Some of you may remember the movie “Scarlet and the Black” in which Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty of the Vatican battles the SS officer Herbert Kappler during the Nazi occupation of Rome. Kappler was a brutal murderer. At the end of the war Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment as a war criminal. He was visited in prison every month by O’Flaherty, his only regular visitor. Eventually, the former SS officer converted to the Roman Catholic faith, and was baptized by the Monsignor in 1959. It’s a great story of mercy and redemption.
So, what about Judas. Tuesday of Holy week is referred to as “Spy Tuesday” referring to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. What was Judas like? He’s called a thief in scripture (John 12:6). Was he an obvious bum? Did you find him hanging around the fringes of the apostles, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, needing a shave? Was it obvious to everyone that Judas was not with the program. Well, it doesn’t seem so. He was chosen by Jesus as one of the 12 apostles. Presumably he was with the Lord at the sermon on the mount, at numerous miracles. He took care of the money, an important responsibility. At the Last Supper, it wasn’t obvious that Judas was going to betray the Lord; the other apostles didn’t know who it was and “began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (Mt. 26:22) Yet, something was seriously wrong. Judas kept deflecting the Holy Spirit; he would hear the words of Jesus, yet keep them at bay. So, after his terrible sin of betrayal, he was unable to believe that Jesus loved him so much that he would forgive him and welcome him back.
A key lesson for us? No matter what we have done, no matter how far we have fallen, no matter how desperate we are, Jesus is there ready to forgive us and welcome us home. It’s the message of the gospel. It’s the “GOOD NEWS”.