If you recall yesterday’s gospel, you may have the feeling that this is where you came in. We heard the same story: Our Lord at table with the Twelve, announcing that one of them will betray him, and all of them protesting, “Surely it is not I?” But today’s gospel narrows the focus to Judas Iscariot; and have you ever wondered what made him tick?
Well, I think the easy answer is greed. Thirty pieces of silver dangled before the man who, in Monday’s gospel was accused of stealing from the common purse. But perhaps Judas was a more complicated man. Suppose he is weary of waiting for the day when Jesus will at last break the silence he has enjoined on the apostles and publicly declare himself the Messiah, the promised and long-awaited Saviour of Israel. Will his arrest perhaps not precipitate the revelation and mark the dawn of liberation? No wonder Judas yields to despair when his grand scheme fails and Jesus is led off to Calvary.
Could this be an unlikely scenario? Perhaps. But it does have a ring of plausibility about it. Judas may have been the first to try and force the Lord’s hand, but he is surely not the last. Today some people encourage the tensions between western nations and countries in the Middle East as signs that Armageddon, the final war of history, is about to break out. Sure of their own virtue, they would hurry the Lord’s return in glory.
Closer to home, each of us has sometimes tried to force the Lord’s hand. If we pray hard enough, God will have to find the job, cure the illness, ease the aching heart. If we protest loudly enough in our prayers, God will have to put an end to the filth and violence in the media and shut down all the abortion clinics. All of this and more, yet we forget that God will not be hurried. He will win salvation in a long and painful struggle on Calvary. He will heal human pain by sharing it. He will overcome the power of sin and death by surrendering, silently and with infinite love. And he will be victorious – but in his time, not ours.