Image: Inukshuk in the Richardson Mountains
Learning that you have been betrayed by a friend ranks among one of the most difficult of human experiences. Knowing that you will be betrayed by someone you love is even harder. The act of betrayal is not something we credit to a stranger. Betrayal can only be committed by those we know, those closest to us to whom we have given our trust.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is at table with his friends. They are people that he has personally invited to be by his side. He has opened up to them and been vulnerable with them. They have seen him on his best days and on his worst. They are not perfect people but if there is any group in the world that Jesus should be able to place his trust it is this one, gathered around the table with him. How difficult it must have been for Jesus then to know that of these men, one would plot against him, one would outright deny him three times, and most would abandon him out of fear.
If we had this foreknowledge, if we knew that someone was going to do us harm with their words or actions, I think it is likely that most of us would use it to put as much distance between ourselves and these people as possible.
Jesus’ response to the impending infidelity of his disciples is markedly different. “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Jesus says to Judas. Prior knowledge of his fate does not cause Jesus to retreat, or to make a preemptive strike against those who mean to do him harm. Jesus maintains his resolve to complete the mission for which his has been sent and he understands that forgiving the weakness of character in his closest friends is an important part of that mandate.
How do you respond to those who have hurt you? What would you do if you knew a close friend was talking behind your back?
Lashing out at those who have hurt us is a natural reaction. So is setting up a defensive perimeter and not allowing others to get close enough to hurt us again. After all, no one wants to be hurt or to be the brunt of someone else’s cruel betrayal. Unfortunately, both these strategies leave us isolated from others. While it is true that we may avoid future pain we also remove any chance of future joy as we withdraw into our protective cocoon.
The example of Jesus points us in a different way. He shows us that to live fully is to be open to the risk of being hurt even by those who are closest to us and who love us. He guides us in the way of understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.
People are not perfect and relationships are difficult, but God’s love is constant. The psalmist sings out,
“In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, free me:
pay heed to me and save me.”
Our strength comes from God who knows us and loves us even when others have let us down.