On Judas Meditating the Betrayal of Our Lord.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Judas Meditating the Betrayal of Our Lord.
Our Lord had preached often enough and long enough to the Jews. In the marvellously beautiful and impressive parables which He delivered in the temple at Jerusalem after His final entry into that city, He once more put forth all the fulness of His divine wisdom for the purpose of winning the obdurate hearts of His hearers, but in vain. They were not touched either by the picture of the wedding-guest gnashing his teeth in a dark dungeon, nor by the despairing lamentations of the foolish virgins. Thereupon our Lord left them to themselves, and prepared to spend the last days of His life upon earth in tranquil intercourse with His apostles. But even in that limited number there was one whose heart was equally hardened it was Judas. Picture to yourself that miserable apostle when, wandering about alone, he brooded over his project of betraying his Master, and struggled with the inspirations of his better nature, which would have deterred him from so base an act.
1st. It was not one of our Lord’s averred adversaries who was plotting against Him this blackest, most atrocious of crimes, nor even one of the number of the seventy-two disciples, but one of the apostles; one consequently, whom our Lord had called to the highest vocation, one on whom He had lavished His graces and favors, one whom He had actually called His friend, whom He had endowed with power to work miracles and whom He had constantly invited to sit at table with Him. Judas, while thus basking in the beams of the Sun of justice, enjoying the full sunshine of the Saviour’s grace, carries about in his heart designs of treachery. You are astonished at this, my soul, but you do not reflect that there are many who do as Judas did, and that you yourself may, after all, not be as unlike him as you imagine. But how can that be? Are you not a friend of God, a child of God? Do you not as a Priest partake daily of the eucharistic feast, or as a Religious do you not enjoy this privilege several times in the week? Has not our Lord chosen you and called you to His service? Yet you carry about with you designs of treachery. For some weeks, for some days past a particular temptation has beset you; you have been more exposed to occasions of sin, you have held intercourse with undesirable, if not dangerous companions. As yet matters have not come to the worst. Still do you not see that it was not only shameful on Judas part to commit an act of treachery, it was disgraceful to cherish the idea of it, and to enter into negotiations of a treacherous nature. The general who engages in battle with the enemy as soon as the fortress under his command is attacked, is true to his trust, but not so he who holds treasonable communication with him even though he does not go so far as to surrender the fortress to him. Consider that, and perhaps it will make you more careful how you trifle with sin.
2d. Consider that avarice was the principal motive that induced Judas to turn traitor; it is to this vice that the apostle’s terrible fall was due. St. Paul does well to warn the faithful against it. This he does in the First Epistle to Timothy (ch. vi. 9, 10): “They that will become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows.” The case of Judas and of many others whose fall is recorded in the annals of the Church affords confirmation of the Apostle’s words. Nay more, this vice has not only caused the ruin of individuals, as it brought about our Lord’s death, it has even brought the Church into peril of destruction, as in the time when simony prevailed. Take heed therefore to hold aloof from this hideous vice. Only think, you who are a Priest, what it must be for our Lord, who lived in poverty and esteemed poverty most highly, to rest under the lowly appearance of a morsel of bread, in the hands of a Priest who utters his own condemnation when he repeats the Lavabo: Ne perdas, Deus, cum impiis vitam meam, in quorum manibus iniquitates sunt, in whose hands are iniquities (Ps. xxv. 10), mammon, unjustly, covetously accumulated. If you are a Religious, and in consequence of your vow of poverty are removed from all opportunity of indulging any tendency to avarice, still do not flatter yourself that you need have no fear of meeting with Judas’ fate, since there may be among the inmates of the cloister some who, though they cannot indulge the vice of avarice and covetousness in regard to what is costly and precious, are however not free from it, but indulge this evil propensity in respect to minor matters and trifling possessions, manifesting plainly that they have not uprooted their former passion but only changed its form.
3d. Consider that the apostle thus meditating treachery is a warning for you. Seeing him meditative and thoughtful, disturbed and agitated, you would naturally be far more inclined to suppose that he, an apostle, the friend of our Lord, was engrossed by affectionate concern for the Master whose life was in danger; in fact you would find it difficult to believe that his thoughts and reflections were given to maturing a scheme of treachery. But it often is so in ordinary life. We see men whom we esteem most highly, whom we regard as pillars of the Church, and who indeed were so, suddenly waver and fall; we see our Brothers and Sisters, who far surpassed us in sanctity, contrary to all anticipation all at once walking in strange and evil ways. We refuse at first to believe it, we should be so glad to find ourselves mistaken, but alas! it is no mistake, it is stern reality; and you will do well to lay to heart to-day this truth, that no man as long as he is in this life, is secure against falling. Lucifer was in Heaven and he fell; Adam lived in paradise and he fell; Judas enjoyed intimate intercourse with our Lord Himself and yet he fell. “Stars have fallen from heaven, and I, who am but dust, how can I presume? They whose works seemed worthy to be praised have fallen to the very lowest, and those who were wont to feed upon the Bread of Angels, I have seen delighted with the husks of swine.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 14.) Thus Thomas a Kempis expresses the truth which is proposed to-day for your meditation; weigh it attentively, and then acknowledging your poverty and weakness, cast yourself in all humility at the Saviour’s feet, and confess: “There is then no sanctity, if Thou, Lord, withdraw Thy hand. No wisdom profits if Thou cease to govern; no strength avails if Thou cease to uphold; no chastity is secure if Thou protect it not.”
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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