Given at Our Lady of the Assumption & Saint Gregory, Warwick Street:
In traditional parlance, today is known as Spy Wednesday because we hear again the gospel passage in which Judas betrays the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Judas becomes the ‘spy’ in the band of the apostles, the one who will betray the Lord with a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane.
In the midst of the apostolic gathering, it is Judas whose action creates disharmony and disorder. In this we are given a stark reminder. Although our sin may often be private, it is never simply personal. We are incorporated, by virtue of our baptism, into the mystical Body of Christ, and so when we sin, we mar the image of Christ in us and distance ourselves (by our own free action) from his presence in the Church. We, like Judas, betray the Lord and cut ourselves off from him and from the apostolic gathering and, in so doing, are doomed to a destiny without God’s love – not because he does not love us, but because he loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to choose to reject him. For the man in serious sin, it would be better if he had never been born.
The damage that our sin does to our relationship with God and the Church is the reason we must confess our sins to a priest. We confess our sins to God, but we must also be reconciled with his Church, with the apostolic gathering by which we receive God’s grace and by which we are saved from eternity without him. We do not simply confess our sins in our hearts, but to a priest, in order that we may be reconciled with the vehicle of God’s grace – the Church – and might receive, once more, the strength to overcome evil and to be united with the Lord.
Death might be the end for Judas, but it is not so for us. When we betray the Lord for material gain or self-indulgence, he does not simply allow us to drift further from his love, because through the cross we are given the chance to be forgiven, and restored to the fullness of life in him. We, who dip our hands in the dish with the Lord when we come to the sacred banquet of the Mass, the supreme sacrifice of Calvary, will and do betray him, but for us – if we have the strength to confess our sins in sorrow – earthly death is not the end, but the beginning of true life. As we come to the foot of Calvary, we would do well to remember that, and to seek out a route to our restoration in his love. If we seek to share in the Easter joy of his bodily resurrection, we must first be fully united to his body, the Church, in which we find him truly present, and by which salvation is opened to us. Only then can we hope to join with the apostles, in the fullness of life in him in heaven.