Today’s gospel (John 12:1-11) is the one we hear every year on Monday in Holy Week, and every year it starts me thinking about Judas.
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name Judas? My guess is that for many of us the first word we think of is some form of “betray.” It was for the four gospel writers. Of the twenty times they mention the name Judas thirteen are in the same sentence as the word betray and all twenty are telling about the betrayal. His name has become synonymous with betrayal.
I don’t doubt that Judas betrayed Jesus but I wonder if betrayer or traitor is all he ever was? Who or what was he before the betrayal? I wonder what he was like as a little boy. I wonder what passion and hopes were ignited in him when he started following Jesus. I wonder when and why things began to change for him. How did he get to this point?
How do any of us get to that point? Those aren’t just questions and wonderings about Judas. They’re also questions and wonderings for you and me.
Most of us, I suspect, know all we need to know about Judas. He’s the one we blame, judge, and scapegoat. He’s the one we point at. That’s what John is doing in today’s gospel.
John’s comments about Judas read like an editorial opinion. According to John, not only is Judas the betrayer but despite what he says about the poor, he doesn’t really care about the poor. He is a thief. He keeps the common purse for Jesus and the disciples, and steals from it.
I don’t know if any of that is true or not. I don’t know why Judas did what he did, and I am not excusing or condoning it, but there’s one thought that keeps coming to me as I think about Judas this Holy Week. It must have been hard to be Judas.
Let’s not forget Judas also will be dead before the end of this week. Matthew says he “hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5), and Luke says he fell and “burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out” (Acts 1:18). It must have been hard to be Judas.
Haven’t there been times when it was hard being you? Haven’t there been times when you couldn’t smell the perfume of life? Haven’t you sometimes struggled to remain true to yourself and be the woman or man you want to be?
As much as we may not want to see or admit it, we’re probably not that much different from Judas. What’s hard about being you today? What keeps you from smelling the fragrance of life today? In what ways are you struggling to remain true to yourself today?
I wonder what it would have taken for Judas to see the value in what Mary was doing with that “costly perfume” and to smell the fragrance of life instead of seeing only a price of 300 denarii. I wonder what it would have taken for Judas to see his own value and not feel as is if he had to pay the price for what he’d done. I wonder what it would take for you and me to see those things in our lives.
Surely, we’re all – and I do mean all; you, me, and Judas – we’re all more than our latest or worst betrayal. Isn’t that the promise of Holy Week?