April 12, 2023

Second Homily for Holy and Great Wednesday (St. Luke of Simferopol)

The Heart That Became the Habitation of the Devil

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

With a shudder of heart we listen to the terrible story of Judas' betrayal of his Divine Teacher. Of course, deep indignation against the one about whom our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, “Did I not choose you twelve? But one of you is the devil” ( John 6:70 ), is quite understandable and legitimate.

Probably, the question arose in you more than once: why did the Lord, the Omniscient God, choose Judas among the twelve apostles, knowing what kind of person he was, knowing that he would betray Him?

What Judas did was foretold by the prophet David more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ. On behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, he says: “He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me” (Ps. 40:10). And in the 68th Psalm it is said: “Let his dwelling-place be desolate, let there be no one living in it, and let another take his dignity” (Ps. 68:26).

Everything that happened in the life of the Lord on earth, even before the creation of the world, was presented in the counsel of God: the fall of Adam and Eve was foreseen, the deep depravity of the human race was foreseen. It was decided that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Word, would descend to earth, incarnate, and by His preaching, by His death on the Cross, would save the perishing human race. And we are amazed by the abyss of love for perishing humanity, which gave rise to this decision. So, everything was foreseen and foreshadowed by the prophets. The sufferings of Christ were described by the holy prophet Isaiah so vividly, so strongly, as if he himself were present at them, for which he is called the Old Testament evangelist.

Why was Judas chosen among the disciples of Christ? Because what was to be fulfilled was foretold by the prophets. So it was pleasing to God, God provided, and so it had to happen.

The Lord said a terrible word about Judas at the Last Supper: “One of you will betray me. It would have been better for this man not to have been born” (Matt. 26:21-24), so terrible is his sin.

To understand why Judas was needed as an instrument of betrayal to the death of the Lord, I will say that in ancient times God more than once chose people mired in sins, hopeless for the truth, as vessels of His wrath.

Thus, He spoke through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel: ““Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off not a few nations... Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?" (Isaiah 10:5-15).

Such was Pharaoh, who did not want to let the people of Israel out of Egypt; such was the terrible king Nebuchadnezzar. So was Judas.

The Lord does not make anyone evil. Evil people are not born. Evil people are evil because they themselves choose the path of evil. They could have been kind, they could have avoided a terrible fate if they wanted to. Remember the basic, most important truth: God does not forcefully draw anyone to Himself, He does not force anyone to obey Him with fear and trembling. Only pure and free love pleases Him. Submission out of fear has no moral value.

However, let us look deeper into the heart of Judas, for in this way we can find an important lesson for ourselves.

And Judas, if he wanted to, could have avoided this terrible fate of betrayal. For three years he walked with other apostles for the Lord Jesus Christ; for three years I listened to His Divine speeches and witnessed great miracles performed by Him.

How much good and great things he saw and heard from his Teacher! How meekly the Savior treated him, even at that terrible hour of the Secret Supper, when he was ready to leave in order to betray the Lord to the high priests. He could have denounced Judas severely and angrily in front of everyone, but does not do this, but with deep sadness tells the disciples that one of them will betray Him, without even naming him.

He is waiting to see if the thought of betrayal will go out of Judas' heart, if he will repent of the evil deed that he is planning, if he will give up his intention to betray the Lord. But the evil in the heart of Judas had already reached such great strength that he was not even ashamed to ask, along with other disciples: “Is it me, Lord?”

The Lord even now did not rebuke the traitor in front of all the disciples, he only quietly said: “You said so.” It meant: "You confessed yourself, you will betray Me." And gave him the Holy Bread. “After the piece of bread, Satan entered into him,” says the holy Apostle John. Satan made his abode in the heart of Judas, just as the Holy Spirit makes the abode of hearts of pure and righteous people.

Satan does not immediately inhabit a person's heart, he does not have the power to enter it, especially if this heart is sanctified by the great Mysteries of Repentance and Communion. He did not immediately enter into the heart of Judas. He tempted Judas to evil and betrayal for a long time, probably even before he became an apostle, for we know from the Gospel that he was a thief, which means that earlier, before the apostleship, he was struck by the love of money.

When did Satan take complete control of Judas' heart? Then, when he had finally matured the decision to betray the Savior and the Holy Spirit left him.

But not only Judas was the habitation of the devil; many people are so mired in evil, lies, murders, theft, that evil spirits have moved into them. What happened to them was what the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about: “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, he journeys through dry places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then he says: 'I will return to my house, whence I came out.' And when he comes, he finds it unoccupied, swept and cleaned. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits worse than himself, and having entered, they dwell there. And sometimes for a person the last is worse than the first. So it will be with this evil generation” (Matt. 12:43-45).

This horror of the invading of an evil spirit threatens each of us, although we pray, partake of the Holy Mysteries; for the Body and Blood of Christ is not a talisman and not something that mechanically protects from all evil, from all the slanders of the devil and his angels. This is the great, immeasurable help of God in our fight against temptations from evil spirits, if our hearts are pure, if we do not sin constantly, day after day.

Let us keep in our hearts the word of the Savior: “The kingdom of God is taken by force, and only those who use force take it” (Matthew 11:12). We will wage a constant struggle against vices and passions and will not condemn anyone, remembering our sins. May our Lord and God Jesus Christ give us His all-powerful help, to Whom be glory and power with His Beginningless Father and the Most Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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