IT WERE BETTER FOR HIM HAD HE NEVER BEEN BORN

“The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) These words, even applied though it is Judas to whom they are applied, are astonishingly harsh, and yet they are not only applicable to Judas. Jerome writes, “it is better not to be, than to be in evil.” And, as Guardini writes, this could apply to any of us:

Aren’t there many days in our lives on which we sell him, against our best knowledge, against our most sacred feeling, in spite of duty and love, for some vanity, or sensuality, or profit, or security, or some private hatred or vengeance? Are these more than thirty pieces of silver? We have little cause to speak of “the traitor” with indignation or as someone far away and long ago.

In Acts 1:20 St Peter applies Psalm 108 [109]: 8 to Judas. It is profitable to read the whole Psalm in that light:

[1] Be not silent, O God of my praise!
[2] For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
[3] They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
[4] In return for my love they accuse me,
even as I make prayer for them.
[5] So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
[6] Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser bring him to trial.
[7] When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
[8] May his days be few;
may another take his post!
[9] May his children be fatherless,
and his wife a widow!
[10] May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit!
[11] May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
[12] Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
[13] May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
[14] May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
[15] Let them be before the LORD continually;
and may his memory be cut off from the earth!
[16] For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted to their death.
[17] He loved to curse; let curses come on him!
He did not like blessing; may it be far from him!
[18] He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
[19] May it be like a garment which he wraps round him,
like a belt with which he daily girds himself!
[20] May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD,
of those who speak evil against my life!
[21] But thou, O GOD my Lord,
deal on my behalf for thy name’s sake;
because thy steadfast love is good, deliver me!
[22] For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
[23] I am gone, like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
[24] My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
[25] I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
[26] Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to thy steadfast love!
[27] Let them know that this is thy hand;
thou, O LORD, hast done it!
[28] Let them curse, but do thou bless!
Let my assailants be put to shame; may thy servant be glad!
[29] May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle!
[30] With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
[31] For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save him from those who condemn him to death

In praying this Psalm it is good to reflect that our Lord might apply it to us, and to be astonished at His mercy in being ready, eager not to do so, but to forgive us.

2 thoughts on “IT WERE BETTER FOR HIM HAD HE NEVER BEEN BORN

  1. In the Vulgate it has only 30 verses. I can’t remember whether it’s Bellarmine or someone else who says that this represents the 30 pieces of silver.

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