Grace, Free-will, and Judas

Friends in Christ, in the gospel yesterday, we saw that Judas was complaining about the waste of money, in the anointing of Jesus. He said, the money could have been used to help the poor. But he was not really concerned about the poor; something else was eating him inside.
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Why did Judas betray Christ? Was it love of money? Was it disillusionment? Was he frustrated that Jesus had not led a rebellion against the Romans? Was it ambition? We don’t know.
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Some say he was possessed by the devil, and that would seem likely, for scripture says ‘the devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ,’ and also, we read today that at the Last Supper ‘Satan entered into him.’ But possession by the devil begins with a desire for evil and sin.
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Some have asked: wasn’t this part of the plan of God? Then Judas had no choice? It had to happen this way? And this brings us to the question of grace versus free-will.
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God desires that all people be saved. He offers to all, adequate grace to be saved. No exceptions. But we must cooperate with this grace, we must accept it and act on it – its our choice. The Lord sent many graces to Judas in his life. Judas heard Christ preach often about forgiveness. He heard the Lord himself speak about how the love of money ruins a person. Judas saw thousands of people cured, and Lazarus raised from the dead. These are called ‘external graces,’ but Judas also would have many internal graces – promptings in the heart, inspirations to do good – just as we all receive. But he ultimately rejected God’s grace.
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God respects our free-will. We can reject his grace and choose the way of eternal death, but as long as we are alive, the Lord is offering us grace. Even as Judas hung himself, God offered his mercy to Judas in the last moments of life. Did he repent at the last moment at the end of the rope? We don’t know.
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It certainly is true however, that had Judas done what Peter did, and repent openly of his sin, we would be celebrating a feast-day during the year, of St. Judas. As the poet John Wittier wrote: The saddest words by tongue or by pen, are those words, what might have been.
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Let us include in our prayers this holy week, those many wandering and lost souls that the Lord is calling home by his grace. Let them be moved by the mercy of God which we will see this Good Friday on the cross.

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