Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.
Betrayal is a terrible thing. If you were to ask me if I have ever been betrayed, there is one episode that comes to mind. Perhaps there are “mini” episodes here and there. But this was a breach of trust that stands apart. The recollection retains the identity of betrayal but not the emotion of animosity.
I was working in an institutional setting at the time—not a congregation. It involved confiding in a priest who was a colleague. I shared, at his encouragement, my struggle with one of my superiors, someone he knew well in the context of the work we shared. He not only affirmed my struggle but went on to add his own personal view of my superior’s character—a view that was significantly more troubling than anything I had suggested or concluded. A few weeks later I received a letter indicating that I would not be offered another contract. It was co-signed by the superior in question and my priestly colleague.
Do you have an episode that comes to mind?
Standing on the eve of Maundy Thursday, the story of betrayal looms in the foreground of our recollection. Betrayal is the spark that triggers the chain of events that lead to the death of Jesus—although the story does not “end” there.
By comparison, any story of betrayal I have to tell doesn’t begin to rise even to the level of a “mini” betrayal.
Jesus seems to know that his betrayer is among his closest companions…even so, he washes their feet and shares his last meal with them. And when the moment comes, the act of betrayal is sealed with a greeting of a friend and a kiss (Matthew 26:49).
Every time we celebrate Communion, we begin with the words, “On the night he was betrayed.”
There is something profoundly personal about betrayal. If it is not personal, it does not descend to the level of betrayal. So much turns on a story of betrayal.
If the story we tell in detail over the next few days in the life of our congregations does not speak to us personally— even as it speaks of a love that is universal in scope and meaning—we have not heard the story. It is the story that reaches into all our stories—including those of betrayal, of wounding, of failing and falling—and offers a way through, onward and upward. Redemption is always at hand.
I have often wondered if my priestly colleague—knowing what he knew and what he knew I knew—was making a way for me he knew I would not make for myself. Who knows? Nevertheless, as I look back now, I see a story of redemption that was unfolding beyond any I could comprehend in that moment. (That’s a longer story…as it always is.) And I give thanks.
Prayer: Gracious God, awaken me to any ways I have held on to a betrayal that betrays my trust in you. Amen.