“Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; he would have left if he were honest.”

The Holy Father’s Angelus address from last Sunday.

There is something intriguing here. The full text of Pope Benedict’s Angelus message is below with my emphases and comments:

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the past few Sundays we have meditated on the “Bread of Life” discourse that Jesus pronounced in the synagogue of Capernaum after feeding thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes. Today, the Gospel presents the disciples’ reaction to that speech, a reaction that Christ Himself knowingly provoked. First of all, John the Evangelist – who was present along with the other Apostles – reports that “from that time many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him” (Jn 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe the words of Jesus when He said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever” (cf. Jn 6,51.54). This revelation, as I have said, remained incomprehensible to them, because they understood it in a material sense, while in these words was foretold the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, in which He would give Himself for the salvation of the world: the new presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Seeing that many of His disciples were leaving, Jesus addressed the Apostles, saying: “Will you also go away?” (Jn 6:67). As in other cases, it is Peter who replied on behalf of the Twelve: “Lord, to whom shall we go? – and we too can reflect: to whom shall we go? – You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and know that You are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). On this passage we have a beautiful commentary of St. Augustine, who says in one of his homilies on John 6: “Do you see how Peter, by the grace of God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has understood? Why did he understand? Because he believed. You have the words of eternal life. You give us eternal life by offering your risen body and your blood, your very self. And we have believed and understood. He does not say we have understood and then we believed, but we believed and then we understood. We have believed in order to be able to understand; if, in fact, we wanted to understand before believing, we would not be able either to understand or to believe. What have we believed and what have we understood? That You are the Christ, the Son of God, that is, that You are that very eternal life, and that You give in Your flesh and blood only that which You are” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 27, 9). So Saint Augustine said in a homily to his faithful people.  [Nisi credideritis non intelligetis!]

Finally, Jesus knew that even among the twelve apostles there was one that did not believe: Judas. Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. [Get that?  Had he been honest he would have gotten out.  He would have left.] Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master. Why? Because Judas felt betrayed by Jesus, and decided that he in turn would betray Him. Judas was a Zealot, and wanted a triumphant Messiah, who would lead a revolt against the Romans. [He wanted to reduce the Lord and His mission to the worldly.] Jesus had disappointed those expectations. The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil. This is why Jesus said to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” (John 6.70). We pray to the Virgin Mary, help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people.

Those who reduce the Church’s mission to the worldly, who reduce the supernatural to the natural, are like Judas.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. St. Louis IX says:

    Those who reduce the Church’s mission to the worldly, who reduce the supernatural to the natural, are like Judas.
    Well said!
    I was looking at the pic of Judas and the Devil removing a child from the belly of Judas. What does that mean? I always wondered why in the movie the Passion when our Lord is carrying His Cross, and they would show our Blessed Lady watching, Mary would see the Devil and he was holding a ugly child.What is the meaning of that? anyone? [The window takes its cue from medieval art where the soul of a person is sometimes portrayed as an infant. Also, it is related that as Judas hanged himself he was also disemboweled.]

  2. UncleBlobb says:

    I am struck by the( albeit negative) idea that maybe Judas thought he could stay in the Church to “reform it from within”, and perhaps Judas too saw everything in terms of the political?

  3. benedetta says:

    I think that this is absolutely brilliant.

  4. danidunn says:

    St. Louis IX:

    From Wikipedia:

    Other scenes unique to The Passion of the Christ include the one in which the crucified thief who taunted Jesus has his eye pecked out by a crow, and the flashback of the carpenter Jesus building an elevated, four-legged table for a Roman. The scene of Satan carrying a demonic baby during Christ’s flogging has been construed as a perversion of traditional depictions of the Madonna and Child. Mel Gibson described this scene as follows:
    “…it’s evil distorting what’s good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old ‘baby’ with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it’s almost too much – just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place.”[21]

  5. Michelle F says:

    I hadn’t heard that quote from St. Augustine before, and I’m glad that the Holy Father cited it. What St. Augustine says about belief preceding understanding is true in my experience. When I was deciding whether to enter the Catholic Church, there were some teachings that I didn’t like, and I didn’t understand them either. From what I had read up to that point, which was the new Catechism and a few other books, I could see that 99% of what the Church taught was true. I reasoned that since 99% was true, the other 1% must also be true, so I decided I would accept it (I would believe it) with the hope that someday I would understand and even like the other 1%.

    I am happy to report that I did eventually understand and even like the 1% with which I had some problems, but it took a while: around 3 years after I was baptized, which was approximately 5 years after I made the decision to join the Church.

    So, yes, St. Augustine is right: belief precedes understanding. I will add that belief may also be the prerequisite for understanding some teachings.

  6. Johnno says:

    Belief in God means that He knows what’s best even when we don’t so we then always humble ourselves in faith knowing that eventually in time we shall. Like a child who questions his father about a difficult topic and doesn’t quite comprehend what his father has said, but all the same trusts that his father knows better by virtue of being an adult and his father.

    Faith humbles. Humility then leads to patience. And patience to knowledge.

  7. Mariana says:

    Thank you, Father!

  8. St. Louis IX says:

    Thank you Father Z and danidunn for the answers about the window and the scene in the movie the Passion.

  9. Thomas in MD says:

    Wow. The Holy Father just fulfilled the media hype about a “Vatican crackdown” on the American nuns. Ouch. I pray they will hear and understand.

  10. anna 6 says:

    In my parish the theme “belonging precedes believing” is the philosophy behind practically every parish activity. Is there a conflict with this concept vs. “belief precedes understanding”?

    Thanks for sharing the Holy Father’s beautiful words.

  11. FaithfulCatechist says:

    [He wanted to reduce the Lord and His mission to the worldly.]

    Which is what happens to many well-meaning Catholics in their zeal for “social justice”, I would submit.

  12. FaithfulCatechist says:

    He wanted to reduce the Lord and His mission to the worldly.

    Which is what happens to many well-meaning Catholics in their zeal for “social justice”, I would submit.

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  14. Andrew Pessin, a philosopher who blogs at HuffPo says that there are three options for people who disagree with the religion of which they are a member:

    There are three basic options. First, you can choose to give up the religion. Second, you can comply with the religion in practice while working on getting yourself to accept its uncomfortable doctrines. And third, you can comply with the religion while working from within on changing the religion itself. Each of these, however, has its virtues and vices.

    And he goes on from there. For me, it’s an interesting exercise to imagine what groups in our Church would apply which tactic.

  15. HeatherPA says:

    Pray at least once a day for our dear Holy Father. He is so brilliant and is trying so very hard. Thank God for his papacy in these dark times!!!

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