Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew speaks of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. In his chapter by that name in The Lord, Romano Guardini suggests that none of Jesus’ followers had much cause to look down on Judas. Nor, he argues, do we:
Betrayal of the divine touches us all. What can I betray? That which has entrusted itself to my loyalty. But God–entrusted to me? Precisely. God did not reveal himself merely by teaching a truth, giving us commands to which he attaches consequences, but by coming to us, personally. His truth is himself. And to him who hears, he gives his own strength, again himself. To hear God means to accept him. To believe means to accept him in truth and loyalty. The God we believe in is the God who “comes” into heart and spirit, surrendering himself to us. He counts on the loyalty of that heart, the chivalry of that spirit.
Why? Because when God enters the world, he puts aside his omnipotence. His truth renounces force, as his will renounced coercive power which would set the consequences immediately after every deed. God enters the world defenseless, a silent, patient God. He “emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil 2:7). All the more profound his summons to the believer: Recognize an unassuming God! Be loyal to defenseless majesty!
And yet, aren’t there many days in our lives in which we sell him, against our best knowledge, against our most sacred feelings, in spite of duty and love, for some vanity, or sensuality, or profit, or security, or some private hatred or vengeance? Are these more than thirty pieces of silver? We have little cause to speak of”the traitor” with indignation or as someone far away long ago. Judas himself unmasks us. We understand his Christian significance in the measure that we understand him from our own negative possibilities, and we should beg God not to let the treachery into which we constantly fall become fixed within us. The name Judas stands for established treason, betrayal that has sealed the heart, preventing it from finding the road back to genuine contrition.