“It is not as if an ‘I’ exists independently over here and then simply loses a ‘you’ over there, especially if the attachment to ‘you’ is part of what composes who ‘I’ am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who am ‘I,’ without you?”
“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
– Warsan Shire
I wonder if people like Jesus—the prophets, the dreamers—know that something bad is going to happen to them. It certainly seems that he did, that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that Blessed Monseñor Romero did. I think that they all know.
Honestly, I think that many of us have this instinct, too. We are taught to ignore it.
But I can’t help but wonder if, as he sat atop that donkey surrounded by cheering crowds, he thought, Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe it will all be fine.
Denial is human, after all. And Jesus was human.
3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)
Some theologians write about Jesus’ death in the context of scapegoating: the human practice of choosing an innocent victim to absorb our shared sins and insecurities in order to unite a community through that person’s humiliation and/or death. This is why teenagers bully the kids they perceive to be “different”: they’re afraid of being “different.” And we do indeed scapegoat our innocents.
But we also scapegoat our Judases. I understand why: it is our way of distancing ourselves from them, declaring them to be solo artists, excusing ourselves from giving them power and influence, from looking away.
In other words, Judas may have betrayed Jesus, but he did not kill him.
Yes, Judas kept the common purse and was stealing from it. Yes, Judas was the one to turn him in. But Jesus’ death was also the result of the denial and absence of his friends (personally), the authority of the Roman Empire and its complicated relationship with the Jewish religious authorities (politically), and—please let us not forget this point—all of us (theologically).
This is precisely the point, and if we miss it, then we miss everything. Sadly, we do miss it, because is always easier to blame Judas than it is to blame ourselves.
PSA: It’s always the one who keeps the common purse. Always.
We are all perpetrators and victims both. But we are all not equal perpetrators and victims in all situations.
I would blame our collective failure to understand this on moral relativism, or at least on a misplaced desire to be “nice” to our enemies, despite the consequences this niceness may have for their victims. But it is often those who see the world in black-and-white, absolutist terms who have the most trouble understanding this. In their minds, the bully, the abuser, and the perpetrator have an opinion and perspective as valid as the one who is suffering. This is sheer foolishness and not what Jesus preached (or lived) at all.
Yes, Jesus asked us to love everyone. He did not ask us to believe everyone, and he did not say that all narratives hold equal worth or truth. He made that extremely clear when he lived and died as someone rejected, convicted, and cursed.
Jesus died for both the victim and the perpetrator. But he only died as one of those. This is a distinction that has been horribly, inexplicably lost, and we must reclaim it.
The problem is not that they trusted Judas with the common purse. The problem is that they trusted him, period. The problem is that they were vulnerable to him. The problem is that they loved him.
Of course, love is always the problem. It is always our undoing.
In Jesus, it is God’s undoing.
It is significant that Jesus’ final cry had little to do with the pain. It was a cry of abandonment.
It wasn’t the cross that killed Christ so much as the Silence. The endless, murderous Silence, both of his Father and of the whole system that surrounded him.
Honestly, it is never the betrayal that hurts. And it is not the nails, either. It is the fact that you look down, suspended, and there is no one left to stand with you other than the other people the system has made invisible by exclusion. It is not the death or deaths, physical or metaphorical. It is the fact that no one cares who you are or what your story is. It is the fact that your struggle is met with—nothing. It is not the people who actually hurt you, or even kill you, that destroy you. It is the ones who think that looking away from your pain makes them somehow neutral.
But that moment of abandonment was not, in fact, silent. It allowed the suffering of the Innocent to be seen, to be acknowledged. While the Cross does not speak in words, it does show. Where language ends, there is image. And there is God, always hanging in plain view.
Jesus made our suffering seen. Makes our suffering seen, and makes us see suffering. Maybe that is how he saves us.
