Reflection for April 4: Befriending Betrayal
Reflection for April 4: Befriending Betrayal

< View or listen to a video version of this reflection offered by Campus Minister Paulina Thurmann. >


Befriending Betrayal

by Religious Studies Teacher Jason Odem

For only when faithfulness turns to betrayal 
And betrayal into trust 
Can any human being become part of the Truth."


First Reading: Isaiah 49:4

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
for nothing and for naught spent my strength,
Yet my right is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.

Gospel Reading for Tuesday, April 4: John 13:21-33, 36-38 

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus' side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him,
"Master, who is it?"
Jesus answered,
"It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it."
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
"Buy what we need for the feast,"
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. 

When he had left, Jesus said,
"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you." 

Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?"
Jesus answered him,
"Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later."
Peter said to him,
"Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you."
Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times."

Lenten Reflection Week Five

Reflection: Befriending Betrayal

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? A friend? A family member? If we're honest, we can all answer in the affirmative. We know that nothing, absolutely nothing, hurts more deeply than betrayal by someone close to us. 

Today's readings from the Book of Isaiah and the Gospel of John speak to the intense pain of betrayal and the solution to a broken heart, modeled by Jesus and applicable to us all. While theologians can make the Paschal Mystery (the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus) quite complicated, the readings for today cut to the core of the message of Jesus, spoken in words and manifest in the flesh.

Betrayal takes many nightmarish forms, yet every form shares the all-too-familiar symptoms of deep, gnawing emptiness and an overwhelming sense of pointlessness. In today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah laments, "I thought I had toiled in vain and uselessly, I have exhausted myself for nothing" (Isaiah 49:4). Betrayal leaves us feeling that we have been wronged, duped, and conned. 

In the classic philosophical film, The Truman Show, Jim Carrey exclaims, "Was nothing real?" when he discovers that his life has been a cruel version of reality television in which he has been the object of colossal manipulation. That's how betrayal can leave us. We ask God, "Was this all a waste of time? Was I ever loved?" When betrayal is revealed, doubt pours in, and we are overwhelmed. 

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus recognizes that Judas and Peter will betray him. One of the most challenging impacts of betrayal is that it breaks us down completely, even causing us to question the past, present and future. Those who have been deeply wounded will understand the grief of loss and the doubt that one will ever be able to love again. Something is broken during instances of betrayal, and we are left alone at a critical juncture. It is precisely at this moment that we must decide if we will use betrayal as a cause to lash out, generalize and judge and shut down. Betrayal quickly leads to a "me (or us) versus them" scenario, the exact opposite of what is healthy for us and what Jesus modeled in his Passion. 

One wonders what Jesus did when it became clear that Peter and Judas would betray him. If we look carefully at the Gospels, he likely withdrew from the crowds and poured his heart out to God in prayer. The mystics tell us we would do well to pause in the tiny space between betrayal and our response. This space, rich with pain, is fertile ground for rebirth. Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr says that betrayal can lead to either a closing of our hearts or an "enlargement of soul." 

If you've ever paused to reflect on times of betrayal and suffering, you will hopefully recognize the tremendous potential for rebirth and resurrection in the tragedy of such experiences. During Holy Week, we walk with Jesus as he experiences the heartbreak of betrayal. And what does Jesus do? He offers us a step-by-step method for recovery:

  1. Pause and breathe. Both are a gift, and both are prayers. 
  2. Be aware of your emotions without judgment or bitterness. Sit with your pain. 
  3. Withdrawing from human dependency can only be done through prayer and deep internal work. This doesn't mean you isolate, but you recognize that you are enough, just as you are. 
  4. Discover the grace to forgive and let go. This may take a very long time and may come from and in a manner that you least expect. 

5. Finally, as Richard Rohr states, you must "relocate your little self in The Self (God) which never betrays you."

This Holy Week, we ask for the insight to intentionally sit with our own betrayal and the betrayal of Jesus. Most importantly, let us consent God to work in our hearts during prayer so they might be opened to provide a home for the Truth. 

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever. 

Questions for Reflection 

  • When have I been betrayed?
  • How have I reacted to betrayal? 
  • How did Jesus react during betrayal, and what can I learn from his example?



If you have questions about this post, please contact Religious Studies Teacher Jason Odem or Campus Minister Paulina Thurmann.

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