The readings today (Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:27-32, 41-44; Ps 30; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19) got me thinking on an old topic. A few weeks ago, I asserted that I am Judas. A friend blogger begged to differ. LuceMichael commented:
I dunno Ryan, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. What Judas did was purely evil. Not just sinful, but truly and historically evil. Saying "I am Judas" is akin to reckoning ourselves as the contemporaries of Jesus who condemned Him to death, a view which VII rejects, btw.My major point was that my sins are the things that necessitate the death of the Messiah. In a way, Judas was less culpable than I, perhaps, because he was more confused about who Jesus is. I, on the other hand, know precisely who Jesus is, and yet sin and sin again. We must be careful here, because the sin that landed Judas in hell, if that is where he is, was not treason against God, nor was it apostasy. Those sins are forgivable (Jn 20:23). St. Peter committed the same sins after all, though in a different way. The sin of Judas was rejection of forgiveness, rejection of the Holy Spirit prompting him to repentence. Judas thought that somebody like himself, someone so enormously important who had done a thing so enormously wrong, could never be forgiven. And, in a sense, he was right. Without repentence, there can be no forgiveness of sins (Mk 3:29; CCC 1864).
More appropriate is a comparison to Peter, or the other apostles who abandoned Jesus in fear and denial. They sinned, turned away from doing the right thing, but in the end, were redeemed and in the case of Peter, who was exhorted by the Lord to "turn back and strengthen" the others, much good came from a flawed man. In fact, the papacy and Magisterium came from him, once he was humbled, contrite and forgiven.
There is always the philosophical and theological conundrum of whether Judas is in Hell. While none of us can say for sure, there is at least a strong likelihood that he *is* in Hell, having sold out the Lord, and taking his own life in despair of mercy.
Judas and Peter make an interesting contrast in their response to the own guilt in the passion. But most of we Christians are NOT Judas; most of us, though we sin carelessly, thoughtlessly, or maliciously and with intent, still do not come to the level of evil that Judas attained. With the grace of God, I will never completely deny Jesus. Through all my sins and faults, I know Him to be my Lord and Savior.
And He is Risen!
But St. Peter repented.
Her point is very well made. Judas killed himself (Mt 27:5-8) but St. Peter repented. In today's gospel reading, our Lord asks St. Peter three times if he loved Him as they strolled along the beach together, perhaps arms-over-shoulders. The threefold act of love that St. Peter makes rehabilitates him after the threefold betrayal. Note well that these acts of love, these acts of contrition, do not undo what Peter has done, but rather, they set him on a new path. So it is with the penances that we perform after our confessions. They actualize our repentence and put us on a new path So how do we get to be like St. Peter, who did so many wonderful things for the Church, even dying for the sake of our blessed Lord?
Face it. We are probably not going to stop sinning any time soon - though make no mistake: in grace, it is possible, so strive for heavenly perfection. Strive for sanctity! But, observing our own failure, our own repeat failures, even our own egregious failures, we must not give up. We must not go hang ourselves as Judas did, either literally or metaphorically. Do not say of our holy religion, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (Jn 6:60) and then abandon it as those who could not stand the Eucharistic teaching of our blessed Lord (John 6:66). Examine your conscience and pray for the grace of honesty. So many people are afraid to confront their own sins, so they say, "Oh yeah, well the Church sucks because of X." When we have reached our maximal efforts and failed yet again, perhaps we will then realize on a deep, deep level that it is not our own efforts that save us. Most of us, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, really believe deep down inside believe that we can save ourselves, that we must save ourselves, that we must prove ourselves to God. That is all bosh.
Jesus Christ saves us.
"While we were yet sinners Christ died for us," (Rom 5:8). He loves us even in the midst of sin. And no matter how badly we sin, we have only to turn back, confess our sins to a priest, and receive the gift of a fresh start. We must pray for the courage to face our sins head on, for the grace to be St. Peter.