Pope’s New Book Notes Judas’ 2nd Tragedy

Gospel Says Betrayer’s Experience “Is Beyond Psychological Explanation”

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict’s new book on Jesus examines the mystery of the apostle who betrayed Our Lord. The Pope says Judas lived two tragedies: the betrayal and the “wrong type of remorse” — a remorse that is “unable to hope.”

Volume 2 of “Jesus of Nazareth” is due out one week from today. Ignatius Press is the publisher of the volume in English.

Three excerpts from the book were made available Wednesday, including one from Chapter 3, Section 4, titled “The Mystery of the Betrayer.”

In that text, the Holy Father notes that Jesus’ feeling of being “troubled” when he begins to speak of the betrayer is one of three times when the Gospel of John presents Jesus in this state. The other two come at Lazarus’ grave and on Palm Sunday.

“These are moments when Jesus encounters the majesty of death and rubs against the might of darkness, which it is his task to wrestle with and overcome,” the Pope writes.

Jesus’ prophecy that one of the apostles would betray him “understandably” “produces agitation and curiosity among the disciples,” the Pontiff continues. The book cites the passage that comes next, explaining how one of the disciples, “lying close to the breast of Jesus,” was able to ask the Lord who the betrayer would be.

The Pontiff explains: “In order to understand this text, it should be noted first of all that reclining at table was prescribed for the Passover meal. Charles K. Barrett explains the verse just quoted as follows: ‘Persons taking part in a meal reclined on the left side; the left arm was used to support the body, the right was free for use. The disciple to the right of Jesus would thus find his head immediately in front of Jesus and might accordingly be said to lie in his bosom. Evidently he would be in a position to speak intimately with Jesus, but his was not the place of greatest honor; this was to the left of the host. The place occupied by the beloved disciple was nevertheless the place of a trusted friend.'”

Breach of friendship

Jesus answers this disciple with a response that, according to the Pope, “is quite unambiguous.”

“Yet,” he said, “the evangelist says that the disciples still did not understand whom he meant. So we must assume that John retrospectively attributed a clarity to the Lord’s answer that it lacked at the time for those present.”

John notes how Jesus goes on to quote Scripture, saying “‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'”

“This is Jesus’ classic way of speaking,” the Pontiff reflected. “He alludes to his destiny using words from Scripture, thereby locating it directly within God’s logic, within the logic of salvation history. […]

“Jesus must experience the incomprehension and the infidelity even of those within his innermost circle of friends and, in this way, ‘fulfill the Scripture.’ He is revealed as the true subject of the Psalms, the ‘David’ from whom they come and through whom they acquire meaning.”

Benedict XVI observed how the evangelist gives a “new depth to the psalm verse.”

“[I]nstead of the expression given in the Greek Bible for ‘eating,’ he chooses the verb trogein, the word used by Jesus in the great ‘bread of life’ discourse for ‘eating’ his flesh and blood, that is, receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist,” the Holy Father explained. “So the psalm verse casts a prophetic shadow over the Church of the evangelist’s own day, in which the Eucharist was celebrated, and indeed over the Church of all times: Judas’ betrayal was not the last breach of fidelity that Jesus would suffer. […]

“The breach of friendship extends into the sacramental community of the Church, where people continue to take ‘his bread’ and to betray him.”

Citing Blaise Pascal, the Pope added that “Jesus’ agony, his struggle against death, continues until the end of the world. […] We could also put it the other way around: at this hour, Jesus took upon himself the betrayal of all ages, the pain caused by betrayal in every era, and he endured the anguish of history to the bitter end.”

Inscribed on his soul

Benedict XVI’s book notes that John offers no “psychological interpretation” of Judas’ conduct.

“For John,” he said, “what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. He has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his ‘easy yoke,’ does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it another way, he betrays this friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself.”

Jesus’ light in Judas’ soul is not “completely extinguished,” the Pope observes. “He does take a step toward conversion: ‘I have sinned,’ he says to those who commissioned him. […] Everything pure and great that he had received from Jesus remained inscribed on his soul — he could not forget it.”

But the betrayer endures a “second tragedy,” the Pontiff writes. “[H]e can no longer believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he sees only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness.

“He shows us the wrong type of remorse: the type that is unable to hope, that sees only its own darkness, the type that is destructive and in no way authentic. Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.”

The Pope notes how John’s conclusion of the passage is “dramatic.”

“‘After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night’ (13:30). Judas goes out — in a deeper sense. He goes into the night; he moves out of light into darkness: the ‘power of darkness’ has taken hold of him.”

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