Friday, 12 March 2010

Any questions?

No sooner had Father Ignatius faced a curve ball question from one of his parishioners ill in hospital, that he faced another one that very evening.

He was chairing the monthly “Any Questions” meeting at the Parish Hall. This is an event he had initiated some time ago whereby parishioners and their guests gather of an evening, and after refreshments of tea, coffee, hot chocolate drinks and cakes, they sit in cinema fashion and ask him any question totally un-prepared. Usually the questions are about the day to day running of the church, or the two Catholic schools nearby; but more often than not there are some questions about Christianity and the Catholic Faith.

Father Ignatius was convinced that the hot drinks and cakes were the main attraction; but he was assured this was not the case.

His curve ball came from a young lady sitting at the front.

“Father,” she said, “I can’t help feeling sorry for Judas. What chance did he really have? He had to betray Jesus; because if he didn’t do so, he’d be going against God’s will. So what choice or free will did Judas have?”

The priest put down his cup of coffee and cleaned his spectacles; a trick he had learnt in order to gain time.

“Would it help if I say I don’t know the answer to this?” he said eventually.

After a short pause the young lady continued, “well Father, I don’t understand the difference between our free will, or Judas’ free will, to do as we wish, and pre-destination to do what God has determined will happen.”

Before the priest could answer a man put up his hand and said: “Oddly enough, I was reading about this the other day. In John Chapter 17 I think it was. When Jesus was praying for His disciples He says to God something like ‘I kept the disciples safe. Not one was lost except the one who was meant to be lost so that the Scriptures may come true.’ This implies that Judas had no choice. He was pre-programmed as it were to betray Jesus.”

A few of the audience murmured at this; perhaps they hadn't read or heard about it.

“Free will and pre-destination are matters which have taxed many a learned brain over the centuries,” replied Father Ignatius gently, “and no doubt they will continue to do so.

“I am not God, and so I do not have a definite answer for you. But I assure you I will ask Him when I get to meet Him.

“In the meantime, let us consider the question a bit more.

“When God created us He had two choices.

“He could have created a species of robots. All pre-programmed to obey Him, to love Him and to do His will without question.

“And how trouble-free that would have been! No sin, no rebellion, no satan.

“But God loved us so much that He gave us a precious gift. He gave us the gift to choose. He allowed us to decide whether to love Him back, or not.

“When He invited us to return His love for us, He did so with no coercion whatsoever from His part. Love given freely by Him, and returned freely by us; but only if we want to.

“Hence our free will to choose.

“We are free to decide what we do with our lives. To love and obey Him, or to go our own way.

“Yet having said so, there are instances in the Bible where God does lead, or encourage, certain people in some direction. Look at the way he nudged Paul on the way to Damascus for instance.”

The audience laughed.

“You may well laugh,” continued Father Ignatius, “but God may have seen some good qualities in Paul which could come useful in furthering God’s Word on earth. And how right He was!

“After all, why should the devil have all the good talent?”

The audience laughed again.

“So …,” went on the priest after they had settled down, “whilst on the face of it there is some evidence, in our eyes, that God does lead us in some direction it is somewhat presumptuous on our part to try to analyze when this is pre-destination and when it is free will.

“But this so-called evidence is in our eyes only. Because we try to understand God in human terms. Something we should not do, in my opinion, because we are humans and He is not.

“By analyzing Him in human terms we bring Him down to our level. And this is wrong.

“God does not want us to understand Him and analyze His motives. He wants us to love Him and to dare to obey Him, in blind Faith, in the sure knowledge that He knows what He is doing.

“Can we do that? Dare to obey Him without question?

“And not want to serve God in an advisory capacity. But as obedient children, trusting His every word and action.”

The priest stopped for a second and sipped his coffee.

“Let Him be God and let us be humans. And let us always be willing to listen to Him when He leads us in a certain direction” continued Father Ignatius.

“I really cannot tell you whether Judas was pre-programmed, as you put it, or not. But I trust God to know the answer to that question and to have dealt with it with compassion, fairness and love.

“Finally, I wish to say this.

“I did not fall out of bed one morning and decide to become a priest. At the time, I felt led by God to follow the path to priesthood. It was a gradual process, it took time and it took a lot of thinking and praying … and eventually, I knew that He was calling me.

“God may well be calling some of you these days. Not necessarily into the priesthood, but to listen to Him and His will for you.

“I pray that you’d be listening when He calls you to do whatever He asks of you in this life.”


  1. Great post Victor and deeply thought provoking as ever! I was thinking, for all we know, Hitler may have been given a road to Damascus encounter in his early days and chose to ignore it. Wonder what history would have turned out like in that case?

  2. You got it just right Shadowlands.

    We do get a road to Damascus moment, maybe not as dramatic as Paul's, but we have the option to ignore it. That's His great gift to us. The choice!

