Shouldn’t we forgive Judas?

The bible is full of stories about people who broke God’s commandments, but none have gotten quite as bad a rap as Judas. Why is that? Jeanette in Massachusetts found The Patrick Madrid Show about a month ago, and she has enjoyed it so much that she called in to ask a question that had been on her mind: “I feel that the Church has maligned Judas for too long. What is the reason for that?”

“That’s a great question!” replied Madrid. “I think because all the biblical evidence points to him being a real scoundrel. So if you take, for example, what Jesus said in John chapter 6, you’ll see that Jesus identifies—not by name in that passage—but he identifies one of the people who didn’t accept his teaching on the Eucharist and he says this person who doesn’t believe is a devil, and the author, St. John, he puts almost parenthetically he’s referring to the one who would betray him, Judas.”

“So Our Lord was very harsh in some of the things he said about Judas. He also said it would be better for that man if he had never been born. So just some of these statements from the Lord and the scriptural description of Judas as the betrayer, the one who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver … conniving with the scribes and the Pharisees, doing things behind Christ’s back. I think, for those reasons, it seems to paint such a grim picture of Judas that I don’t really see a whole lot of good that we can say about him. So my sense is that’s probably where that’s coming from,” said Madrid.

“Well if you look at the forgiveness of sin, and based on the tenant, if you want forgiveness it will be given to you. Now don’t you think that he should be covered under that?” asked Jeanette.

“I like that you have a loving heart and you’re seeking mercy and forgiveness even for Judas. So I think that’s a good approach to situations like this. But my thoughts would be: ultimately the people who receive the mercy that the Lord wants to give them are those who are willing to receive it. And it seems, based upon the biblical evidence, that Judas, because he committed suicide, that he despaired of God’s forgiveness and he despaired that he could ever recover his standing and so he left this world—it seems, we don’t know with absolute certitude—but it seems as though he left as an enemy of God not as a friend of God. So he died, it would seem, in the state of mortal sin, in which case we can assume, hypothetically, that he did not receive that forgiveness. God’s not going to force it on anyone,” said Madrid.

“If Christ were to be present with Judas, do you think that he would forgive him?” Jeanette wondered.

“He would forgive him if Judas wanted to be forgiven. Remember what Jesus said when he was dying on the cross – he said, looking at all the people participating in his crucifixion: Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. So the Lord is, as the bible says, quick to forgive. He’s always ready with the grace of forgiveness but he won’t force it on you, or me, or Judas,” said Madrid.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.