Depending on the friar’s piety, the habit rosary is a little less than a pound, give or take a few saint medals. The weight of this devotional to Our Lady roughly equals that of 30 Tyrian shekels, the preferred currency of the Temple tax and the likely coinage weighed out for Judas. It’s not much. Strapped to his belt, he may not have noticed its presence, were it not for the jingling.
The bargain of Judas amounts to a pitiful profit. It profits a man nothing to gain the whole world … but for 30 pieces of silver? Richard Rich gained more by trading St. Thomas More for Wales.
How can we understand the foolishness and short-sightedness of Judas? Was it greed? He was known to steal from the common purse. Was it worldliness, a desire for a warrior Messiah that would reclaim Jerusalem? Was it what modern scholars say? That he was merely a victim of circumstances, driven to a thoughtless, panicked decision?
A passage from Exodus gives us insight. The Mosaic Law states, “If the ox gores a male or a female slave, the owner shall pay to the slave owner thirty shekels of silver” (Ex 21:32). Fulton Sheen believed that “Judas knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” Judas knew the cost of a slave and he valued Christ at that price. He did not value himself as a servant to the will of God; rather, he valued himself as the slave owner of God. It’s the highmark of foolishness to choose your way over God’s way.
Judas highlights the iniquity of man, but we should not lose sight of what is more important: the love of Christ. Jesus permits his friends to exchange him as a slave. This is all the more shocking when we realize that he no longer calls us slaves, but friends (Jn 15:15), and he also called Judas friend in the garden (Mt 26:50).
As we enter into the Triduum, the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord, we should take hold of our rosaries, whether 15 decades or 5, and allow its weight to keep us grounded. The Blessed Virgin gave everything over to God, valuing herself as His handmaid and servant. Unlike the folly of Judas, Mary’s fiat shows us the priceless worth of Wisdom:
Her profit is better than profit in silver,
and better than gold is her revenue. (Prv 3:14)
Image: Lippo Memmi, Betrayal of Judas (detail)