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Judas and the little things

The Last Supper (Wikimedia Commons, painter unknown)

My first published book was the brief, free Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life.

Lesson four is:

“Little things matter (a lot).”

This came home to me earlier this week while meditating on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. How did a friend become an enemy? How could anyone who spent three years in Jesus’ company turn against Him?

Movies such as Jesus of Nazareth often portray Judas as well-meaning, a pseudo-Zealot who thought he could provoke Jesus to overthrow Rome if He was arrested. It’s an interesting take, but there is no indication in Scripture that it is accurate. What we find instead is this:

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” (Jn 12:4-6)

I think we can learn an important lesson if we delve into the reason the Bible indicates Judas fell. If you will humor me, here is my fictionalized account of Judas’s progression from friend to enemy. These are the musings of the betrayer:

I can’t believe Jesus gave me charge of the common purse! How heavy this little bag is. Heavier than any purse I’ve ever owned, that’s for sure.

I wonder what those boys who used to tease me for my shabby clothes would think if they knew how much money I had at my disposal? I’m carrying more now than most of them have probably ever seen. No longer the poor boy. I can lift my head up. Just think how I could strut around in fine clothes with all this money! Of course, I’d never use any for myself, but it’s nice to know I could. I am rich. But I’m too upright to use these riches. They are for Jesus and the apostles. Not for me personally…

I wish sometimes Jesus would acknowledge what I do for Him. I mean, I have a huge responsibility and I’m carrying it out so well. While everyone else is sitting and listening to Jesus, I have to go to the market daily and buy our food. Just a little thanks now and then would be nice. He always takes Peter, James, and John with Him places, but never me. And I know those three look down on me. It’s the poor boy all over again. Only I’m not poor. I have more than any of them. I could show them so easily. What if I came back from the market in gold threads instead of with their dinner? Of course, I never would do it. I’d be kicked out of Jesus’ close circle and be back where I started with nothing. Still, it’s nice to know that I could do it, if I weren’t so righteous…

I wonder if Jesus knows that I saved a day’s wages by my hard bargaining in the market today? If He does, He sure doesn’t show it. Still no invitation to join Him and His three “angels.” I don’t have to bargain so hard, you know. I have saved us a lot of money over time. I could save us more. In fact, if I worked harder in bartering, I could save so much that I would have a little left over for myself. No one would miss it. But it would make up for being constantly overlooked and undervalued. I really deserve it for all my hard work. I wouldn’t even spend it. I would just keep it for myself…

I wonder if He knows? I don’t like the way Peter looks at me. And what are James and John whispering about? It’s not like I’ve deprived them of anything. They’re still getting their stomachs full. I’ve worked hard for that money. They have no idea how hard it has been. I have to make provisions for the future, after all. What if something happened to Jesus? What would we do then? Everyone else could go back to their jobs, but what about me? I’d be destitute again, the laughing stock as always. I haven’t used the smallest coin for myself. I’m just keeping it by, in case something happens to Jesus…

Something could happen to Jesus quite easily. It’s clear the Sanhedrin wants to kill Him. I bet they’d pay well for someone to help them in their plot. It would have to be someone close to Him, of course. I wonder how much they would pay? Not as much as I’ve put by. Or would they? If something happens to Jesus, I’d need enough money for the rest of my life. I don’t have nearly that much. And the way they are plotting against Him, how can His ministry last? Someone is bound to betray Him sooner or later. I wonder how much they’ll get for it. I could ask. Just out of curiosity, of course. I’d never do anything like that to Jesus, even if He has been unjust to me. I’m going to count my money next time I’m alone…

Twenty-nine silver coins. Who would have thought? Think of all I could buy with that! When Jesus is arrested, I’m going to go out and buy everything I’ve ever wanted. Why shouldn’t I? I wonder who will betray Him anyway. Maybe John. I don’t like how John looks at me. I think he knows. He’s always staring at the purse. If I take my eyes off it for a moment, he’ll take it from me. I’m sure of it…

