On the Despair of Judas

A Lenten Reflection for Monday after the Third Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Despair of Judas.

To-day, my soul, place before your eyes the unhappy traitor Judas, whose guilty conscience allows him no peace, no rest on the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. See how he runs first to the chief priests, and flings the blood-money he received from them down on the ground at their feet with abhorrence, and then, half-demented with grief, tortured with pangs of conscience, he departs out of the city, takes a rope and hangs himself. This awful end of an apostle, of one who was chosen to inherit eternal felicity and to occupy one of the highest places in the kingdom of God will be the subject of your meditation to-day.

1st. Judas did almost everything appertaining to penance. He acknowledged his sin, he felt bitter compunction, he was almost frantic with grief, he even confessed his transgression and cried aloud in the presence of the chief priests: “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” (St. Matt, xxvii. 4.) Finally he went so far as to fling away the pieces of silver given him as the price of his iniquity, with loathing; and yet, in spite of his penance, he was eternally lost. What was the reason of this? It was because he despaired of God’s mercy. If instead of going to the Jewish priests he had betaken himself to Jesus, the divine High Priest upon the cross, if he had confessed his guilt at the foot of the cross, he would have been saved. But in his despair he did not do this. See, my soul, how cunningly the devil acts. First of all he inspires the sinner with overweening confidence, so that he sins recklessly in rash reliance on God’s mercy, and after the sin has been committed he fills the soul of the transgressor with mistrust of that same divine mercy. Wherefore beware of presumption in the first place and you will not fall into despair afterwards.

2d. Consider that Judas in his penitential sorrow applied to the wrong physician for aid. The unhappy apostle confessed his sin to those who were impotent to deliver him from it; he exposed the wounds of his soul to physicians who were themselves laboring under a fatal disease. Instead of consolation he met with nothing but cold contempt: “What is that to us? Look thou to it,” So spake the chief priests, and very probably their pitiless words put the climax to his despair. Learn hence a lesson of great importance for the spiritual life. Speak of the disease you are suffering from, disclose the wounds of your soul, the temptations and dangers that imperil your salvation only to those who are qualified and authorized to help you, your Superiors and the director of your conscience. The loss of many souls has been brought about through their having chosen to confide their temptations, their transgressions, not to their Confessor or Superior, but to other persons who perchance were victims of the self-same malady. Thus both were only strengthened in evil, and one blind man leading the other, both fell into the pit. Let the example of the unhappy Judas be a warning to you; alarmed by his awful fate, lay to heart seriously to-day the maxims of the Wise Man: “Open not thy heart to every man. Be in peace with many, but let one of a thousand be thy counsellor.” (Ecclus. viii. 22; vi. 6.)

3d. Consider that Judas’ fate was not undeserved. How often divine grace had knocked at the door of his heart! How lovingly our Lord admonished him at the Last Supper! Was not the washing of feet, were not the pathetic words: “One of you shall betray Me” (St. John xxiii. 21), was not the bread dipped and given to him, each and all so many urgent exhortations to him to return and repent? They were all in vain. And even when the act of treachery was accomplished, was not the charity of our Lord, who addressed the traitor by the name of friend, and in divine meekness returned the treacherous kiss, a last tender appeal to his disloyal heart? It too was in vain. One single look sufficed to convert the apostle who denied our Lord, but graces lavished on the traitor failed to overcome his obduracy; and when at last his conscience was awakened, it was too late, the season of grace was past. Learn, my soul, this one thing from Judas: Never trifle with divine grace. You can never know when you have reached the limit of that which is assigned to you. Perhaps your last confession, the most recent reprimand of your Superior, the latest fraternal warning addressed to you by your Brethren in religion, may have been for you the final call of grace; wherefore see that you do not turn a deaf ear to it with the stubbornness of a Judas, but obey it with the penitence of Peter.


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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