Any wrong or insult which is done to us would surely be made worse if it was done by a friend. It’s one thing to be cheated by a stranger but quite another when that person has spent the past few years enjoying our company, sharing meals with us and even participating in some of our life’s most significant moments. Indeed, so grave is the crime of treachery that Dante assigned it the lowest, and most terrible, circle of Hell.
Deep down at the centre of the Inferno, in Dante’s vision, sits the Devil, whose ultimate act of Treason, rejecting God himself, started the story of Sin, Death and Destruction. Second only to the Devil and the fallen angels in Dante’s depiction of Hell is Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus. Indeed, so closely connected are the Devil’s primal betrayal and Judas’ treachery that Luke noted in his Gospel that it was Satan who entered Judas and convinced him to turn his back on Christ and hand him over to the chief priests (Luke 22:3).
Of course Dante did not in fact know the fate of Judas and no living person does. Even though the Lord told his apostles that it would have been better for the traitor ‘had he not been born’, we do not know what wonders God may yet have worked for this soul that betrayed him (Matt 26:24). However, as The Sacred Triduum begins tomorrow and we turn our minds to consider the great wonder God worked for all of us, reconciling us with himself through the Passion and Death of his Son, we can today pause to note that the glorious victory of God began in a moment of ignominious betrayal. We can be renewed in confidence today, that no matter how bad things are or seem to be, God can bring light out of darkness – indeed he has already done so.