… to cause this much pain.
Today's readings center on Judas Iscariot; the disciple who betrayed Jesus. His betrayal is a double warning to all of us; especially we professed Christians.
It's no secret that we all imitate Judas in one way or another. We all betray Christ in our own way. Peter did by denying him three times, the other disciples (except John) did by scattering, and we do every time we choose the world over Christ. It's no surprise that we do this. The first warning, however, comes in how we respond. On Friday we will have a discussion about this point; how reacting with despair was Judas' fatal mistake; not his betrayal of Christ.
The second warning, which we will discuss now, is aimed firmly at those Christians who are serious about their faith, who evangelize (even in small ways), and who are known to be Christian. The warning is “the higher they are, the harder they fall”.
The damage of betrayal is proportionate to the level of trust had before the betrayal. A five-star general is a much more dangerous traitor than a sergeant. Falsehoods are much more dangerous from the mouth of a bishop than a lay person with a well-known beef with the Church. A sharp remark cuts much more deeply from a spouse than from a stranger. The deeper our relationship; the more damaging our betrayal.
Judas serves as this warning because it was his closeness to Christ that allowed such a brutal betrayal. Judas was one of the Big Twelve who had all of the parables explained to him, who was sent out into the villages to heal the sick and cast out daemons, who was closer to Jesus than anyone else. No doubt he truly loved Jesus for a long time. No doubt he really believed at one point. Yet, look how his story ended.
This is a call to vigilance for each Christian. No one expects a professed Christian to be perfect (well, maybe some do) but the point is that the imperfection of a professed Christian causes more scandal than the imperfection of others. The closer to Christ we come the more and more obvious others find our failings.
Imagine a child has two uncles; Bob and Frank. Uncle Bob worships football and the child knows Uncle Frank prays a rosary every night. Imagine the child sees Uncle Bob skip Mass one Sunday. This may not have much impression on the youth since Uncle Bob isn't religious anyway. Imagine the child sees Uncle Frank skip Mass to watch football with Uncle Bob. The message sent, the damage done, is much stronger, isn't it? This applies to big and little betrayals. Sexual abuse by a school teacher isn't even news-worthy, but by a priest?
We will betray Christ; that's not the point. The point is to be vigilant so it doesn't happen often and when it does; we can recognize it and repair the harm done.
On Friday we will talk more about how we do just that.