— Feria VI infra Dominica Passionis — Statio ad S. Stephanum in Coelio monte —
The trials before the high priest were over. Christ had been found guilty of blasphemy because he said He was the Son of God. This, under Jewish law was punishable by death, but since this sentence could not be carried out without the consent of the Romans, Christ would have to appear before Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor or procurator at that time. When word of Christ’s condemnation reached the unfortunate Judas, Scripture says: “He … repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it thyself.’ And he flung the pieces of silver into the temple, and withdrew; and went away and hanged himself with a halter.” (Mt. 27: 3-5)
The story of Judas presents many reflections for each of us and not the least ought to be that there is always an awful difference when we look at sin before we do it and after we commit it. Before we commit sin, the thing to be gained seems so attractive and the transgression that gains it so trifling and insignificant. But, oh, after the sin is committed, the tables are turned and the thing gained seems so contemptible and the transgression so great. Thirty pieces of silver – pitch them into the temple and get rid of them. The thing that we win is cursed in our grasp. Take, for instance, something we know to be in the violation of the commandments of God, tempted to it by a momentary indulgence of some mere animal impulse. How quickly it dies in its satisfaction. It lasts but such a short time and then we are left alone with the thought of the deed we have done. Most of our earthly aims are like that and certainly all of our transgressions follow that formula. As the silver Judas took to betray his God burned the palms of his hands until he cast them from him like a viper that stung his hands, so does the devil ever cheat the sinner of the substance for a shadow, and then robs him of that, or changes it into a frightful specter from which he would escape if he could.
Learn, too, that we may possess great privileges, make great profession of faith, fill high office, and still have no real piety. Again learn that there is a tremendous power in a guilty conscience to inflict punishment. Finally, learn that remorse alone is fruitless, but, if it leads to repentance and confession of sin born of a sorrow for having offended God, we can hope to follow Peter’s example rather than that of Judas.
Would to God Judas had sought out Mary, the Mother of Mercy as John had done. How differently this tragic story might have ended! Her counsels, her prayers, and intercession would doubtlessly have won him a strengthening of hope. This very day, say a prayer to Our Lady of Hope asking her to fill your soul with the virtue of hope so essential to keep us from ever being swallowed up in the awful see of despair.*
*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle