"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” 
They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
(Matt 26:14-16)
In today's gospel Judas seeks out the chief priests to bargain for the life of someone who is supposed to be his best friend. Later, he is able to look Jesus in the eyes and ask, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"  Judas has become cold and calculating. How does someone get to this point?

The Banality of Evil

Most of us imagine that committing truly great evils is reserved for some especially depraved subset of human beings. 'Monsters', we might call them. But the reality is quite different.

A book published in 1963 coined the phrase 'the banality of evil.' That book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann, one of the principle authors of the Holocaust.

Her conclusion regarding Eichmann: far from being the stereotypical psychopath that we might imagine, he was a relatively unintelligent joiner who thought primarily in stock phrases and cliches. Eichmann made his choices primarily for small personal gains...to get ahead in the organization.

Those petty motives contributed directly to the deaths of 6 million people.

The Little Things

I suspect that if we could get into a time machine and visit Judas, we would find that he, too, would be a strikingly average person. Contrary to modern literary works and theater productions who have tried to find some grand justification for Judas' actions, the Gospel seems to ascribe no great motive to him beyond simple greed.

He started out taking a little here and there, and ended up taking the Lord's life.

It all happened in a series of little acts...all of which made perfect sense to him in the moment, but gradually brought him to the point where we see him today.

We are, unfortunately, capable of the same thing.

The Pilgrimage of Life

When I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2016, among the things I learned was that a pilgrimage is a series of small steps--each one seemingly unimpressive. It is amazing how far you go by just repeating the same undramatic actions.

The truth is, we are all pilgrims. We are all walking toward a destination by tiny steps--steps so small that we sometimes don't even notice them.

We are either on a path toward God, or away from him. The question is, which are we on?

Are we, like Eichmann or Judas, moving slowly away from love and goodness? It is easy to do: just focus on something other than loving God and neighbor...like a political party, ideology, organization or personal goal. Then stop being self-reflective, ignore the already faint voice of your conscience and start walking. You will, sadly, get where you are headed.

But the same is true in the other direction. As St. Therese reminds us:
"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love."
So, we need to examine ourselves and see which road we are on. It's not to late to change directions. Just as small steps carried you to where you are now, they can carry you back. St. Therese gives the following advice:
"Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love."
So, start today. Lace up your boots, point your nose in the direction of heaven and start taking those small strides toward God.

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