I’ve heard that the Sanhedrin will pay thirty pieces of sliver to the one who betrays Jesus. John is planning on it. I know he is. He hasn’t been able to steal any of my money, so he’s going to try and get the money from the Sanhedrin. What right does he have to get more than I have? I thought of it first! I should have it. I’ll go to them myself. Then they’ll see. John, and his brother and Peter and Jesus Himself. They should have treated me right. It’s their own fault. And Jesus is the most at fault of all…

So we see in this fictional progression, that Judas begins by nursing pride and envy, entertains thoughts of greed, justifies sin, and eventually betrays the Savior.

Yes, little things matter (a lot).

Blessed Triduum!

Connie Rossini



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Are you at home in the world?

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Hoffman (Wikimedia Commons). Too many possessions can erase our longing for Heaven.

Last Fall we helped my parents move from their home of 39 years to a senior co-operative. As is usual for people preparing to move, they spent some time fixing up their home before putting it on the market. They repainted every room, installed hardwood floors, and bought new curtains and light fixtures. My mom confessed that it looked so nice, she did not want to leave.

What does this have to do with the spiritual life? More than you might think. We face a persistent danger that life in the world will get too comfortable. What if we don’t want to leave?

Abraham’s example

Our father in faith Abraham teaches us the proper attitude.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:8-10)

We are not really settlers on earth. Abraham was a nomad. He had no permanent home here. Today we might think of ourselves as renters. We need to care for what we have, but not because possessions are a priority. We care for them precisely because they are not our possessions. Everything we have belongs to someone else, given to us in trust.

St. Paul wrote:

“I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Cor 7:29-31)

The blessings of poverty

Do I need to say that our culture’s wealth is crippling people’s souls? Historically, saints and theologians have linked the sins of greed and lust. Msgr. Charles Pope writes:

And this is greed, the insatiable desire for more, or the inordinate desire for things, such that they are considered apart from wider norms that limit desires with the boundaries of what is reasonable and in service of the common good. Greed cares little for the common good, for the needs and rights of others. Greed just wants what it wants. Lust is very close to greed in that it is also an inordinate desire for bodily pleasures apart from any consideration of the needs of others or of what it just, right and reasonable.”

The whole post is worth reading.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that sexual immorality is rampant at this time when even lower-middle class people live better than kings did in previous centuries.

When we surround ourselves with nice things, we begin to get comfortable. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, but we can become too comfortable. So comfortable that we no longer feel a yearning for God.

Our home has been very needy since we bought it and I’ve never felt quite “at home” in it. But lately we’ve been doing more remodeling, and suddenly I like it. I find myself tempted to find peace in my surroundings, rather than in God.

The Evangelist Luke wrote, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven” (Lk 6:20). I have never been really poor. But neither have I ever had much extra money. I think that’s been a blessing, although sometimes in disguise.

Spiritual Poverty

We can maintain a spirit of poverty even in the midst of riches. Saints like King Louis exemplified this. But it’s not easy. Recall these words of Jesus:

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:24).

And we also have the example of the rich young ruler, who went away sad when Jesus told him to give away his possessions.

How can we live in the spirit of poverty (which is what Matthew’s Gospel says will merit a reward), even if we have a lot of money?

Here’s a radical idea: meditate on death.

Are you ready to die?

You see, when we die, we will have to leave everything behind–literally. “You can’t take it with you.” If we try to, God will have to pry us free in Purgatory.

Meditating on death reminds us that life here is temporary. That we don’t belong here. That nothing we have is ours to keep. Someday, we will have to let go. Money will mean nothing in those last hours, besides perhaps the means of a little comfort care.

If we regret anything on our death beds, it won’t be that we did not own a bigger house or a fancier car or have a larger bank account. It won’t be that we had to rent instead of buy.

It will be that we did not love as we could have and should have.

Will it be easy for you to go when God calls you home? May it be said of us as of the saints of old:

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Heb 11:13-16)

Connie Rossini