    God bless you Shadowlands.

  3. Excellent! Everyone has probably wondered these same things. I know I have. Very well done! Cathy

  4. Thank you Cathy. So nice to see you visiting here.

    God bless you and your family.

  5. Thanks for sharing some great insights into Gods Word

  6. I love what you do with Fr Ignatius. You so wonderfully combine teaching with splendid characterisation - I really felt like I was at this meeting! What a great way to expound the Catholic faith. Please keep these stories coming!

  7. My son has recently asked me this same question as we were listening to the soundtrack for Jesus Christ Superstar and Judas sings that God had murdered him for making him the one who betrayed Jesus.

    It is a super tough question to answer, but what I told my son was that the writers of that song were taking creative liberties to make the story more interesting, when really, we all have free will, and Judas could have said no to the pharisees and not turned Jesus in. If he hadn't then isn't it possible that someone else might have? God must have known that it would happen, but not necessarily who the one would be who would break down and do it. He must always be hoping that even though we are all sinners, that our hearts are always turning closer to Him and clinging to His goodness. We all have a chance to amend our lives and follow Christ.

  8. Hello Old Geezer,

    Thank you for your kind words. It's great to see you visiting again.

    Hi Athanasius,

    It's so good to see you here and commenting. Welcome. Thank you for your kind words. I hope to see you here again.

    Hi Anne,

    That's exactly what my priest said: Judas could have said no to the Pharisees, and someone else would have betrayed Jesus. But this leaves me wondering about two questions:

    What if no one else betrayed Jesus? How would Scripture be fulfilled then? But, if one of them was bound to betray Jesus, then we're back to square one - that individual was pre-destined to do it.

    You say God must have known it would happen but not necessarily who. This would make God not all-knowing.

    I confess that I don't have an answer to this very difficult question; but I trust that God does.

    Thank you all for commenting. I really appreciate your input and I'm very grateful.

    May God bless you all and your families.

  9. Victor,
    Great story :) I need to remember this. God is God. Sometimes I do try to relate to Him too much on a human level forgetting that He is the great Author of Life and sees everything.
    Victor, if God is beyond time and all things are eternally present to Him, couldn't he have just foreseen that Judas would do this? God may have flooded Judas with grace but God knew that Judas would not respond so He used the situation as it was to fulfill scripture. This negates predestination and allows for the concept of free will but uses the misuse of free will to bring good out of evil.

  10. Hello Mary,

    That's an interesting concept, if I understand you right. God knew what Judas would do so He wrote history (Scripture) to agree with Judas' actions.

    To be honest, this question has taxed me often. Perhaps God does not want us to know every detail of His actions and motives.

    Thank you Mary for visiting and writing in. I wonder what other readers think of this. I've not been able to get an answer from any priests I've asked.

    God bless you Mary.

  11. The young lady in the front row was me. I have asked several priests this same question. In the end I decided to go with my old headmistress's favourite reply to a difficult question - 'Is's a Mystery. You'll understand it when you get to Heaven'!

  12. And that's the best answer Mother of this lot.

    It's a mystery and we are supposed to trust God He is doing the right thing.

    God bless you.

  13. I found myself with this question as a young girl and asked many what the answer was. Never completely satisfied with any answer I have accepted that this is one of the great mysteries of my beloved Faith and church.

    Victor your book arrived today and I am so looking forward to some quiet time just to read and enjoy it.......:-) Hugs

  14. Hello Bernie,

    Nice to see you again. I hope you are well.

    You're right; it is a mystery which we should learn to accept.

    I hope you enjoy my book Bernie. Please let me know what you think when you've read it.

    God bless you always.

  15. Many have struggled with this question. Fr. Ignatius handled it well as always.

    God know the beginning and the end. To us, that is truly a mystery

  16. I tend to agree with Mary.
    God is all-knowing so he knew since creation that Judas (or for that matter, many many other humans) would sell a friend for a bag of money and that Mary would say 'yes' :)

    But certainly, Victor, you got us thinking! ;)

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  18. Hello Maryellen and Gabriella,

    It's so nice to see you visiting here. As you say, a mystery indeed that has got many people thinking over the years.

    I appreciate your visit and comments. Thank you.

    May God bless you both and your families

  19. We were discussing this very dilemma at last week's Bible study. I've always felt sorry for Judas, if only because he obviously felt such remorse at the end. I hope that he found forgiveness in his last moments; I know God would have forgiven him if he asked.

    I agree with Mary. God knows all things and sees everything before it happens. I don't think he makes us do things, but he knows how to use every event according to his good purpose.

  20. Hello Sarah,

    I tend to agree with you. God knew how Judas would behave.

    God bless.



God bless you.

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