Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints the feet of Jesus but Judas protests that the oil could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. ~ John 12:1-11
Picture yourself on a beautiful summer evening, sitting around in lawn chairs in your backyard, talking with friends. As dusk descends you do not notice the fading light because your eyes adjust automatically to the gradual waning of the day. This illustrates how we can change gradually without noticing.
It seems almost inconceivable that Judas, an intimate of Jesus, could betray him for a pittance. But we are told that “[Judas] was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.” In short, stealing had become a habit with him. As the habit of stealing gradually grew, Judas’ conscience deadened as he rationalized why what he was doing “wasn’t so bad.”
In Paradise Lost, Satan slips into paradise during the evening twilight. “Twilight … the short arbiter twixt day and night” (IX, 50). Symbolically, Milton is representing the deadly process of arbitration that we enter into when we allow our conscience to make concessions. As the darkness of evil gradually and imperceptibly settles over our lives, we do not notice what is happening until it is too late.
Allegedly, when Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper he searched for models whose faces depicted his conceptions of each disciple. One Sunday, when da Vinci was attending Mass in the choir Cathedral, he spied a young man in the choir whose countenance captured da Vinci’s ideal image of Christ. The young man’s face embodied innocence, compassion, love, and tenderness.
Many years later, da Vinci had only one more disciple to paint — Judas. To find a man whose face would reflect deceit, avarice, a life of sin and despair, da Vinci scoured the prisons of Milan. There he found his subject, a man whose hardened features reflected a life of crime.
As the man was sitting in da Vinci’s studio to be painted, he began to cry. When the master asked him what was the matter, the poor wretch said, “Maestro, don’t you recognize me? I sat for you many years ago. I was the young man you painted to represent Jesus.
It is frightening that often we do not recognize the most drastic change in character that takes place within us until after it has been accomplished. Judas did not realize that whatever he stole from the common purse, he stole from himself. He robbed himself of his own humanity. The same is true with us. There is no such a thing as ‘petty’ theft, for no loss of soul is inconsequential.
~ A Meditation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D.