Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spy Wednesday and Why We Need Judas

Each day of Holy Week, the Gospel has presented us with the unappealing figure of Judas, "one of the Twelve, who would betray Jesus." Over the past two decades or so, there has been a kind of informal movement to  rehabilitate the Iscariot, to tell a backstory that makes him more sympathetic, to make  his ultimate repentance more soothingly likely. Why is that? Do people need to downplay the evil Judas committed because they are afraid of facing their own failures?
Reworking the story may go well as far as the individual disciple Judas goes, but it doesn't help us much. Just so happens that those same years of earnest, non-judgmental and warm-hearted rehabilitation of the betrayer's figure coincide with the worst cases of child sex abuse by members of the clergy, and the most egregious cover-ups by bishops (and probably by fellow priests) who most likely did not want to be harsh and judgmental.  Turns out a little therapeutic straight-shooting would have been just the thing.
I've had to do a lot of thinking (and a little writing) about the ongoing abuse saga, so much in the news. (And so much of it really just calumnious accusations*, but deeply influential all the same.) But these sad stories convince me of the need to tell the story of Judas as bluntly as the Gospels do. People very close to Jesus, people Jesus has chosen for something "more," even to represent him and act "in persona Christi capitis," are capable of heinous acts of betrayal. And it may not turn out all nice, nice.
Maybe we need to keep that awful power in mind.

*Just yesterday, a Canadian outlet thought it headline worthy to announce an "accusation" and to lay the blame, in the headline, at the Pope's door. And that's not even mentioning NBC's "accident" (Freudian though it may have been) attributing one abuser's confession to the Pope himself.


Anonymous said...

It's Lent in Christ's Church. That, via the Beatitudes, says it all.

As for Judas, he didn't hang himself because he lost favor with people; he hung himself in hope-less contrition because he sold out a holy man he loved and there was no way to undo it. Peter did the very same, only with less hopelessness and no rope. Jesus loved them both until the end. If Dysmas could have a conversion of heart in a couple of hours, so could have Judas, had he only turned to the Lord instead of away from Him.

Sr Anne said...

I'm all in favor of salvation for everyone! My point is really that the story has to be told, and failures have to be faced. That is the way to what the Acts of the Apostles characterizes as "life-giving repentance."

J.T. said...

What an excellent teaching point! If you don't mind, I may borrow this for some future talks. (I promise to give you full credit!)