March 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 8

Judas Haunting

By Rev. Ray Petrucci

Photo of a hand holding two 25 cent pieces

The poor, the needy, the dispossessed of the world cry out for help every day. Whether through natural or manmade disasters, those who have less turn to those who have more. Save the world! The television announcer exclaims that it only takes pennies a day. Opportunities abound for the charitable soul to apply a dressing on the wounds of the suffering human masses. Solicitations via the media reach nearly every home. People sit for endless hours at card tables outside of supermarkets inviting harried shoppers to contribute something to their worthy cause. Unfortunately, these tireless advocates may be met with an annoyed look from customers who already have been approached by the cashier who checked their purchases to contribute to another good cause. Without realizing it, people help the poor through their federal and local taxes. Most weeks, there is a special collection at Church for a particular need. Many celebrities have adopted the practice of organizing benefit concerts where they offer their talents as a way of raising funds to aid the victims of some catastrophe.

Jesus proclaimed that the poor will be here always. It seems so. Despite the multi-billions of dollars spent on the problem – poverty continues. The poor are here still. One persistent reason for the apparent futility of effectively addressing the problem of poverty is the stubborn presence of the great betrayer – corruption. No matter the amount of financial and material aid sent to relieve the downtrodden and destitute of a country, it will do no good if it does not get to them. Millions of dollars of aid ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and tons of food meant for the starving poor goes to feed the greedy rich. Disturbing stories persist that highly nutritious food stuffs meant for crowds of nearly skeletal refugees was directed instead to feed the hungry armies of some despotic state. These Judases double-cross the generous people who reach out to those in need. The vile avarice of the few detours the good works of the many. It is as if the specter of Judas walks the world. About the only aspect of character that scripture relates concerning Judas is that he was a thief. It would be wise if charitable organizations and individuals promote the slogan: You stop the corruption, we start the aid. In spite of the frustratingly vague moral standards of the modern world, there is evidence of a universal disgust over corruption thwarting charity.

The war between divine and satanic forces for the hearts of mankind rages on. The battlefields are defined not only among nations, societies, and political parties, but also among neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes. God's gamble with human freedom will be over only when people take seriously their status as children of God and accept their obligations as such.

We have not surrendered our lives to bloodless evil, but neither are we in fiery pursuit of goodness. We stare into an abyss so deep we cannot glimpse its bottom, and at the same time raise our eyes to the mountain tops that are unreachable. And we stand between them wavering, unsettled and uncommitted.

– Hildegarde of Bingen

Creeds vary, but the dogmas of the major religions generally hold that men and women are the sons and daughters of God. This tenet raises questions about the relationship of individuals and groups toward one another. To love God, to love one's neighbor, and to love one's self presents an assortment of claims that people may execute on one another and that an individual may direct toward him- or herself. Love does that. At all levels of human socialization, there must be a sense of responsibility for the common good and the welfare of all members of the community. The personal and communal accountability expressed in such a statement requires a strong and virtuous conscience within all involved. Capricious human nature has quite a task on its hands. Yet, this struggle to reach and hold the moral high ground is the only hope that this planet has. Perhaps Lent in conjunction with all of its cousins in other faiths may yet prevail against the dark shadows of ill will. Then, the terror of alienation and subjugation may loosen its grip upon the throat of the spiritually and materially wanting of the world.

One's mode of living will be guided by the glow of the baptismal flame or will be illumined by the light of torches carried by the Temple guards showing the way for Judas.