Romano Guardini on Judas and betrayal

“Discussing Judas, we do well not to limit our attention entirely to him. He completed the treachery, but was he the only one touched by it? What did Peter do, whom Jesus had taken with him to the mountain of transfiguration and declared the Rock and Keeper of the Keys? When the danger became acute, accosting him in the miserable form of the wench who kept the gates, didn’t he declare “I do not know the man!” (Luke 22:56-57). And did he not insist, denying it “with an oath” once, twice, thrice (Matt. 26:72-74)? What is treachery if not this? That he does not go down to his doom in it, but is able to rise again through contrition and reform is due only to the grace of God… And John? He also fled, and the flight of one who had leaned on Jesus’ breast must have weighed particularly heavily. True, he returned and stood under the cross, but that he was able to do so was likewise a gift… All the others fled, dispersed like “the sheep of the flock” when the shepherd is struck (Matt. 26:31)… And the masses whose sick he had healed, whose hungry he had fed, whose burdens he had lightened—those in whom the Spirit had moved so that they had recognized him as the Messiah and cheered him—when it came to the choice, they preferred a highway robber… And Pilate? What moves us so strangely in his conversation with Christ is that for a moment the sceptical Roman seems to feel who Jesus is. We sense something of the wave of sympathy that passes between them. Then cold reason returns, and Pilate washes his hands (Matt. 27:24). No, what came to the surface in all its terrible nakedness in Judas, existed as a possibility all around Jesus. Fundamentally not one of his followers had much cause to look down on Judas.

Nor have we. Let us be perfectly clear about this. Betrayal of the divine touches us all. What can I betray? That which has entrusted itself to my loyalty. But God—entrusted to me? Precisely. God did not reveal himself merely by teaching a truth, giving us commands to which he attaches consequences, but by coming to us, personally. His truth is himself. And to him who hears, he gives his own strength, again himself. To hear God means to accept him. To believe means to accept him in truth and loyalty. The God we believe in is the God who “comes” into heart and spirit, surrendering himself to us. He counts on the loyalty of that heart, the chivalry of that spirit. Why? Because when God enters the world, he puts aside his omnipotence. His truth renounces force, as his will renounces that coercive power which would set the consequences immediately after every deed. God enters the world defenceless, a silent patient God. He “emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). All the more profound his summons to the believer: Recognize an unassuming God! Be loyal to defenceless majesty!…And yet, aren’t there many days in our lives on which we sell him, against our best knowledge, against our most sacred feeling, in spite of duty and love, for some vanity, or sensuality, or profit, or security, or some private hatred or vengeance? Are these more than thirty pieces of silver? We have little cause to speak of “the traitor” with indignation or as someone far away and long ago. Judas himself unmasks us. We understand his Christian significance in the measure that we understand him from our own negative possibilities, and we should beg God not to let the treachery into which we constantly fall become fixed within us. The name Judas stands for established treason, betrayal that has sealed the heart, preventing it from finding the road back to genuine contrition” (The Lord, p. 351-353).

2 thoughts on “Romano Guardini on Judas and betrayal

  1. You should read the latest about an archeology find that further proves the betrayal of Judas. You can find it posted as “Judas & Mary Magdalene Lovers?” on my blog.

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