Durante la Settimana Santa, la vicenda terrena ed umana di Gesù si incrocia con le vicende – minori – di altri protagonisti. Abbiamo la Vergine Maria assieme a San Giovanni; San Pietro; Pilato, Caifa, Erode, i soldati. Ma soprattutto si erge, in maniera inquietante, la figura di Giuda l’Iscariota.
Molto si è detto di questo personaggio. San Luca, allorché fa l’elenco dei discepoli di Gesù, lo indica «Giuda Iscariota, che fu il traditore» (Luc. 6, 16). San Matteo e San Marco, invece, dicono di lui «Giuda l'Iscariota, che poi lo tradì» (Matth. 10, 4) «Giuda Iscariota, quello che poi lo tradì» (Marc. 3, 19). Significativo è quel «che poi lo tradì» a voler dire che Giuda, quando fu prescelto da Gesù, non aveva in animo di tradirlo; anzi sicuramente non ci aveva neppure pensato ad un tradimento del Signore.
Perché, dunque, tradì Gesù?
Senz’altro fu un’opera diabolica.
Gli Evangelisti sono concordi sul punto. L’apostolo Giovanni ricorda, parlando dell’Ultima Cena: «mentre cenavano, quando già il diavolo aveva messo in cuore a Giuda Iscariota, figlio di Simone, di tradirlo, …» (Johan. 13, 2). Analogamente Luca (Luc. 22, 3).
Gli altri due Vangeli Sinottici ricollegano, invece, il motivo del tradimento all’unzione a Betania, presso la casa di Simone il lebbroso. L’episodio è noto: in quella circostanza, una donna aveva unto con del nardo genuino di gran valore il capo di Gesù. Un apostolo – che san Giovanni identificherà in Giuda – si lamenta dello “spreco” e che dello stesso si poteva vendere ed offrire il ricavato ai poveri. Gesù redarguì l’Iscariota, elogiando il gesto di delicatezza della donna. A causa di questo rimprovero, Giuda – secondo Matteo e Marco – si sarebbe recato dai sommi sacerdoti per accordarsi con loro sulla consegna del Maestro (Matth. 26, 14; Marc. 14, 10 ss.). Giovanni spiega che Giuda rimproverò la donna «non perché gl'importasse dei poveri, ma perché era ladro e, siccome teneva la cassa, prendeva quello che vi mettevano dentro» (Johan. 12, 6).
Dunque, il tradimento fu senz’altro un’opera del demonio, il quale trovò la strada di entrare in Giuda “solleticando” la sua avidità per il denaro.
Ma proprio questo fu la sua rovina.
Alcuni moderni esegeti tendono ad attenuare la condotta di Giuda, insinuando l’idea che non fosse libero e che, in un certo senso, fosse stato “costretto” a tradire il Maestro, perché senza di lui non si sarebbe potuto compiere il sacrificio. Per questo, tendono ad esaltare la figura del Traditore, non escludendo che possa persino essersi … salvato … .
Come fu per Pietro, anche a Giuda fu offerta la salvezza; fu offerto il pentimento. Giuda, infatti, tornato indietro sui suoi passi dopo aver visto la condanna di Gesù da parte del Sinedrio, confessò: «Ho peccato, perché ho tradito sangue innocente» (Matth. 27, 4).
Ma non ebbe la forza, dopo la confessione, di chiedere perdono al Signore. Per questo andò ad impiccarsi (Matth. 27, 5).
San Pietro per questo poté dire: «Fratelli, era necessario che si adempisse ciò che nella Scrittura fu predetto dallo Spirito Santo per bocca di Davide riguardo a Giuda, che fece da guida a quelli che arrestarono Gesù. Egli era stato del nostro numero e aveva avuto in sorte lo stesso nostro ministero. Giuda comprò un pezzo di terra con i proventi del suo delitto e poi precipitando in avanti si squarciò in mezzo e si sparsero fuori tutte le sue viscere. La cosa è divenuta così nota a tutti gli abitanti di Gerusalemme, che quel terreno è stato chiamato nella loro lingua Akeldamà, cioè Campo di sangue» (Act. 1, 16-19). Quando poi si dové decidere della sostituzione, in seno al Collegio dei Dodici, si pregò riguardo a chi scegliere al posto di Giuda per il posto che egli aveva «abbandonato per andarsene al posto da lui scelto» (Act. 1, 25) alludendo che il posto da lui scelto fosse … l’Inferno.
Quest’interessante contributo in inglese ci offre la possibilità di riflettere su questa figura del Nuovo Testamento.
On the Destiny of Judas Iscariot
From the traditional Collect for Holy Thursday (1962), it is clear past all doubt that the centuries-old of the Church teaches that Judas is lost, condemned forever to the fires of hell:
This conclusion was once taken for granted by everyone. Why, then, do so many people nowadays say that we “do not know” about Judas’s final destiny? To show that I am not exaggerating, take the former Father Thomas Williams of the Legionaires of Christ, in a ZENIT interview:
But does this position make any sense? Consider it, first, simply from the Scriptural evidence. Our Lord says: “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but ” (Mt 26:24). Now, of a man who falls into mortal sin but then repents—such as Peter, who also betrayed Christ, or Saul, who persecuted Jesus by hunting down Christians—it is to say “it were better for him if he had not been born,” that is, “if he had never existed at all.” For it is only those who are condemned to suffer eternally the unspeakable torments of hell of whom it can be said with any truth: it were better for them if they had never existed. On the contrary, a mortal sinner who repents brings joy to the angels (Lk 15:10) and inherits the kingdom of heaven; he is not an object of “woe,” and it is eminently that such a man be born, for he can then assume an office like that of the first Pope or of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and after death he will enjoy the beatific vision forever. So the only way Jesus’ words can be true is if Judas is lost due to unrepented mortal sin.
