End of Judas and What Might Have Been.
Posted on 04/16/2014 1:54:43 AM PDT by markomalley
As we continue to ponder some of the texts of the Matthean Passion Narrative, we turn to the difficult case of Judas. To many modern readers Judas is something of a sympathetic character. Some of this is due to our (rather flawed) moral reasoning which places exaggerated emphasis on subjective issues (such as intentions, feelings etc) and almost no emphasis on the actual or objective moral act. Granted, both elements are important, but our modern emphasis creates a rather skewed tendency to easily evade personal responsibility and to overlook the objective harm of sin.
But, to be fair, the biblical text itself also calls forth some sympathy for Judas who deeply regretted what he had done and even returned the money. The text says,
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. I have sinned, he said, for I have betrayed innocent blood. What is that to us? they replied. Thats your responsibility. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matt 27:3-5)
It is clear that Judas is sorrowful for his sin and this is surely one component of what we call contrition. He even returns the money, a further sign of his sorrow, and wish to be free of any profit from his sin.
And yet, we are also faced with the fact that he went and hanged himself which, while further indicating his sorrow, remains objectively an act of despair. Instead of turning to Lord, he turned in on himself and sought to end the pain of his guilt, rather than face the Lord, admit his sin and humbly seek mercy from the Lord and His Body, the Church.
In this, Judas acts quite differently from Peter, who at first ran off in sorrow after denying the Lord, but did not turn in on himself. Rather, in spite of his humiliation, he remain rooted in the early community of the Church, and found healing with the Lord in an honest conversation at the lakeside (cf John 21). None of this could have been easy for Peter. Surely part of him wanted to run off and hide his guilt and shame from the Lord and others. But unlike Judas, he stayed in communion of the early Church and let the Lord find him.
St. Paul speak of two kinds of sorrow for sin and what he writes is instructive for us here when we ponder Judas and his fate:
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret itI see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Cor 7:8-11)
And thus Godly sorrow draws us to repentance and back to the Lord.The Greek word here translated as repentance is µet????a? (metanoian) meaning, more richly, to come to a change of mind, or to change ones thinking. And this change leads us to salvation.
But what is salvation? It is not just to have a certain legal status, it is to be in a saving and transformative relationship with the the Lord. And Godly sorrow leaves no regret because of this healing, merciful and joyful relationship that it restores us to.
In this way we can see how Judas sorrow was lacking in two important fruits. It did not lead him back to salvation, that is, back to Jesus. Further it did not remove regret. Judas remained devastated and was not willing to seek to return to a relationship with Jesus. Why was this? It is hard to say. Perhaps he would have been too humiliated to face Jesus or the community. Whatever regret he had, he was not willing to humbly share it. And thus, instead of turning to the Lord, he turned in on himself and sought to end his pain on his own terms, not that of the Lord or his Body, the Church.
St. Paul says simply and bluntly of worldly sorrow: it produces death. It is known by its fruits: Separation, isolation, inwardness, and finally death, spiritual and physical.
So yes, Judas had sorrow for what he had done. But it was the wrong kind of sorrow, the worst kind of sorrow.
What became of Judas in terms of salvation? To many of us, despite a reflection like this, we retain the hope that perhaps he could ultimately have been saved. Was he? Here too we cannot certainly say. But Jesus himself gives us a rather sad clue when he said of Judas,
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born. (Mk 14:21)
It is difficult for us to imagine Jesus saying this about a man who is ultimately saved and makes it heaven. So while we are not sure, it doesnt look too good for Judas.
Our sympathy for Judas has understandable roots. But in the end, the fatal flaw and difference he had from Peter was that Judas repented unto himself, not unto the Lord. When we walk, sometimes we fall, but if you fall, make sure you fall on Jesus.
A final postscript to the sad story of Judas is to ponder what might have been. Can you imagine the glory of the moment had Judas come to Jesus in sorrow and received mercy and forgiveness? Imagine beautiful churches all over the world named St. Judas Parish, St Judas Patron of Sinners, St Judas Refuge of Criminals, The Parish of St Judas the Reconciled. Imagine the novenas and prayers of similar titles: Novena to St. Judas, Patron of Lost Souls, A Prayer to St Judas for a worthy Confession. Parishes might even dedicate their Lost and Found department to St. Judas!
But none of this was to be, For worldly sorrow brings death. Save us O Lord from final despair!
Msgr Pope ping
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
So Judas didn’t follow Jesus for salvation in the first place.
So Judas didnt follow Jesus for salvation in the first place.
So true, T.I. Judas had free will and he made his choice. It is sad. I see the results of poor decisions all the time. I still think that they are sad.
There but for the grace of God go I.
“The Man at the Gate of the World” by H. Cue. IIRC this relates to Judas.