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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Such a small compensation...

One of the Twelve whose name was Judas Iscariot went off to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time he kept looking for an opportunity to hand him over.

Today is the last day of Lent, and the day’s readings have us focusing on the character of Judas, and his betrayal of Christ. I must admit, I am probably way more fascinated with the character of Judas than I ought to be. I think he is one of the most intriguing characters in the gospel. Judas tells us a lot about the nature of evil, and his story is a cautionary tale to us as believers. Judas is such a dark villain because he began as such a bright saint. He was in a position to betray Christ specifically because he was first an apostle. I think that aspect of the Judas story alone should make us more than a little uncomfortable when we begin to think that we are righteous simply because we are Christian.

Ultimately, we don’t know why Judas betrayed Christ. I have always found the explanation that he did it simply for the money to be a little shallow. Some have proposed that perhaps he agreed with the Sanhedrin that Jesus was a blasphemer; some have proposed he took issue with one of Christ’s teachings, and a number of others have proposed a number of other theories. While we don’t know exactly why he did what he did, we do know what he received as a fee for his crime. He was paid thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus. What ever his motivation, that was his compensation.

And the point that I want to reflect on today is this; what a small compensation that is. Judas Iscariot sold out the messiah, he betrayed and helped kill the Son of God, God Himself, and what he got out of it was the ancient equivalent of a new car. Elsewhere in scripture, we are reminded that a man does not profit even if he gains the whole world, if in the process he loses his soul. How much less does a man profit when he gains not the whole world, but loses his soul over a bag of change?

But isn’t that the way it always goes? Doesn’t betraying Christ, and giving into sin, always give such meager compensation. If the tempter devils snicker about anything, I imagine its not that every man has his price, but that the price is often so low. When we think about what we get out of our sins, do we ever really receive all that much, in exchange for betraying God? My question to us all today is, is it worth it? Is sin really worth it? Is the benefit we get from indulging in our wraith, our sloth, our lust, really all that much? If we asked Judas now if his thirty pieces of silver were worth the price he paid for them, what would he answer us?

As we end this lent, and go forth to the triduum in prayerful repentance, let us remember poor Judas’s cautionary tale. The nature of sin is betrayal; the devil never makes a fair deal; the wages of sin are always meager.

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