Saturday, March 28, 2009
Kiss of Death
I've been thinking a lot lately about Judas, and how much I resemble him. I recently watched The Passion of the Christ again, and the scene that stood out to me this time was near the beginning. There is something in the way he furtively leaves the Last Supper and goes to receive his payment for betrayal.
There is something in the way the money bag flies through the air; and as Judas desperately and clumsily reaches out to catch the
offhand throw, the money falls at his feet and scatters. He is helpless to stop it. He looks up at the crowd that stares back at him dispassionately and with an air of condescension, then with an attitude of desperate greed Judas drops to the ground to quickly gather up the silver he was paid for the blood of Christ who had ordained him that very evening.
He looks up at the soldiers, and the fear in his eyes cannot be mistaken. It seems he is already regretting his act. And yet, he goes into the Garden, and there finds Jesus waiting for him. The man he had followed, the man who had washed his feet, even knowing of the betrayal to come. The One who had shown him ONLY love...and gave him the free will to do what he set out to do.
Then, when Judas returns to the Garden with the soldiers, how does the betrayal occur? Through a kiss. An expression of love.
How many times have I expressed love to Christ while bearing hatred in my heart in some way?
How many times have I begged Jesus for His love, while I pondered my next sin, my very betrayal of His own love?
Judas flees, realizing what he's done. The movie shows his torment and ultimate demise; suicide.
Yes, he sinned in his betrayal, but that sin was forgivable. He could have come to the Cross. He could have come to Christ an any time and made his repentance clear. He could have been forgiven.
Just as I've been forgiven, over and over, for my many betrayals.
Because, every time I sin, I give Christ the same kiss of death. The very same.
We look to Peter, whose love, as beloved John Paul II pointed out, set him up for failure. It was in how Peter followed Christ to his scourging that put him in the position to be confronted, and where he denied him. Three times.
Judas denied Christ only ONCE; when he betrayed him. The betrayal was a single, seamless act. Peter denied him THREE times.
Yet their stories are very different. Peter continued to follow Christ. He truly loved Him and could not stay away. He repented of his denial. When Our Lord appeared a few days later on the sea shore, Peter was so excited that he didn't wait for the boat to pull up...he leapt overboard and SWAM to Jesus, where he was given three chances to overcome his three denials.
Our God is a God of Mercy. Infinite mercy.
Judas, though, betrayed Christ, ran away...and stayed away. It was his rejection of God's love that lead him into such complete despair that he saw no other way out than suicide.
How many times have I rejected God's love? In choosing to sin, not only have I betrayed Him, but I've rejected Him.
How many times has Our Lord come after me, in spite of and because of the fact that He was nailed to the Cross on my behalf?
How many times have I been tempted to avoid Confession because I've thought my sins were greater than God's own mercy?
How many times have I turned my back on Jesus because Mercy was inconvenient to my Pride?
Judas was the first to leave Mass right in the middle, and completely missed the consecration which took place as Christ died upon the Cross. Judas left right after his own ordination, only to bring destruction when he returned. And ultimately, he missed the biggest moment of all.
Judas did repent, but he repented to the wrong authority; rather than going to Christ, the one whom He'd wronged, God himself whom he betrayed, he tried to give back the tangible evidence of his sin.
How many times have I tried to undo my own wrong only to make things worse?
How many times have those efforts been rejected because the ones in whom I sought comfort were the same ones who led me into sin to begin with?
How many times have I looked to myself for salvation, thinking I could fix things on my own?
Had Judas gone to Jesus, Our Lord would have taken him back, and although He would not have "undone" the damage, he would have helped Judas to carry that cross he'd so willingly embraced. What was done was done, but Jesus understands everything.
He asks only one thing; humility. That in our sin, we recognize our sin, repent of it, and embrace the effects of that sin. None of us is immune.
This year, I'm trying to recognize each time I kiss Jesus in an act of betrayal, and have found even this short project to be maybe a little more than I can bear. Yet it has been such a blessing, reminding me that whenever God reveals sin, He also reveals His Mercy.
Lately I've been fleeing His mercy, realizing my own lack of repentance, my own failings. Yet Our Lord has come after me, refusing to let me go. I've been astonished at His guidance, unable to deny what He has done.
And yet, I look at Judas, and I see myself. If not in reality, then at least in the danger that has tempted me. To betray Christ, to run away, and even to be lost forever. I can understand why Judas did what he did; why he died at the end of a rope. I've known that temptation as well and have been spared it only by the grace of God.
Death is not what Our Lord wills. He did not will for Judas to despair. He did not will for Judas to betray Him. The reality was that Judas did these things all on his own. Jesus suffered greatly on account of Judas, whom He loved dearly.
It was Judas who rejected Jesus; not the other way around. It was Judas who ran away and gave in to despair. He refused God's mercy.
The reality is that the kiss Judas gave to Jesus was a betrayal not of Christ alone, but of himself. He died in that moment, and he knew it. It was that very misuse of an act and symbol of love that truly revealed the state of Judas's soul. And if he could so warp love, how, in his mind, could he come back?
Through Christ, and Christ alone. For Jesus went willingly to his Passion and death. He went, and would have taken Judas with Him, but instead, Judas refused the uncondemning gaze of Jesus whose last words to him were,
"Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
A statement, a question...not a condemnation.
Jesus, I trust in Thee.