The Arrest Of Jesus - ICWG

Judas’ betrayal. Faithfulness in everyday things.

When he had finished his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the Lord rose to his feet and once again woke his three disciples who had fallen asleep through tiredness and discouragement. Rise, let us be going, he tells them. See, my betrayer is at hand. While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs. [1431]

The betrayal is carried out with a show of friendship. He came up to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Master!’ And he kissed him. [1432]  It seems impossible to us that a man who had known Christ so well could be capable of betraying him. What happened in Judas’ soul? For he had been present at so many miracles, and knew so well Our Lord’s goodness of heart for all men. Attracted by his word, he above all had experienced the predilection of Jesus, his special love for his most trusted friends, himself becoming one of the Twelve. He had been chosen and called to be an Apostle by the Lord himself. After the Ascension, when it was necessary to fill Judas’ place, Peter would recall that ‘he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry’. [1433] He too was sent to preach and would have seen the abundant fruit of his apostolate. He may have performed miracles like the others. And he would have had very intimate and personal conversations with the Master, as did the other Apostles. What can have happened to his soul that he would now betray the Lord for thirty pieces of silver?

For it to be explicable, there must have been a long story behind the betrayal that night. For some time Judas would have been distant from Christ even though he was still in his company. On the surface he would have remained normal, but he must have changed inside and become distant. The split with the Master, the loss of his faith and his vocation must have taken place little by little, as he yielded in more and more important things. There is a moment when Judas protests because the little gestures of affection which others have made towards the Lord seem to him to be extravagantly excessive, and he even disguises his protest with his ‘love of the poor’. But St John tells us the true reason: He was a thief, and as he looked after the common purse he took from what was put into it. [1434]

He had allowed his love for the Lord to grow cold, and there remained only the mere external appearance of discipleship. His life of loving surrender to God had become a farce; more than once he would think it would have been better not to have followed the Lord at all. Now he does not remember the miracles, the cures, the happy moments with the Master, his friendship with the other apostles. He is now a man who has lost his way, out of touch, quite capable of committing the madness which will for us be so difficult to understand. The act now carried out has been preceded by increasingly greater acts of disloyalty. It is one final outcome of a long, interior process.

In contrast, perseverance is doing the small everyday things with faith; it is supported by the humility of beginning again when we go astray through weakness. A house is not destroyed by a momentary impulse. More often it is because of an old defect in its construction. Sometimes it is the prolonged neglect by its inhabitants that permits water to get in, at first drop by drop, imperceptibly, the damp eating away at the woodwork and rotting even the structure of stone. With time one tiny crack becomes larger, causing considerable damage. In the end, the rain pours in. The result is ruin. [1435]

To persevere in our own vocation is to respond to the repeated calls the Lord makes in the course of our lives, even though there are obstacles and difficulties and, sometimes, the odd error, acts of cowardice and even defeats. As we contemplate these scenes from the Passion we consider our faithfulness in the tiny details of our own vocation. Is there any hint of a double life? Am I faithful to my own duties? Do I take care to ensure that my relationship with the Lord is sincere? Do I avoid becoming attached to material things – being drawn to the thirty pieces of silver?

Returning to the Lord with hope.

But the Lord did not waste the opportunity to do good to one who had done him wrong. After having saluted Judas with sincerity, he reproved him, not with the harshness which he deserved, but with the gentleness with which a sick person is treated. He called him by his name, which is a sign of friendship ... Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48) With a sign of peace would you make war on me? And to move him to recognize his guilt even more, the Lord lovingly asked him another question: Friend, why are you here? (Matt 26:50) Because you have been my friend, the offence that you do me and the pain you cause me are all the greater. If it were an enemy who slandered me I could endure it, but you, my friend, my close friend, with whom I used to be so united ... (Ps 54:13) You have been a friend and you should still be one; for my part, you can be a friend once again. I am ready to go on being your friend. Even though you do not love me, I love you. My friend, why do you do this? Why have you come? [1436]

It is by mortal sin that the Christian betrays Jesus. All sin, even venial sin, is inextricably and mysteriously related to the Passion of the Lord. Our life is an affirmation or negation of Christ. But even after the most serious offences He is always ready to take us back into his friendship. Judas rejected the hand the Lord held out to him. His life, without Jesus, was ruined and was now bereft of meaning.

