Semana Santa #3: Of Love and Anacondas

christ-in-gethsemane-pHow do you respond to betrayal?

Wawarlahin mo ba ang inggiterang nanglaglag sa ‘yo? Magiging Bitter Ocampo ka ba kay bakla for the rest of your earthly lives? Idededicate mo ba ang buong buhay mo sa pagpapatumba sa Anacondang kinuha ang lahat sa ‘yo ala Margaux kay Celyn?

I have a confession to make. Face To Face on TV5 is my guilty pleasure on weekdays. Yes, I am one of those people who troop to my television set at 10:45am almost every morning to watch Ating Gelli de Belen mediate warlahing parties on her show. Walang basagan ng trip. Betrayal is often at the center of guests’ compounded problems. “Inahas niya ako,” guests would often cry out on the show. Hurt, anger, frustration, and revenge are the most common responses to betrayal. It is not just people on that show that respond that way. I am sure we each have our own ahas stories and have our own songs of response to the Anacondas in our lives.

Jesus’ response to betrayal

In the Gospel reading for Holy Wednesday, John 13:21-32, we look at how Jesus Christ responded to that betrayal, which led to his death on the cross. We are invited to that picture of the Last Supper/Passover. Jesus and his disciples are gathered around a table for a meal. At this point, Jesus already knew that Judas son of Simon Iscariot was going to betray him, “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.” (John 13:1a, NRSV)

The scene in John 13:21 speaks of Jesus, who was troubled in spirit, declaring that one of those gathered around him will betray him. Simon Peter urged “the one whom Jesus loved” to ask who the betrayer was. Jesus responded that it is the one whom he shall hand the piece of dipped bread to. Jesus then gave the bread to Judas and said, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” (John 13:27, NRSV)

When Judas son of Simon Iscariot had gone out, Jesus declared, ’Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.’” (John 13:31-32, NRSV)

Reading John 13 further, after Christ’s proclamation, he gave a new commandment to his disciples. Jesus said, “’34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

Keep calm and carry on

Perhaps Britain’s famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” catchphrase captures Jesus’ response to Judas son of Simon Iscariot’s pending betrayal. In the Bible narrative in John 13, although troubled in spirit, Jesus continued on with his mission. Jesus knew that betrayal and death were upon him yet he continued to teach his disciples.

Prior to Jesus proclaiming Judas’ betrayal, he washed his disciples’ feet- an act which I value as one of Jesus’ greatest lessons on humility and social equality. In that time, roads were very dusty and most people travelled on foot. Only slaves washed their master’s feet. At this point, Jesus already knew of Judas’ betrayal yet he still washed Judas’ feet just as he did the rest of his loyal disciples.

What amazes me most in this narrative is how Jesus left the commandment to “love one another”. Having addressed his betrayer and facing death, Jesus Christ still preached love. I will speculate that, had Judas not left, Jesus would have shared to him the commandment to love “just as I have loved you.”

Our response to betrayal

I ask again, “How do you respond to betrayal?”

Reading about Christ’s response to betrayal, I am guessing that you are sharing my sentiments. Magmahal ng Anaconda? Push lang kahit inahas ka na? Imposible naman yata ‘yan! In our Christianity, it is easy for us to understand now Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. In our humanity, it is very hard to follow Christ’s response to his betrayer. Christ took the death sentence that came with Judas’ betrayal and he carried on with his mission. He did not stop sharing the Good News. He carried his mission until its completion.

Recently, I experienced an act of betrayal from a person whom I consider to be a good friend. I was very mad and quite resentful at the words she spoke about me. It was easy for me to declare that our friendship was over and I am writing her out of my life. Writing this reflection on John 13 now, I realized the weakness of my humanity. Christ, in the face of death, was still able to preach love. I ask myself as I write this, “Why have I chosen anger and hate to respond to that perceived betrayal?”

Sisters and brothers in Christ, in this semana santa, I invite us to think about how we respond to betrayal. We have heard or uttered the line, “I can forgive, but I cannot forget,” so many times. Some of us may really have forgiven our betrayers, but have not forgotten the betrayal, or vice versa. Some of us might have reconciled with our betrayers. Some of us may never reconcile with our betrayers. Some of us might be wallowing on the betrayals we have committed to another.

What we are left with, I believe, in this narrative of Jesus and Judas son of Simon Iscariot is this: Love conquers all, even the most painful of betrayals. As Christians, we must work towards loving one another just as Christ had showed his love for us. Anacondas will always slither in and out of our lives. At some point, we may realize that we have turned into Anacondas, ourselves. What is important is we take the time to pause and reflect. Yes, being betrayed hurts, but hurts are taken away from our hearts and we are glorified by God if we carry on with our individual missions in love and with love.

Written by: Eika Rosario


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