First Meditation: On the treason of Judas
We see in the example of Judas that no state of life or calling, however holy, can secure us from danger. Was not this Apostle, called by Christ and schooled by him in the way of light? Was Judas not called from darkness like the other Apostles? Was not Judas witness to the casting out of demons and the working of miracles? Nevertheless, Judas fell so far from grace as to rise no more. Let anyone, who is sensible, realize on what slippery ground he or she stands in this life, because we are all potentially a Judas. This means that we should distrust ourselves and place all our confidence in God. We must work out our salvation, then, with fear and trembling for the seductions of this world are waiting for us, ready to lead us from God—and even like Judas into death.
But what was it that brought Judas to this evil state? It was the love of money. This he indulged in at first by the opportunity of carrying the common purse of the Apostles. Here he found temptation. Thus by degrees, he fell into evil, which took possession of his soul to the extent that he sold his Master. To end in killing the soul is the tragic history of every vice, which in this case was the love of money. From small injustices we easily fall into the greater embrace of betraying all that is good on earth and in heaven.
Christians must always need, therefore, to be aware of their passions and keep them from being realised for unless we do that our passions grow strong in us just by being neglected in the beginning. Especially, we need to refuse to succumb to the love of money, the source of so much unhappiness and evil. Yet, few Christians are willing to think themselves infected with such vice. How often pretexts and pretenses are used to cover this greed. How many people use ways of making frauds, injustices, loans, tax avoidance and more with the excuse that others do the same or that it is allowed. How ingenious men and women are where their money is concerned. How easily they persuade themselves that their way is somehow permissible and does not count as important in the eyes of God, forgetting that God sees every lapse from his commandments, no matter how we may rationalize it.
Learn from the life of the Apostle Judas to mistrust yourself and your own judgment in all cases where your worldly honour, interest, or pleasure is concerned, because it is natural on these occasions for you to be biased to that which is most agreeable to your self-love. You cannot be an impartial judge of yourself, so do not try to bend the law of God to your will, but instead bend your will to the law of God.
When temptation faces you, remember Judas.
Second Meditation: Jesus’s treatment in the house of Caiaphas
No sooner was the condemnation of Jesus pronounced than all the people around him began to treat him with all kind of outrages and barbarity. They spit in his face. They hit him. They blindfolded him and striking his face asked him who it was that struck him (Matt. 26:67; Luke 23:64) They mocked him and pulled out hair from his head and beard. Yet in all this, he made no resistance, but he gave up his body to those who tortured him and did not turn his face away or try in any way to avoid their cruelty. (Isaiah 1:5,6)
Do you truly understand by what you read in Holy Scripture? Do you truly understand that the Son of God willingly submitted to all this terrible treatment in order to save you from hell? Does not this alone make you detest your turning away from God, and your indulgence in the passing desires and passions of this world? Does it not make you feel very small and unworthy of such great charity?
Now is the season of your repentance and for your reconciliation with God. Now is the time to examine your conscience and to find out what state your soul is in. Now is the very moment to envision the cruelty Jesus underwent just for you. Your salvation was bought at the price of his life.
Make yourself, therefore, a true disciple of your Master. Let hope, charity and humility take possession of you before all the trials you face. None will be as dire and dreadful as that faced by your Saviour. Even if you face death, do not give up these virtues for they will bring you peace when everything about you is cruel and terrifying. Your spirit rejoices in the glory of God and no chains or injustice can imprison it. Those in prison know it. The lonely know it. The forgotten know it. The refugees, the strangers to you perhaps, and all of the poor know it.
Let us, then, be astonished by the love Christ-Jesus had for each of us. Let us be filled with admiration and love for the infinite charity of Christ-Jesus, resolving to imitate his patience and humility in all situations, good or bad, that may befall us.
Third Meditation: On Barabbas and the scourging of Jesus
When Jesus was sent back to him, Pilate realized the high priest and council were still bent upon destroying this innocent man. He thought of a way to release Jesus without giving them offence. As it was the privilege of the people to have their choice of a prisoner to be set free on the day of the paschal solemnity in memory of their being delivered on that day from the bondage of Egypt, Pilate proposed to the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, a notorious thief and murderer. But these unhappy men and women, still filled with anger, chose Barabbas and demanded Jesus be crucified.
Think now of your own life: how often have you preferred something ugly, unsatisfactory, and even immoral before Christ? Have you preferred a “Barabbas” person, situation or passion before the Lord of Glory?
Remember again in what manner Jesus was treated for our salvation. How truly dreadful his path was in conforming to the will of God. See again how they tear off his clothes, strip him before a multitude, bind him to a stony pillar and lash him until his body is torn. Can you see in his wounds the handiwork of your own sins? Will you let the sight of so much blood shed for you mean something in the way you live your life.
Surely at this moment in Lent is the time of your own shame and repentance for in your fall from grace by the way you have lived, you share in the scourging of your Lord. Cry out and cast yourself at the foot of the Cross. He is the foundation stone of your life, rejected by men and women, but chosen by God. (1 Peter 2:4-5) Be with Jesus for he is always with you.
© “Meditations for Lent” by Stafford Whiteaker from “CALLED INTO LIGHT — Meditations with Bishop Challoner for the Christian Year” by Stafford Whiteaker to be published by Gracewing Ltd in late 2021. Permission is granted for quoting from these meditations as long as the source by book title and author is credited. Pre-ordering via www.gracewing.co.uk. (Please note that foreign rights including USA have not yet been finalised. Permission has been granted by the author for this book to be translated into the French language as well as the usual translations given in foreign rights editions.)