Beyond Betrayal

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On the night before he died, while at table with his disciples, Jesus submitted himself to one of the most painful human experiences: betrayal. Most of his closest friends will soon abandon him.  

Betrayal can be worse than the death of a loved one. In addition to a sense of loss, we feel slapped by rejection, humiliation, ingratitude, and sometimes cruelty. We feel as if we are traded off or discarded for something or someone deemed more worthy. We lose trust not only in the one who has betrayed us but in our very selves—more generally, in human goodness. We question the validity of past experiences and lose our capacity to welcome future relationships. Research shows that such emotional trauma can bring about heart attacks, strokes, or trigger chronic diseases. Heartbreak is literal.  

Some relationships are toxic, abusive, and better left in the distance. But what about the less harmful breaches where selfishness and human flaws give way to painful betrayals? Holy Week and the Triduum invite us to find a way back.  

Though Judas is the betrayer before us in today’s Gospel, recall that in the coming hours, Peter will deny he even knows Jesus. But Peter also goes to the tomb and awaits the risen Christ. In a memorable resurrection appearance, Jesus does not recriminate Peter, minimize his suffering, or ask for an apology. Instead, though all powerful, Jesus places himself in full vulnerability seeking an affirmation: “Peter, do you love me?” (cf. John 21:15-17).  

During this Holy Triduum, by the grace of God, can we put on humility, open our hearts, and risk being as vulnerable as Christ? Only love can forge a new path beyond betrayal.  

© Liturgical Press.

Carolyn Woo

Carolyn Woo is the retired CEO of Catholic Relief Services. She and her husband, David Bartkus, are the parents of two adult sons.

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