In the Spanish town of Villaralto, Judas plays a bigger role in the Easter celebrations even than Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, the townspeople hang out life-size, straw figures of Judas over the main streets. After mass on Easter Sunday, the town gathers in the streets to share hot chocolate and biscuits and join in the ceremonial destruction of these Judas figures.
Judas has long been a hate-figure in Christian mythology. He represents those parts of all of us which are disloyal, cowardly, easily-led and greedy. As the inhabitants of Villaralto lay into the straw images of Judas, they are symbolically expressing anger against him. But perhaps they are also angry because of their inability to deal with these and other failings when they become aware of them in themselves. They project onto Judas their frustration with themselves.
Jesus got very angry with some kinds of human sinfulness, especially the kind that involved exploiting others. But he was also understanding of human frailty and, according to one way of interpreting the events, appears even to have had some sympathy with Judas. He must have done him the honour, as it would have been seen, of inviting him to sit close to him at the last supper because surely Jesus’ virtually affirmative reply to Judas’s question “Is it I?” must have been sotto voce.
Jesus reacts to human failure more often with understanding, sympathy and forgiveness than with fury. His attitude to Judas, as to many others, suggests that God’s approach is gentler and more compassionate than it is angry. Perhaps we should react to those parts of our personalities and lives we find distressing with a similar gentleness and understanding.
Read: Jesus said: Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9.2)
Rejoice: in Jesus’ understanding of our weakness.
Reflect: which failures in my life do I find particularly distressing?
Remember: they are forgiven.
Resolve: to check when I feel angry with others that I’m not really angry with myself.