Today is Spy Wednesday, so called because of the conspiracy hatched by Judas with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty-pieces of silver. Judas was paid even before he delivered Our Savior to His enemies. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him (Matt.24:16).
Much speculation is tossed around today about the fate of the miserable traitor. In spite of the almost universal agreement of the Fathers and the teaching of the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, there are those who feel it is important to depopulate hell. In spite of Our Lord’s own words: The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born (Matt. 26:24), there still those who want to rehabilitate Judas.
And then, of course, there is the National Geographic Society, that powerhouse of “scientific inquiry” that has attempted to enlighten benighted Christians to the effect that Judas is not a traitor at all, but a hero! And, of course, they so piously reserved the revelation of their “discovery” for Easter of last year.
My point is not to revel in the thought of the fact that Judas is in hell. I am all for hope, and we need much of it today; however, one of the snares in the spiritual life is to swing between presumption and despair. Hope is in the middle. It is a severe and determined realism. Judas was not a victim, and he does not deserve rehabilitation. There are virtually no signs of his salvation is Sacred Scripture. His throwing the silver pieces back at the Sanhedrin and his declaration that he had betrayed innocent blood, led not to his repentance, but to his suicide.
In moral theology a distinction is made between true contrition and defective contrition or remorse. Remorse, that is, regret for having sinned, does not necessarily amount to conversion and repentance. There is always the need to seek forgiveness and to make amends. Judas did none of this. I have no problem with rational arguments, but touchy-feely sentimentality will not aid us in the salvation of our souls.
How about this for Holy Week paraliturgical sentimentality?
In Poland, the young people throw an effigy of Judas from the top of a church steeple. Then it is dragged through the village amidst hurling sticks and stones. What remains of the effigy is drowned in nearby stream or pond.
None of this is to say that I have a right to act as though I am so far above it all, and casually blog about the reprobate God-killer. This is the Week of Mercy, and we all need it!
St. Philip Neri, the saint who at the end of his life died of love (his heart ruptured), used to pray this every morning: “O Jesus, watch over me always, especially today, or I shall betray you like Judas.”