Judas Iscariot

Bargain of Judas ~ Lippo Memmi ~ 14th century

45 Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.

46 Rise, let us go: behold he is at hand that will betray me.

47 As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people.

48 And he that betrayed him, gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, hold him fast.

49 And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: Hail, Rabbi. And he kissed him.

50 And Jesus said to him: Friend, whereto art thou come? Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him.

Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients,

Saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? look thou to it.

And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and hanged himself with an halter.

But the chief priests having taken the pieces of silver, said: It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood.

And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter’s field, to be a burying place for strangers.

For this cause the field was called Haceldama, that is, The field of blood, even to this day.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel.

10 And they gave them unto the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed to me.

This is the story of Judas’ betray from Sunday’s Gospel.  When I read this over the weekend, I was struck with one major thing.  Judas repented.  I’ve heard this gospel before but for some reason, I’ve always overlooked this part and I was struck with a split second of hope then I remembered what happened next.  Judas hung himself.  And it hit me, Judas would have been forgiven as all sinners are who truly repent.  But he committed a sin even worse than his betrayal.  He despaired and hung himself.

I found this revelation to be tremendous, but I questioned the wisdom of it.  Could his despair really be a worse sin?  But I couldn’t shake it.  Jesus died so we could be forgiven.   He knew his fate, he didn’t want to face it, but he followed the will of his father,  for us.  This includes even the sin of Judas’ s betrayal, but the one sin that couldn’t be forgiven, because Judas wouldn’t allow it, was his despair and his subsequent suicide.

Thankfully, I woke this morning and read this and it confirmed everything for me.  The article quotes St Catherine of Sienna:

This is the sin which is never forgiven, now or ever: the refusal, the scorning, of my mercy. For this offends me more than all the other sins they have committed. So the despair of Judas displeased me more and was a greater insult to my Son than his betrayal had been. Therefore, such as these are reproved for this false judgment of considering their sin to be greater than my mercy, and for this they are punished with the demons and tortured eternally with them. (The Dialogue, n. 37, Paulist ed., p. 79)

I remember first learning about despair and being utterly confused as to why it would be considered such a serious sin.  To me, despair meant deep guilt. How could this be such a terrible thing?  Then someone explained, to despair is to think you are better than God.  For if you despair, you believe that you have done something so awful that God cannot forgive it.  To think this, to think you are better than God in all his mercy, is a terrible sin.  Explained this way, it made so much sense.   It’s almost as if we hold our sin higher than God (I wonder if this is a form of Pride?)

Now, I contrast this with Peter’s denial of Christ three times, the last time “he began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man”.  Realizing what he had done, and realizing that Jesus knew full well he would do it, Peter wept bitterly (unfortunately, I’m not yet familiar with Peter becoming the Rock up which the Church is built.  I wonder if this was addressed?) But Peter truly repented (there is an interesting section in the linked article above on how Judas was the only apostle who’s place needed to be filled after he died) and was forgiven.  We must never forget God’s capacity to forgive.  

One further thing, what is the significance of “It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood” and the potters field?