After Mass on Palm Sunday, someone took me to task for being so hard on Pontius Pilate. Well, he won’t be pleased today, as I’m going to have a go at Judas Iscariot. It’s all very well saying that both Pilate and Judas simply did God’s will. And yet they both made a poor choice, and they had to live with the consequences of it.
Even knowing what was about to happen, it must have been hard for Our Lord to know that someone he called a friend had conspired against him: “Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me” (Psalm 41:10).
At the synagogue in Capernaum, when Our Lord declared that he was the bread of life, many of his followers abandoned him. Even then Our Lord knew that Judas would betray him (John 6:70-71).
Later, when he washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, it’s possible that Our Lord had hoped this expression of love would win Judas over. In the ancient world, it was a sign of favour when the host offered a choice piece of food to a guest. So maybe, even during the Last Supper, Our Lord appealed to Judas one last time when he offered “the morsel” to him (13:26). But Judas refused these offers of reconciliation and friendship and held to his own selfish plans. Yes, it may have been God’s will that this happen, but Judas Iscariot still made his own choice.
Judas was present at the Last Supper when Our Lord offered his Body and Blood to his disciples (Luke 22:19-21). He must have received the first Eucharist. But even this didn’t affect him.
Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote of the Eucharist: “No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.” And yet Saint Thomas also taught that it is essential for us to receive the Eucharist with faith if we want to experience all these gifts. How sad that Judas, because of his lack of faith, was not helped by the Eucharist he had received.
This should never happen to us. In two days we will commemorate the First Eucharist. May we spend, at least some time before Holy Thursday, examining our hearts and discovering how we can increase our expectation and desire for Our Lord in Holy Communion.