April 4, 2007

Spy Wednesday

Holy Wednesday, Spy Wednesday, or Ugly Wednesday; whatever you call it, today is the day we recall the conspiracy instigated by Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus into the custody of the priestly authorities.

He's definitely one of the most mysterious characters in the Scriptures. One the one hand, via the criterion of embarrassment, that Jesus was betrayed to the authorities by one of his own disciples is probably one of the most sure things in the New Testament we can claim really happened. But why did he do it?

Was it really just malice or greed? Did he believe he was accelerating the process of the kingdom of God by precipitating a confrontation between Jesus and the Romans? Given that it was Jesus' destiny to suffer his Passion, was Judas just doing a dirty job that only he was strong enough to do, as in Kazantzakis' Last Temptation of Christ? Was he just a mediator in a prisoner exchange that was supposed to take place anyway, given the incident with the money-changers and the purification of the Temple? And, finally, if the arrest, Passion, and ignoble death of Jesus was his divine destiny from the beginning, how can Judas be faulted?

There are no anti-canonizations. That is to say, though the Church proclaims saints definitively, those whom we can be sure are in heaven with God, the Church has never claimed that anybody at all went to hell for sure. So there's hope that even Judas is in heaven with the saints. And if it's so, he's one of the first people I look forward to talking to.


Anonymous said...

This is a difficult day for me.

I work in the financial industy, and it is this day that establishes for all time that the love of money is the root of evil. Spy Wednesday is a great conviction of commerce and a powerful reminder of the existential choice between the purse of mecury and the Cross of the Lord.

Please pray for those in my profession tody--we need it.

Jeff said...

Hi Friar,

The theory of Judas as the disappointed and frustrated zealot who'd been hoping for a royal, military messiah has always made the most sense to me, but maybe I really do underestimate the greed angle.

Brother Charles said...

Hi Jeff,

I agree; that's the explanation that has always seemed most plausible to me as well. I love the scene at the end of the film version of the Last Temptation of Christ, when Judas (Harvey Keitel) comes to Jesus, dying of old age and with Jerusalem burning in the background, and accuses him of being a traitor!

And, as for you, anonymous, perhaps you have the vocation you do in order to bring some of the Lord's love and solidarity into the world of money.

Anonymous said...

There is really little difference between the two. The relevant truth is that Judas believed that he knew better than Jesus. He decided for himself the actions he would take to bring about the his kingdom. The salient element was that it was Judas' will and Judas' power, not the will and power of Christ. Judas was animated by the same "non serviam" as Lucifer.

In almost every case in the world the choice not to serve is accomplished through money and commerce. To a certian extant, we all think this way. How many of us have dreamed of winning the lottery, thinking of what good we would do with the money. But such thoughts, even if they are of the estabilshment of chraitible works are always of the species of putting the personal will ahead of the world the Lord has givien us.

My sales manager likes to tell me when he coaches me on performing better that "no matter what a person's dream is, it is money. It is your job to show that to your customer." This is the anti-gospel.

In many ways mercury, the god of commerce is the pinacle of paganism. Mercury did not have temples nor a priestly class, but it was through his purse that empires rose and fell. The purse of mecury paid the wages of the conquering armies to be filled again through the sale of captives to the slavers. Mercury drove the conquest of the world in the name of free and open markets so that men would come to believe they were their own masters. Through the power of maoney and commerce they would transform and remake the worlr, and improve on the design of its Maker.

Moeny is the mechaism through which we decide for ourselves what is good and evil, we do it though the marketplace and in the name of supply and demand. Money determines for us even that divorce is a good since it supplies jobs for judges and lawyers, and that even pornography is productive, since it is such a strong contributor to the gross domestic product. Money determines that she cannot afford this child right now, that doing so means being unable to comlete her education. She would never be a high wage earner and therefore would not be productive. Being responsible with our money tells the young couple that now is not the time to get pregnant, that such things have to wait until you are estabilshed in your career, are paying on a mortgage, are saving for retirement. To forego recourse to contraception in the face of such demands from commerce is to listen to foolish old men in pointy hats who know nothing of life.

The betrayal of Jesus was about deciding for ourselves and using money to get there. The money was important. For most of us, money is the single most important thing in our lives. I know...I plan retirements.

The Seraphic Father Francis knew this as well. That is why he took poverty as his beloved and emptied himself out before her.

The same anonymous

Kelly Joyce Neff said...

Anonymous, keep on. You will be a saint yet.