One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him 30 pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, my appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”
As we look at the Gospel reading for today, my attention really became focused on the act of betrayal by Judas.
Jesus said of Judas that it was better if he had never been born. Judas seemed to have loved managing money, and 30 pieces of silver was enough to sway his loyalty from Jesus to those who were looking to capture him and put him to death. After handing Jesus over, Judas realized he did wrong and tried to hand the money back.
Betrayal of our Lord is not a light matter by any means, but was Judas’ sin really so grave that it could not be forgiven? Such a sin, as grave as it was, could still be forgiven.
The real issue here is not what Judas did, it is how he responded. Judas had remorse for his actions; it bothered his conscience that he handed Jesus over. He would give back the thirty pieces of silver and undo the deed if he could have.
As you recall Peter, he denied Jesus three times. Is that not also a form of betrayal? Peter also had remorse for his sin as he wept bitterly, realizing what he had done.
What is the difference between Judas and Peter? Peter was forgiven, and not because Judas could not have been. Peter remained in community with the disciples and together with those who remained, they encountered the risen Christ and were forgiven for abandoning him as he said “Peace be with you.” Peter turned back to Jesus.
Judas, on the other hand, did not believe that he would be forgiven; he left in despair. Judas’ downfall was not his love of money or even his betrayal of Jesus; it was his unbelief and his refusal to respond to the love of Jesus.
Reconciliation with God and with our neighbor takes courage. It takes courage for us to take ownership of our faults and confess our sins. It takes even more courage to go to the person we have wronged and try to set right the damage caused by our wrongdoing. True reconciliation with God and with our neighbor requires action.
We are a people of hope. The good news is that even if the process of reconciliation and forgiveness requires us to face what we often fear, our God welcomes us with open arms! Just as the Father welcomes the lost son in Luke 15, our God wants nothing more than for us to turn back, so that God will be able to welcome us back with a divine embrace.
Where are the invitations to reconciliation and forgiveness in our lives? Where are we feeling the desire for forgiveness and the need to forgive others? When are we going to take courage and trust that God will provide the healing we seek? The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one such way we can take a step toward experiencing the grace of God’s forgiveness and be strengthened in our resolve to reconcile with others.