Arrest of Christ by Master of the Evora Altarpiece

Cardinal Manning writes: “Judas is an example how a soul once innocent may be slowly changed into the worst sin.” He shows how a virtuous person can slide little by little into the gravest sins:

“We may also meditate on the fall of Judas, whose example is nearer to us than we are wont to imagine. The greatness of his sin deceives many. We believe ourselves to be in no danger of such a guilt, and we forget that the sin of Judas had once a beginning as fair as the sin we may be committing at this hour: and in the end we may fall from God as deliberately as he did.”

What of his childhood? “It is a very awful and touching thought that Judas was once an innocent child like as we were; that he was the object of a mother’s love, as tender as ever we have known; that perhaps in boyhood he may have lived in the holy fear of the God of Israel more watchfully than ever we lived in the light of the Holy Trinity; the days of his youth were as blameless perhaps as ours; morning and evening came and went, as to us, with their joys and their sorrows, their fears and their hopes of manhood, and the works of life.”

And what of Judas’ calling? “All that we know is, that he was called to be an Apostle—that he obeyed the call. So far, perhaps, he did more than we have done in corresponding with grace. In this grace he persevered, in the fellowship of Jesus, sharing in His toil and weariness, hunger and thirst, shame and contradiction. He heard His parables, and saw His mighty works of power. What could we have done more?”

How did he fall? “‘He having the purse, carried the things that were put therein’ (John 12:6); and the sin of covetousness sprang up in him. But the seeds of it are also in us. His office led him into the occasions of sin. He was tempted, and fell, and should we have stood firm? He was living in the midst of all that ought to have sanctified him, without being sanctified by it. All without was holy, and ministered grace to him; but within there was a heart-sin which resisted the Holy Ghost; and this spiritual contradiction gradually threw out the habit, and the design, and the daring, by which he fell.”

Manning notes: “He went and made restitution, ‘casting down the pieces of silver in the temple.’ He himself confessed that he had sinned in ‘betraying the innocent blood.’ Have we done as much in many a fall?”

Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, The Love of Jesus to Penitents (Dublin: James Duffy, 1866).

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