Betrayal and abandonment
Have you been betrayed by a friend?
Have you been betrayed, denied, rejected or abandoned? These elements exist in every difficult relationship. Did you realize that it connected you more closely to Jesus? Did you know that you had entered into His Passion?
Understanding this connection is the key to discovering how to rejoice in our sufferings, like Saint Paul challenges us to do (cf. Romans 5:3-5). There is no greater joy than to be intimately connected to Jesus and to become like Him.
Jesus said: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:11-13 NIV).
C.S. Lewis said:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and probably be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.”
Betrayed by a friend – Part 1
The readings from Mass, Tuesday of Holy Week
In John 13:21-38, when Jesus announced that one of his closest disciples would betray Him, Peter and the others looked at each other, bewildered and alarmed. Did anyone feel guilty? Did they quickly examine their consciences and think of the times they had secretly disagreed with Jesus or wished He would do things differently? Probably.
Peter hoped it was not he who would betray His dearest friend, so he timidly asked John to ask Jesus, “Who is it?”
He did not want to betray Jesus. He really believed, “I will lay down my life for you!” Yet he did betray Him, despite all his good intentions. We are like Peter whenever we back down from sharing our faith because we fear rejection or when we make compromises in our moral values to avoid conflicts. We love Jesus yet we betray Him. And like Peter, we feel horrified about our sin and we gladly receive forgiveness.
Judas was different. In the previous chapter of John’s Gospel, we saw Judas react to Mary’s intimately loving gesture of anointing Jesus with costly perfume. It seems to me that he felt jealous. The love that existed between Jesus and Mary was obvious. It was intimate and generous. Apparently, Judas did not know that Jesus loved him just as much.
He could have learned from the love between Mary and Jesus, but instead he verbally attacked them. With his perception clouded by his neediness, he judged the intimacy between Mary and Jesus as inappropriate. He tried to manipulate them into feeling guilty, using the poor as leverage.
Needy people often use manipulation to get what they want. No wonder Judas turned Jesus in when He failed to meet his expectations of the Messiah as a fighting warrior. He could not understand the victorious power of God’s unconditional and sacrificial love. And with such a needy, hurting heart that was closed to the love of Christ, no wonder he chose suicide as a cure for his pain instead of turning to Jesus for forgiveness.
Think of the people in your life who are needy for love. We all have friends who want us to be a god for them, giving them everything they need. They don’t work on developing an intimate, healing relationship with Jesus, so they become demanding of us, angry or manipulative. When we turn to Jesus for the fullness of the love they can’t give to us, they become jealous. And like Judas, they become friends who betray us. No wonder they turn to other dependencies instead of the healthy love we can give them.
Some betrayals are easy to forgive, because we know the betrayer really does love us. When we are betrayed, however, by a Judas, can we still love them? If not, we have become a betrayer of the Lord by dividing ourselves from Him, because He never stops loving anyone.
Next, we will look at how we grow closer to Jesus when we suffer betrayal.
Betrayed by a friend – Part 2
The readings from Mass, Wednesday of Holy Week
Today as we continue to unite ourselves to Jesus in His Passion, we will learn how to grow closer to Him because of the betrayals we suffer. We unite ourselves to Jesus by forgiving those who have sinned against us.
As we see in Matt. 26,14-25, even Judas said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” about being a betrayer. We feel most betrayed when it comes from a friend who assures us they would never hurt us. The fact is, everyone sooner or later betrays us in some way, a small way perhaps, or large, but hurtful nonetheless. Anytime a friend or family member disappoints us, reneges on a promise, or refuses to accept what we share with them from our heart, they betray us. We do the same to them. It happens in everyday life.
How should we as followers of Christ handle this?
We can find wisdom and strength for endurance by meditating on Isaiah 50:4-9. Although it’s a prophecy about the sufferings of Jesus, we can apply it to our own lives.
“The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.”
Reflect on how much you have grown in compassion as a result of suffering. What have you learned that you can pass onto others who are experiencing similar trials?
“Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; And I have not rebelled, have not turned back.”
Jesus faced His crucifixion with determination and single-minded trust in the Father. Even when He tried to push the cup of suffering away during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not turn His back on the Father. He committed Himself to: “Your will be done, not mine.” You, also, have God to help you move forward through your pain until He heals you of it. You could have given up on God and His plans, but you have not. This has united you to Jesus.
“My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
How often have you turned the other cheek in imitation of Jesus? God knows how many times you have refused to retaliate against evil with evil. Each time you’ve done that, you united yourself to Jesus.
“I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”
By your determination to love and forgive those who have hurt you, and by your refusal to compromise your morals for the sake of saving yourself from persecution, you have united yourself to Jesus, and although others might try to shame you, He holds you close to His heart with joy.
“He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together.”
When people oppose you and cause you to suffer, they are also opposing and attacking Jesus. What they do to you, they do to Jesus. When you endure any sort of betrayal, Jesus is “appearing” with you, i.e., standing at your side to support you and heal you and comfort you. He knows what it’s like to be in your shoes — oh so well!
Now meditate on Psalm 69, another prophecy about Jesus:
“For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face.”
When we are betrayed because we choose to follow Jesus and imitate Him and obey Him, we are united to Jesus and share in His redemptive suffering.
“Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none.”
When we desire and expect people to strengthen us, encourage us, sympathize with us or heal us during our difficulties and pain, we always end up disappointed. Even the most caring friends cannot give us enough of what we need. But when we go to God for all of this, our mourning turns into dancing and joy. This is why the psalmist adds:
“You who seek God, may your hearts be merry! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
When you offer yourself to God’s plan of redemption and healing for the world, turning to Him for comfort as you suffer, with Jesus you experience the joy of the Father’s great love. Our Father has the SAME love for you that He had for His Beloved Son when Jesus offered His life as a sacrifice.
That love is what makes it all do-able. That love is what helps us endure. That love is what heals us and resurrects us to a new and glorious and victorious life. That love is what turns our mourning into dancing and joy.
I pray that you truly know this love.
© 2002 by Terry A. Modica