As Augustine illustrates and exemplifies below, the same verb is used, in relation to the sufferings of Christ, with three different subjects: God, Christ, and Judas. In Latin the verb is the perfect form: tradidit, which below I translate as “handed over” and the Douai-Rheims rendered as “delivered”. Augustine here explores something that is central to Christian belief: that what was done out of evil intent by Judas (handing Christ over, that is, betraying him) is transformed by Christ into a sacrifice for our sakes, and this in accordance with the Father’s plan of salvation. In no way did God wish the evil of Judas or of his executioners, but that evil became the occasion for the courage, love, and fidelity of Christ that brought about our redemption. Bernard Lonergan called this “the Law of the Cross,” the only way to escape the spiral of evil.

“And he will render to them according to their works, and according to their wickedness he will destroy them” (Ps 93[94]: 23). It’s not idly that it says, “according to their wickedness.” Something is given to me from them, and yet it speaks of their wickedness, not their kindness. And God certainly vexes us, scourges us by wicked people. For what goal? For the kingdom of heaven, of course. “For he scourges every son whom he receives, and what son is there whom his father does not discipline” (Heb 12:6, 7)? When God does this, he is instructing us for an eternal inheritance, and he often does so through wicked people by whom he occupies and perfects the love which he wishes us to extend even to our enemies. For a Christian’s love is not perfect until it fulfills Christ’s command: “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44). This is how the devil himself is overcome, how the crown of victory is obtained. See what great things God gives us by means of wicked people, but it’s not according to what he gives us through them, but according to their wickedness that he will render to them.

Look at what great things he gave us even from the most monstrous crime of Judas. Judas handed the Son of God over to his suffering, and through the suffering of the Son of God all nations have been redeemed unto salvation. Yet Judas did not receive a reward for the salvation of the nations, but a deserved punishment for his wickedness. For if simply the handing-over of Christ is considered, and not the mind of the one handing him over, Judas did what God the Father did, of whom it is written that “he did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all” (Rom 8:32). Judas did what Christ the Lord himself did, of whom it is written: “He handed himself over for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness,” and again, “Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her” (Eph 5:2, 25). And yet we give thanks to God the Father who did not spare his only Son but handed him over, and we give thanks to the Son who handed himself over for us and by that act fulfilled the Father’s will, while we despise Judas even though by his deed God gave us such a great blessing. And we rightly say, “The Lord rendered to him according to his iniquity, and according to his wickedness he destroyed him.” For Judas did not hand Christ over for the sake of our salvation, but for the money for which he sold him, even though the handing over of Christ was our recovery, and the selling of Christ was our redemption [that is: “the selling of Christ bought us back”]. Non enim ille pro nobis tradidit Christum, sed pro argento quo vendidit eum: quamvis traditio Christi sit nostra receptio , et Christi venditio sit nostra redemptio. (EnPs 93[94], 28; PL 37, 1214-1215)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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