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Commentaries

Preparing for
Christmas: Giving
first to those in need

Even to Judas

The 3 Masses
of Christmas

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placeholder December 16, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
Even to Judas

We were sitting in a high room above the chapel and although it was Christmas Eve my good friend, the dominie (pastor), seemed curiously troubled. And that was strange, for he was a man extremely sensitive to the festivities of his faith.

The joys and sorrows of Jesus were not to him events of a remote past but more current and living happenings than the headlines in the newspapers. At Christmas he seems actually to hear the voice of the herald angels.

My friend is an old man, and I have known him for many years, but this was the first time the Nativity failed to rouse him to an ecstasy. He admitted to me something was wrong.

"Tomorrow," he said, "I must go down into that chapel and preach a Christmas sermon. And I must speak of peace and good-will toward men. I know you think of me as a man too cloistered to be of any use to my community. And I know that our world is one of war and hate and enmity. And you, my young friend, and others keep insisting that before there can be brotherhood there must be the bashing of heads. You are all for good-will to men, but you want to note very many exceptions. And I am still hoping and praying that in the great love of God the final seal of interdiction must not be put on even one. You may laugh at me, but right now I am wondering about how Christmas came to Judas Iscariot."

It is the habit of my friend, when he is troubled by doubts, to reach for the Book, and he did so now. He smiled and said: "Will you assist me in a little experiment? I will close my eyes and you hold out the Bible to me. I will open it at random and run my fingers down a page. You read me the text which I blindly select."

I did as he told me and he happened on St. Matthew 26:24. I felt sorry for him, for this was no part of the story of the birth of Christ but instead an account of the great betrayal.

"Read what it says," commanded the dominie. And I read: "Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, 'Master, is it I?' He said unto him, 'Thou hast said.'"

My friend frowned, but then he looked at me in triumph. "My hand is not as steady as it used to be. You should have taken the lower part of my finger and not the top. Read the 27th verse. It is not an eighth of an inch away. Read what it says." And I read, "And He took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it.'"

"Mark that," cried the old man exultantly, "not even to Judas, the betrayer, was the wine of life denied. I can preach my Christmas sermon now, and my text will be 'Drink ye all of it.' Good-will toward men means good-will to every last son of God. Peace on earth means peace to Pilate, peace to the thieves on the cross and peace to poor Iscariot."

I was glad, for he had found Christmas and I saw by his face that once more he heard the voice of the herald angels.

(Heywood Broun, founding president of the Newspaper Guild and later in his life a convert to Catholicism, wrote this column for the New York World-Telegram in 1938. The headline is the one used then.)


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