Holy Week is approaching; are there ways to draw closer to our Lord to accompany Him through His passion? We are familiar with Christ’s physical journey in praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. But what of his interior journey? We can turn to Blessed John Henry Newman who invites us to think of our Lord’s interior sorrows and to remember that Jesus knew when His passion was drawing near. In the meditation, “The Mental Sufferings of our Lord” Newman describes events in Christ’s final days, the days leading to the crucifixion. Here Newman considers Judas:
“An evil temper of murmuring and criticism is spread among the disciples. One was the source of it, but it seems to have been spread. The thought of His death was before Him, and He was thinking of it and His burial after it. A woman came and anointed His sacred head. The action spread a soothing tender feeling over His pure soul. It was a mute token of sympathy, and the whole house was filled with it.”
Newman recounts the story of Mary Magdalene as presented in the Gospel of St. John, 12:1-8. It is in St. John’s gospel that Judas is named as the disgruntled apostle, who complained of Mary Magdalene’s costly offering. Newman continues:
“It [the scene] was rudely broken by the harsh voice of the traitor now for the first time giving utterance to his secret heartlessness and malice. Ut quid perditio hæc? ‘To what purpose is this waste?’—the unjust steward with his impious economy making up for his own private thefts by grudging honour to his Master. Thus in the midst of the sweet calm harmony of that feast at Bethany, there comes a jar and discord; . . . . for the devil is abroad.”
Newman explicates Judas’ stinginess further, and how this “impious economy” at the wasted nard is a foreshadowing of Judas’ desire for money, gained by him later for the betrayal of Jesus. Newman leads us to consider what Jesus knew about Judas’ betrayal beforehand. Newman writes:
“Judas, having once shown what he was, lost no time in carrying out his malice. . . . Our Lord saw all that took place within him; He saw Satan knocking at his heart, and admitted there and made an honoured and beloved guest and an intimate. He saw him [Judas] go to the Priests and heard the conversation between them. He had seen it by His foreknowledge all the time he [Judas] had been about Him, and when He chose him . . . . He had treated Judas as one of His most familiar friends. . . . He had sent him out to preach and made him one of His own special representatives, so that the Master was judged by the conduct of His servant . . . . What desolation is in the sense of ingratitude!”
We are told little of Judas’ motives, and his betrayal of our kind and loving Lord remain incomprehensible to us. Still we can find great comfort knowing that Jesus’ love “to the very end” is even more beyond our understanding. Though the gospels do not clarify the internal darkness of Judas, they do reveal the depth of God’s love for us. Newman ends this meditation with strong words:
“God who is met with ingratitude daily cannot from His Nature feel it. He took a human heart, that He might feel it in its fullness. And now, O my God, though in heaven, dost Thou not feel my ingratitude towards Thee?”
These last words of Newman sting. How often have we not shown gratitude to Our Lord, for all our many blessings? But we can find comfort, too, for even with the unimaginable betrayal, we know that Jesus still loved Judas, though Judas was overtaken by evil. The gospel says that as soon as Judas left, Jesus said that the Son of Man “was glorified” the moment when He gave his love to Judas (John 13:31). In the darkest night of resentment and hatred, Jesus manifested the unbelievable radiance of God’s love.
Let us return God’s unfathomable love by offering ourselves to Him daily, and in the coming days as we live through His passion and glorious resurrection, to draw ever closer to Him, with renewed fervor to follow Him always. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.