After betraying him, Judas must have followed the trial against Jesus with deep unrest. How would all this end? He soon found out that the Chief Priests had sentenced Jesus to death. Perhaps he never expected such a grave sentence; perhaps he saw now how the master was being treated ... what is certain is that when he saw Jesus sentenced, he regretted what he had done and gave back the thirty pieces of silver. He was sorry for his act of madness, but he did not exercise the virtue of hope – for he could still have gained Our Lord’s forgiveness – and he lacked the humility to return to Christ. He could have been one of the twelve founders of the Church despite the enormity of his guilt if he had asked God for forgiveness.

For despite our sins and errors, the Lord waits for us when we return in trusting prayer and in Confession. He who forbids us to sin never gives up waiting for us, to grant us his forgiveness once a sin has been committed. See how He whom we spurn calls us. For although we separate ourselves from him, He does not separate himself from us. [1437]

However great our sins may be, the Lord is always waiting to forgive us. He takes into account human weakness, defects and mistakes. He is always ready to call us his friend again, to give us the necessary grace to go forward if we are sincere and willing to struggle. In the face of the apparent failure of so many of our attempts, we should remember that God asks not so much for success as for the humility to begin again without allowing ourselves to get discouraged and pessimistic, putting into practice instead the theological virtue of hope.

The flight of the disciples. The need for prayer.

It is moving to contemplate in this scene Jesus’ concern for his disciples. When it was He himself who was in danger: If you are looking for me, he said to those who were with Judas, let these men go. [1438] The Lord looks after his own.

Then they seized Jesus and took him to the high priest’s house. [1439] St John says that they bound Jesus. [1440] And they did this violently, without any consideration whatsoever, the mob shoving him along with hurled insults and rude clamour. The disciples, frightened and bewildered, forgot their promises of loyalty during that memorable supper. They all forsook him, says the Evangelist, and fled. [1441]

Jesus is left alone. One after the other the disciples have disappeared. The Lord was flogged and nobody lifted a finger to help him. He was spat upon and nobody shielded him. He was crowned with thorns and nobody intervened. He was crucified and nobody prised out the nails. [1442] He is alone with all the sins and vileness of all times. And our sins and horrendous deeds were there before his eyes.

Peter followed him from afar. [1443] And from afar off it is not really possible to follow Christ, as Peter after his threefold denial would come to understand. And we know this too. We either follow the Lord or we end up denying him. We need only change a pronoun in the short evangelical phrase in order to discover the cause of our own desertions, be they small errors or serious falls, fleeting relaxations of effort or lengthy periods of lukewarmness. ‘Sequebatur eum a longe’: it is we then who follow him from afar ... Men follow Christ with maddening lack of generosity and with grudging lack of commitment to their Lord. There are too many Christians who, if they can be said to follow him at all, follow Jesus only from afar. [1444]

But now we assure him that we want to follow him closely. We want to stay with him and not leave him alone, in those moments and in those places when it is not easy to say that we are his disciples. We want to follow him in our work, in our studies, when we go along the street and when we are in the temple, with the family or during healthy recreation. But we know that by ourselves we cannot do anything: with our daily prayer, we can.

Perhaps one of his disciples went in search of the Holy Virgin and told her that they had taken her Son. And she, despite her immense pain, gave them peace in those bitter hours. We too can find refuge in her – Refugium peccatorum – if in spite of our good intentions we have not been brave enough to stand up for the Lord when he was counting on us. In her we will find the necessary strength to remain with the Lord in bad times, and to be reinforced by her in our desire to make amends.

[1431] Matt 26:46-47

[1432] Matt 26:49

[1433] Acts 1:17

[1434] John 12:6

[1435] Cassian, Conferences, 6

[1436] L. de la Palma, The Passion of the Lord

[1437] St Gregory the Great, Homily 34 on the Gospels

[1438] John 18:8

[1439] Luke 22:54

[1440] John 18:12

[1441] Mark 14:50

[1442] St Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 21, 2, 8

[1443] Luke 22:54

[1444] G. Chevrot, Simon Peter

Francis Fernandez Carvajal was born in Granada in 1938. A graduate in History from the University of Navarre, he also hold a doctorate in Canon Law from the Angelicum in Rome. He is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature. Since his ordination in 1964, much of his pastoral ministry has been with university students. For more than ten years he was editor of he montly magazine PALABRA. Among his published works are   Lukewarmness- the Devil in Disguise, Overcoming Lukewarmness,Through wind and Waves, and Commentaries on the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke

His Series In Conversation with God can Be found Here

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