Vatican City, Oct 17, 2006 / 22:00 pm
Pope Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis on the 12 Apostles today, speaking of the Apostle who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot and the Apostle Matthias, who succeeded him. More than 30,000 filled St. Peter’s square to hear the Holy Father speak of the part Judas played in God’s mysterious plan of salvation.
The Holy Father noted that although, “the name of Judas Iscariot always appears last in the lists of the Twelve,” which recognizes the fact that his betrayal had already occurred at the writing of the Gospels, at the same time scripture is clear in emphasizing Judas’s role among the apostles. Pope Benedict noted his status as an Apostle "to all effects," and quoted the Acts of the Apostles which said of Judas, “He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry (Acts 1,17).”
"We ask ourselves why Jesus chose this man and put His trust in him. ... Even more uncertain is the mystery concerning his eternal fate." However "it is not for us to judge his gesture, putting ourselves in the place of God, Who is infinitely merciful and just," the Pope continued.
"Why did he betray Jesus?" the Holy Father asked. "Some people highlight the question of his greed for money. Others favor a messianic explanation: Judas was disappointed to see that Jesus' plans did not include the political-military liberation of his country."
The Gospels, however, explain Judas' betrayal as "going beyond the historical reasons," and attributing it to "the personal responsibility of Judas who miserably submitted to a temptation of the Evil One. ... Jesus treated him like a friend but, in His invitations to follow Him, (he) did not force people's will or protect them from the temptations of Satan, respecting human freedom. Truly, there are many ways in which the human heart can be perverted. The only way to obviate them,” Benedict concluded, is “to be in full communion with Jesus."
Judas' repentance, the Pope said, "degenerated into desperation and thus became self-destruction. For us, this is an invitation never to despair of divine mercy."
Even Judas "negative role" is part of God's mysterious plan of salvation, said the Pope, explaining how, "God takes Judas' inexcusable gesture as an occasion for the total donation of the Son for the redemption of the world."
Judas was replaced by Matthias "of whom we know nothing more, save that he was a witness to the entire earthly teaching of Jesus, remaining faithful to Him unto the end," his election "almost compensating the betrayal.
“Here," said Pope Benedict, "is a final lesson: if even in the Church there is no lack of unworthy and false Christians, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil they commit with our own clear witness of Jesus Christ."
At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict made reference to yesterday's accident on Rome's underground railway system, in which one person was killed and 236 were injured. “At this painful moment,” he said, “I am especially close to those affected by this tragic event. To them I express my affection and give assurances of a special recollection in my prayers.”