My Lenten Prayer: ‘Jesus, I Will Not Betray You’
Published: February 21, 2008
I will always remember the first time someone betrayed me.
I was in the sixth grade and topping the scales at 100 pounds, which made me a bona fide fatty. My best friend was also a bit plump, and one day she made me a deal.
“If you tell me your weight, I’ll tell you mine,” she said. “And I promise to keep it a secret.”
She even offered to go first, so I agreed. When she announced that she weighed 100 pounds, I was overjoyed. That meant I wasn’t alone in my status as fat girl.
Breathlessly, I replied, “So do I!”
A triumphant grin spread across her face. “I was lying,” she said. “I actually weigh 85.”
Of course, she then spread my terrible secret among the other children, and I became the brunt of many jokes.
I thought that awful betrayal would be the worst one of my life. But I was wrong.
In college, I hit a very rough patch: My mother died of cancer and then my father succumbed to a heart attack a mere six months later.
When I returned from my father’s funeral, grief-stricken and dazed, my special boyfriend took me out for a gourmet meal. As we were sampling the appetizers, I asked him if he had been faithful to me while I was out of town.
It was then he confessed that he had indulged in a one-night stand.
I put down my fork and ended the meal—and the relationship. Even when he apologized later, I could not forgive him for this betrayal.
In the Eastern Church, betrayal is mentioned every Sunday in a congregational prayer before Holy Communion. “I will not betray you to your enemies nor give you a kiss like Judas.”
That famous traitor showed up in the dark in the Garden of Gethsemane. One can picture the awful scene: the crowd rushing forward with lanterns, swords and clubs, and Judas walking up to Jesus and kissing him.
And one can imagine the look in Jesus’ eyes as he asked, “Friend, why are you here?”
Judas was not the only friend to disappoint Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples were afraid and they deserted him. Then Peter lost courage in the courtyard and denied having ever known Jesus.
During Lent, we can examine our own hearts for signs of treachery.
I recall one time when I was with a group of non-Christians, and one of them displayed a greeting card mocking Jesus. They all thought the card was hilarious, while I felt myself cringing.
But I didn’t want these people to brand me as holier than thou, so I held my tongue. And it was only later that I realized the truth: I had betrayed Jesus by my silence.
There have also been times when I have lamented that I lacked money to send to the Catholic missions overseas. But then I found myself at a big sale at the mall and somehow a hundred dollars suddenly became available for my wardrobe.
At the Last Supper, when Jesus announced that someone would betray him, each disciple asked: “Is it I, Lord?”
Evidently they knew themselves well enough to realize they were capable of being traitors. As we all are.
Shortly after that scene, Judas left the table to make his awful deal with the authorities. It was then Jesus gave his friends a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
This commandment, of course, sums up the Christian journey. Each day we struggle to love others in the way that Christ loves them.
During Lent, we sacrifice pleasures to show our love for Jesus. But if we are still neglecting to love the people who cross our paths, then Lent becomes just a mechanical obligation.
We can start each day by imagining Jesus asking us, as he did Peter: “Do you love me?”
We can spend the day answering yes by extending kindness to the people we encounter, even if they disappoint us and break our trust.
Sometimes we betray Christ with a word, sometimes with our silence. Sometimes we betray him by failing to love others.
Still, one thought might light our Lenten path: After Judas imparted that dreadful kiss, Christ still called him “friend.” Christ’s love for us always comes with great and abiding mercy.
Lorraine Murray’s new book, “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist,” will be available from Ignatius Press in March. Artwork featured in the print edition is by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com). Readers may e-mail Lorraine Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.