I have been both betrayer and betrayed. When you think about it, you probably have too. Starting with Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. These are harmless examples you might think. I remember when our oldest son was nine or ten, it occurred to me that I should enlighten him on the matter of Santa. It was maybe the week before Christmas, all the other kids were in bed and we sat by the Christmas tree as I told him the truth. Ok, my timing should have been better. His reaction was unpredictable. He felt betrayed and very sad. Sad because he began to connect the dots on his own, including the global implications. “So, you and daddy bring the presents?” Yes, I answered. “What about the poor kids, who brings them presents? What about kids in other countries? What about kids with no parents?” We cried together at the sad reality of children who did not receive presents and who only knew Christmas as heartbreak.
Around that time there was a 60-Minutes episode focusing on a gentleman from a poor section of St Louis. This man owned a little BBQ restaurant that was open to anyone who was hungry on Christmas. There was no cost, and lots of cheer to go around. When asked why he did this, he related that when he was a child his family was extremely poor. He had heard other children talk about Santa, so he held great hope for Santa Claus to bring him a present on Christmas. He awoke on Christmas morning to nothing. He wondered if “Santy Clause did not come to poor children.” This seventy something year old man, recalled this moment in his life with sadness and tears. He grew up never wanting others to feel left out of the joy of Christmas.
There are moments in our life that put us on a trajectory. We can choose to be victims or victors.
What does this have to do with Holy Week?
“Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”” (Jn 13:21) The disciples may have noticed something different about Jesus that week, his somber mood, the depth of his silence at times. I do not think they were ready however for this shocking statement. Judas was not the first nor the last to betray God. Betrayal runs throughout human history like an insidious mutation that appears to grow stronger in each generation.
Christ knew this when he pointed it out to his disciples. One among this tightknit group would betray his Master. He too knew our own betrayals and the treacheries to come, Christ’s love is greater than our duplicities. Yet, he went to the Cross with it all to suffer for the sins of humanity. “We must not commit the fallacy of thinking he suffered less because he was perfect…He suffered more, not less, because his sensibilities were absolutely perfect.” (Mother Francis of Our Lady)
That sign which was meant to frighten, humiliate, and torture agitators, those who went against the current ideologies, has become a sign of triumph. “By his wounds we have been healed.”
Plenty of people have clothing with Christian art, wear crosses as jewelry, and even have tattoos on their bodies. Awesome. However, Christianity is far more than that. In reality it does not require any of those things. How we live out our Catholic faith IS the sign par excellence. No one will do this perfectly. We have and we will betray Jesus in one way or another during our lifetime but, how we get back up, seek forgiveness, and return to the Lord makes all the difference.
This Holy Week and Sacred Triduum can be a source of incredible grace if we enter fully into the depth of each significant event. We need to be there at the Last Supper with Christ who washed the Disciples feet, modeling for them servant leadership and instituting the Eucharist. We must accompany him into the Garden of Gethsemane, feel the weight of his anxiety, the drops of blood he sweat, see his betrayer kiss him. Will we be like the disciples and run away? Hiding in safety and comfort avoiding danger, playing it safe. Or will we dare to walk alongside our Lord, our Savior and Redeemer as he does for us what we could never do for ourselves. Will we stand with his Mother at the foot of the Cross as he dies a slow agonizing, excruciating death?
“…do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt 10:28)
We can go about our busyness this week, scurrying to buy bunnies and chocolate, giving only a passing shallow nod to these momentous days. We can get lost as we do at Christmas with all the exterior trimmings and unimportant frivolities as we completely miss the actual meaning of the holy day. We can betray the true meaning and settle for a commercialized secular illusion. The choice is up to each of us, and our opportunities to take full advantage of these grace-filled moments are fleeting and numbered.
“Behold my betrayer is at hand.”