On Judas and Notre Dame

If you’re not following the Shameless Popery blog, you’re missing out. Not only is the author a regular writer, but he writes in a way that is both deeply theological while also being easy to read. His piece this week on Judas is no different, and it should give us some pause as we finish Lent and enter Easter.

I worry that we glaze over the Apostle Judas in the Bible. We are so focused on all the “good” Apostles and on Judas’ betrayl that we miss a very glaring point: we are very much like Judas. Don’t believe me? Let’s look deeper.

We only see Judas a few times, but one of the early accounts is when Mary of Bethany washes Jesus’ feet. Judas is the Apostle that openly states Jesus should have sold the oil to help the poor, which leads to a sharp rebuke from Jesus.

“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.”

The point here is that no matter how hard you try, there will always be poverty. You can blame it on a distribution problem, a governance problem, or a social justice problem. Even when people have enough material goods, they are too often poor in spirit (see the rise in depression in the United States). The poor will always be with us, and they demand that we do good for them, as proof of our faith.

That is why “good works” is required along with “faith” for salvation. But it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be beautiful things in the world. It doesn’t mean that we all live in poverty and push all our worldly goods to others in a vain attempt to end poverty. In fact, if we aren’t building wealth, we won’t have anything to give to the poor in the first place.

That’s also why we have buildings like the Notre Dame cathedral, which while owned by the state is financed and run by the Catholic Church. It wasn’t long until non-social media began pushing the narrative that the Church doesn’t care about the poor because it was easily finding money to fix Notre Dame. Never mind that the cathedral is a huge draw for the city of Paris, or that the Church pays for all the employees and upkeep costs since the 1905 accords. That doesn’t stop people from using a tragedy to continue tearing down something beautiful.

Judas never saw the point in this. When Jesus attempted to get him to lift his gaze upwards, all Judas could do was count the money and cost. This doesn’t mean he was a bad person at the start. Remember, he did give up everything to follow Jesus, and he was there witnessing the miracles that Jesus performed. But somewhere along the way, his focus shifted from what Jesus preached to more worldly concerns. Jesus didn’t scold Judas for poorly managing money, instead, he rebukes him for thinking that is the sole reason for living.

But are we so different? Whether it is how we misunderstand poverty, think about the Eucharist, or how we try to cover up our sins, Judas’ story rings true on some level to us all. As we celebrate Easter, we shouldn’t forget this. Instead of glazing over his story in the Bible, perhaps we should read it more closely to learn its lessons.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.