All this squares, of course, which what is narrated of Judas’s death: “And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and ” (Mat 27:5)—that is, he made a gesture of despair, and then committed suicide, which is a mortal sin. Such an end was fitting to the only close follower of Jesus characterized in the Gospels as given over to the devil: “And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve” (Lk 22:3); “And after the morsel, Satan entered into him” (Jn 13:27).
Saint Peter bears witness to this understanding of Judas’s death and damnation in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:
After two candidates are put forth, Joseph and Matthias, the account continues:
The first Pope argues that Judas, by his transgression, fell away from the apostleship forever. Note that Judas was the apostle whose place had to be filled after his death. When James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2), Peter and the others did not appoint another man as a James substitute. There were to the apostles (and many more than twelve of them!), but no other Ultimately, all of the original eleven together with Matthias left this world in death to become the everlasting foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). Put simply, an apostle who died in a state of grace is an apostle forever, irreplaceable, going to his reward as a perrmanent foundation stone of the Church. This can only mean that Judas, who to be replaced, died in sin and lost his ministry and apostleship forever. He went “to his own place,” that is, the place that befitted him: hell.
This conclusion, which squares so well with the Scriptural evidence, is found throughout the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Of countless testimonies, a few examples will suffice. Pope St. Leo the Great teaches that Judas never repented of his grave sin—that he committed suicide out of despair, adding guilt to guilt:
St. Augustine holds exactly the same view:
From the Eastern tradition, we have St. Ephrem the Syrian:
And St. Ephrem once again:
St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “To save Judas would … be contrary to [God’s] foreknowledge and disposition, ; hence it is not the order of justice [as such] that renders impossible Judas’s salvation, but the order of eternal foreknowledge and disposition” ( dist. 46, qu. 1, art. 2, qa. 2, ad 3), and says matter-of-factly:
And the Seraphic Virgin St. Catherine of Siena, in her usual no-nonsense way, does not beat around the bush:
It should seem obvious that Judas is lost, for two reasons: first, the words of Jesus make no sense otherwise; second, he is depicted as killing himself in despair, which is a mortal sin (despair, one of the worst) leading to another mortal sin (suicide). The Church in the past did not even allow suicides to be buried in church grounds because it was taken for granted that anyone who could hate the gift of life enough to snub it out obviously could not have the love of God in his heart. Nowadays we are more attentive to the psychological confusion and anarchy that many people, especially in the modern world, can be trapped in, but this does not make suicide neutral or inoffensive. It remains objectively the gravest sin against human life, because it is a sin directed against the person’s very own life, for which he has been given the deepest natural love (“love your neighbor ”). The one who commits suicide in a state of despair is rejecting the very basis for the love of any other person, human or divine.
Let us return to contemporary theology. If it is possible that Judas is not in hell, would there not be an equally good reason to ask, quite sincerely, if is in hell? This brings us, of course, to Hans Urs von Balthasar’s infamous question: “Dare we hope that all men be saved?”
In answering his question affirmatively, Balthasar makes a mockery of the whole sweep of unanimous Christian commentary on the Gospels from the apostolic age onwards and calls into question something that, for anyone who reads the very words of the Gospels and Epistles, would be a certainty: that there a hell and that souls do go down to it—Judas’s and vastly many more, as Our Lady of Fatima showed the children.
Given his own legerdemain, had Balthasar any right to complain when his contemporaries went about deconstructing the Gospels and the life of Christ? He himself had taken a doctrine that is utterly in its meaning—no empty threats of eternal punishment, but the really existing thing being spoken of as quite real and utterly certain for all who do not repent—and made it liquid, open-ended, full of question-marks. Once this sort of sophistical maneuvering is admitted, what happens to the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection or even the Divinity of Christ?
We are dealing here with just one more instance of how the Church today has gotten utterly confused by relativistic modern thinking instead of following in the hallowed footsteps of the great Fathers and Doctors. Those who are blessed to assist at the traditional Latin Mass are formed by the sound and stable doctrine with which the liturgy is suffused and to which it gives accurate and perennial witness. The preaching associated with the ancient Mass more often than not contains salutary reminders that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that we should fear not the one who can destroy the body but the One who can condemn the soul, that our eternal destiny is eternal happiness or endless misery.
In the ambit of the Mass of the ages, the lunacy of denying that there are many souls in hell, and more joining them each day, is nowhere to be found. We do not change the liturgy to suit our changing theology, cutting and pasting, scribbling and scratching out. Rather, we gratefully receive and humbly accept all that is handed down to us in the sacred liturgy—all of it, including the Collect for Holy Thursday. Tradition is our stable ground, our faithful interpreter of the Gospel of Christ the Lord.