|Image by J. O'Brien|
This is the day that stories speak of Judas Iscariot as moving to the “dark side” to conspire with the religious leaders to betray Jesus and hand him over to be arrested. I often think of the writings of Megan McKenna and a particular story she tells within a story. It goes like this:
Megan was driving the back roads of Ireland’s countryside listening to the radio. There had been a short-story writing contest and the stories submitted were to be limited to thirty words. As she was listening to the stories being presented over the radio – the following entry was read:
“Welcome home, son!
It is so good to see you. It’s been a long time.
Yes, father, a very long time. It was hard.
Hard as nails. Hard as wood.
I know. What was the hardest?
The kiss, father, the kiss. (long pause)
Yes. Come in and let me hold you.”
Megan continues with her story – “I nearly drove off the road. Within seconds I was crying and had to pull over. It hit me hard. I was overwhelmed by the realization that sin is evil and terrible, and some sin is more evil and more terrible . . .” (From LENT by Megan McKenna)
Also, let us be aware of the “kiss of betrayal” in its many subtle forms . . .
This Wednesday is sometimes referred to as “Spy Wednesday” in Holy Week because the Gospel selection for the day tells of the secret negotiations Judas has with the religious authorities about betraying Jesus. Here we are in this liminal space – meaning an in-between space – a threshold, so to speak, moving us from darkness to light, from death to life, from close friendships to betrayals and back again. Last week in the Scriptures, we heard of Jesus turning the tables over of the money changers in the Temple. Today’s readings tell us of the night of the sharing of the Passover meal – a table of friendship that will be “turned over” with the betrayal of Judas.
I often reflect what that may have been like for him and the others who shared so much of their lives, hopes, feelings, fears, and gifts. We, too, are often challenged with choices of darkness and light, good and evil, fear and courage, doubt and faith. In her book, Radical Gratitude, Mary Jo Leddy writes that we are “set up” for challenge in our culture. The pull of consumerism for instance, she says: “This artificially induced dissatisfaction afflicts all types and classes of people. It is manifest in the unhappiness of the rich … in the anxious strivings of the middle class, and in the bitter resentments of the poor who sit and watch the young and the restless and the bold and the beautiful drive their cars.”
Also this hum can find its way into our very psyches, for it whispers to us - “I don’t have enough which becomes I am not enough which becomes I am not good enough.” Maybe this is what Judas heard within and became consumed by something that turned over his table of intimate relationship and unconditional love shared with Jesus. Let us all pray for the grace to be people of authenticity, integrity, and trust.
Poem: The Cold Within by James Patrick Kinney
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In Dark and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back.
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.
The next man looking cross the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from – THE COLD WITHIN.