How Far Does Divine Mercy Reach?
Have you ever wondered if Judas Iscariot, the Apostle and betrayer of Jesus Christ, received God’s mercy and redemption? So many assume he earned hell, but experiencing for myself the great mercy of God, I am not so sure.
We are not told under what circumstances Judas first encountered Jesus; only that he was his disciple. After a night in prayer with God the Father, Jesus chose Judas along with eleven others to be one of his inner circle of disciples, called Apostles (Luke 6:12-16).
As an Apostle, Judas traveled with Jesus for the three years of his public ministry helping as the Lord healed, preached, and proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God. He prayed with Jesus and learned from him how to properly worship and consider God as our Father. Judas witnessed Jesus perform numerous healings and exorcisms, walking on the water, and bringing Lazarus and the young man from Naim back to life. Judas assisted in distributing the loaves and fishes that Jesus miraculously multiplied. Judas was one of the many disciples Jesus sent out under his authority going two-by-two to surrounding villages to preach the Gospel and heal disease and free those possessed by demons.
The mark we hear against Judas is that he stole from the money bag that contained the contributions for Jesus’ ministry. However, on the Thursday of Passover before Jesus’ Passion and Death, Judas was included among those for whom Jesus washed their feet. When Jesus told his Apostles one of them would betray him, Judas seemed as confused as the others about whom it could be. No one assumed it was Judas (John 13:22). Even when Jesus sent Judas away with the words, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” it is said,
“None of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him” (John 13:28).
Could this mean that Judas had another intention in mind besides betrayal when he exchanged the whereabouts of Jesus to the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver; what today would be only between $100-$400—hardly a life-changing sum?
I wonder if the sin of greed was instead just the opening Satan used to enter Judas. Perhaps he used the sin of greed to twist Judas’ thinking with the age-old lie, “you can become like gods” (Genesis 3:5), amping up his desire for money to include ambition and notoriety. Did Judas convince himself that he had a better plan than Jesus for bringing about the Kingdom of God? When Judas brought the temple soldiers to Jesus, was he forcing a confrontation in hopes of waging a divine battle? Did he imagine his scheme would earn him a high place in God’s Kingdom? To be the hero? The victor for Christ?
Sin escalates when left unrepented. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 185) states:
“Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.’ In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.”
Truth convicted Judas when, upon greeting Jesus, he heard him respond, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47)
When we are convicted in truth because of something we did against God, our Catholic faith teaches us to immediately repent and ask for forgiveness. If we believe our sin is a mortal one, we should as soon as possible receive the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation. Once forgiven by God, Satan has no more control over us through our repented sin.
The reason Judas intrigues me so is because, like him, I fell into mortal sin. Due to intense shame and the false belief God would not forgive me, I did not ask for it. I lived an entire year with hell snapping at my ankles. It was at total despair, feeling myself slipping forever into the dark abyss that I encountered Jesus. I felt his presence kneeling at my side with his hand stretched toward me. In my imagination I heard a voice, “Take his hand!” and I did. In his Divine Mercy, our Lord came to me, lifted me up and brought me home to the Catholic Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
What became of Judas?
Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).
Before he committed suicide, Judas demonstrated what a repentant sinner is called to do (Matthew 27:3-5):
- Feel remorse for sin (I have betrayed innocent blood)
- Confess (to the priests in authority of the time)
- Make reparations (returning the silver coins)
How Far Does Divine Mercy Reach?
It is as Jesus told St. Faustina (Divine Mercy in my Soul, no. 1507):
“All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the good of God; even if the person’s sins were dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.”
Like me, Judas—in his shame and regret—did not engage Jesus, seeking his forgiveness. He did, I believe, through his remorse, confession and reparation, “set ajar the door of his heart,” allowing “a ray of God’s merciful grace” to flow into the precious few seconds between the hanging from the rope and the breaking of his neck.
That gives me great hope… There is no place Divine Mercy does not reach.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, as a writer, Missionary of Hope, Prayer Intercessor, Speaker Team member, and Volunteer for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.
Nan, thank you for asking this question in relation to Judas’ betrayal, clearly showing Judas’ realization that he had made some very real, grave choices and his regret. His complete fall into deep despair, along the words about it being better that he not have been born is as far as I ever went in thought. I simply felt it’s a mystery that I won’t know while living on earth; as it being between Jesus and Judas, and ultimately up to our all knowing and merciful God.
I wonder if Judas simply wasn’t aware how deep God’s mercy is. If he had ever witnessed God’s mercy when someone had committed a grave sin, in his lifetime.
I wonder if he ever cried out to God for mercy. If not, was it because he felt he had committed too great a sin that was not just against a friend, or mere man, but the Son of God. After returning blood money and thinking they intended to proceed with their plans to kill Jesus, I wonder if he felt deeper despair thinking there was nothing else he could do to stop them from killing Jesus and right the wrong he had done. He may have felt he could have only relied upon himself. Perhaps, at some point, he isolated himself, by focusing upon himself.
Those precious moments you mentioned…I think God alone knows. Knowing of God’s mercy in my life, the words “God alone knows” means to me II’m trusting God for the best, merciful loving care.
Paragraph 1507 and your article remind me of St.Faustina’s paragraph 950 “Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your Holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
We are never alone; we just have live knowing, believing, and entrusting ourselves to God’s care.