In today’s gospel, we are presented with the contrast between Christ and Judas, light and darkness. Judas chooses the way of darkness and goes out into the night, inviting Satan to enter into his life. Christ, on the other hand, is the Savior who brings light into darkness and dispels evil.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
7 April 2020
In today’s gospel (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38), John narrates an ominous story. It begins with Jesus reclining at table, and all seems comfortable and well. Jesus becomes deeply troubled and announces that there is betrayer in their midst. The disciples are at a loss as to who Jesus is talking about. Peter, their leader, nods at John, the beloved disciple, signaling him to question Jesus. “Master, who is it?” he asks. Jesus answers, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” Jesus dips the morsel and hands it to Judas Iscariot. When Judas takes the morsel, Satan enters him. Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas takes the morsel and leaves at once. “And it was night.”
John’s gospel is filled with imagery and symbolism. When he notes that Judas left, and it was night, he was not simply commenting about how it was dark outside or what time of day it was. John is reminding us of the darkness of evil that pervaded Judas’s decision to betray Jesus. He was pointing out that this hour of Jesus was an hour of darkness as his betrayal and crucifixion loomed near.
Our Lord Jesus, by willingly allowing himself to be betrayed and crucified, transformed the darkness of that moment—in fact all of our darkest moments—into our greatest good, by taking our sins to the cross upon himself. In his sacrifice, he offers his life out of love, to scatter the darkness of sin and evil with the light of grace, redemption, and salvation.
We hear that, as Judas takes the morsel, Satan enters him. The entrance of Satan was not something forced on Judas. It was something he brought on himself by deliberately choosing to sin mortally by planning the betrayal of the innocent Jesus to hand him over to those who wished to murder him, resulting in his crucifixion and death. That Satan entered Judas reminds us of the reality and effects of mortal sin.
Mortal sin is defined in the Catechism has having three criteria: 1) it includes grave matter (serious sin); 2) knowledge of the sinful nature of the act on the part of the person; and 3) complete consent—a deliberate choice to do it. Mortal sin destroys a person’s relationship with God and, as we learn in today’s gospel, aligns the person with the will of Satan, as opposed to the will of God. Mortal sin is a rebellion against God and a rejection of him. That is precisely what Lucifer did at his creation, which resulted in him being thrown down from the heavens.
Christ, however, has defeated sin, evil, eternal death, and the devil by the power of his saving passion, death, and resurrection. The question is, why do we so often experience the effects of sin and evil? Why are Christians harmed by it? And why do we fall into committing evil?
The answer lies in the fact that, in this life, we are still engaged in the battle. We are susceptible to temptation from the devil, the flesh, and the world. This is a battle we must engage. It’s a war we must wage in and with Christ. There is no escaping it.
Which brings us to the good news. By virtue of the saving death and resurrection of Christ, our Lord supplies us with the grace necessary to win the battle against evil, to defeat sin in our lives, to turn away from temptations, whenever they come, and live the gospel life of holiness. The grace our Lord grants us through the sacraments, such as baptism, is sanctifying grace, which is the life of God in the soul. Christ sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us as within a temple. The Holy Spirit creates a true change in the soul, recreating us, restoring us, elevating us to a new kind of life, giving us a new courage and a new, supernatural power. In Christ and his Spirit, we are the victors. We do not walk out into the darkness, as did Judas, but rather we walk by the light of Christ.
Evil can harm us in this life, yes, whether it be a physical evil or a moral evil. However, in uniting our will to the will of Christ, God will glorify us in that we will be raised up in Christ to everlasting life. The spoils of this war here below belong to the victors in Christ.
The important thing to remember is that, in Christ, the battle is already won. It’s just that it is playing out in the present.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.