But it is not even the God of the Cross that makes sense to me these days. The God of the Cross dies in front of us in art and sculpture and passion plays. The God of the Cross is betrayed and beaten and mocked and paraded and crucified and bleeds until be becomes too weak to keep himself from suffocating under the weight of his own body, nailed to the wood that he carried through the streets of the town that welcomed him with shouts of jubilation less than a week before.
No, it is the God of the 14th Station that makes sense to me. Not the Crucified God, but the Entombed One. The God Who Is Hidden, the God Unseen, the God Buried.
It is not just that God is with us in the noisy violence of our Fridays, but also in the silence of our Saturdays. Jesus knows all to well the uncertainty, the dark cocoon, the quiet crush of abandonment and forsakenness, the quiet room with whitewashed walls where you wait for the doctor to come in. God knows what its like to feel alone in our pain.
When we confess that Jesus descended into Hell, perhaps this is part of what we mean.
I have known them for over three years, so despite the fact that they hide their pain, I can tell when they are hurting.
“We ask that you sanctify these elements that they might be for us the blood and body of our Lord…” we all kneel. But when we reach the place where it is once again appropriate to stand, she stays on her knees, forehead pressed into her folded hands, and so do I.
The question of whether or not I should be kneeling, of whether or not I am submitting myself to an understanding of the Sacrament that would make John Calvin twitch or throw a fit, is irrelevant as it is tone-deaf. I kneel when they kneel, because I hurt when they hurt, period.
The differences in our Eucharistic theology are a moot point. Solidarity makes simple what the world makes complicated.
If Jesus teaches us anything, it’s that solidarity makes us bleed. It is not a malevolent Bank of America God who demands that someone repay our debts, offer remittances for millennia of accumulated sin in the form of flesh and blood, that makes it so. No. It is our fellow humans, our enemies who do so.
And If Judas teaches us anything, it’s that those enemies are usually our friends first.
I am not one of those people who believes that the resurrection was not a real event, that it was simply a metaphor, or that Jesus rose from the dead in spirit but not in body. When I confess that I believe that “he rose from the dead according to the scriptures,” I really do mean it. If the Cross does not give way to the kind of hope that envelops our very bodies, if that level of grief on the part of the Father and abandonment on the part of the Son (with love and apologies to Moltmann) is not taken up into some kind of new life, then why bother to get up in the morning?
At the same time, I wonder if I would still be a follower of Christ if we were all still waiting for the resurrection. What if Christ had died, and a movement had arisen out of the hope of his eventual Resurrection…next week, next month, next year? What if Friday happened but Sunday didn’t? What if God suffered and died and remained dead? What if the ancient formula was simply, “Christ has died, Christ will rise again?” Not as pretty, I’ll grant you.
Even if the Christ of the Cross were still dead, I would still worship him. Perhaps that’s blasphemy, but that’s the truth. After all, it is not the Resurrected God, but rather the Crucified One and the Entombed One, that so often meets us where we are. That meets me where I am, now.
I still believe in the God of Sunday. The God of Sunday is the only thing that gives us hope. But I do not know that God anymore—the triumphal one who is met with “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” and a pancake breakfast. The God I know is the suffering one of Friday and the invisible, silent one of Saturday. The God of Sunday is seen only through a glass, darkly if at all.
Between Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, the crucifix at the front of the church is covered in a purple cloth. Christ is entombed, buried, gone. His suffering is no longer seen.
During the Easter Vigil, when the account of Jesus’ resurrection is retold, Jesus is unveiled again to thunderous applause at his very same eternal, bloody, crucified glory.
This feels exactly right to me. It may always be Sunday, but it is also always Friday. The Risen One and the Crucified one are exposed as forever one and the same.
In this broken world in which only one body has lived the whole of the Resurrection, perhaps this is what Easter means: seeing things as they are. Maybe that’s all that Easter is—just a way of seeing.
I wish we could see it this way: that we have undone one another. That all our pain is shared now, is solidarizing. Then maybe we could look up at that unveiled crucifix and see the truth: that in the grief of our mutual undoing, we really will find Resurrection. Someday.