Thursday, March 20, 2008

Manudy Thursday Reflection

Matthew 26:17-23

one of you will betray me . . .

In The American Heritage Dictionary
on the opposite page you can find
a picture of a "bevel gear"
and a map of Bhutan

on the same page there is a photo
of Mary McLeod Bethune
who lived from 1875 to 1955—
an African-American educator
who sought improved race relations

There is no picture, no map, no photo
for the word betrayal—just a definition:
to give aid or information to an enemy
to commit treason against
to deliver into the hands of an enemy
in violation of a trust or allegiance

to be false or disloyal to
to divulge in a breach of confidence
to make known unintentionally
to reveal against ones’ desire or will
to lead astray, deceive

in other words:
rat on, stab in the back,
let the cat out of the bag,
blab, blurt, let slip, bamboozle,
pull the wool over one’s eyes,
abandon, forsake, leave behind,
walk out on . . .

As readers of The Gospel of Matthew
we already know that Jesus will be betrayed
and that the disciples remain clueless
so when Jesus drops the bombshell word betrayal
everyone scatters for cover
talking over each other to gain assurance
from him that they are not the one

It’s a peculiar scene:
we might assume that the disciples
know their own hearts
that after all this time with Jesus
they are rooted in his teachings
that they possess an inner compass
orienting them
toward the work of God in the world
but that is not the case

On this night self-doubt and anxiety
shoot around the table
and ricochet off Jesus
who remains cool as a cucumber
centered in his purpose

The Sufi poet Hafiz writing in the 1300’s puts it this way:
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
Die!

So what is love in the face of betrayal?
What is Jesus like as he sits at table full of knowing?

Anthony DeMello tells us that in India
the poets and mystics say that
a holy person is like a rose.
have you ever heard a rose say,
I’m going to give my fragrance only to good people
and deny it to evil people?
No it is the very nature of the rose to spread fragrance.

or, a holy person is like a lamp lit in a dark room.
can a lamp say that it is going to shed light only on good people
and keep from shining on bad people?

or, a holy person is like a tree
giving shade to both good people and bad people.
the tree gives its shade even to the person cutting it down.
and if it is aromatic, it will leave its smell after being cut.

so perhaps around this table of betrayal
after the bomb has been dropped
after the denials die down
there exists a strange kind of calm
and other words begin sing in their minds:
God makes the rain to fall on the good and the evil
the sun shines on the just and the unjust

the days ahead will take their toll
all disciples will betray him
but in the air there lingers
the earthiness of bread
the sweetness of wine
and a scent called love
given freely to each of us
purifying basest intentions
releasing us from our worst actions
and placing us here and now
ready to begin again

- Laurie Rudel

Hafiz peom translation by Daniel Ladinsky
Anthony DeMello, Walking on Water, The Crossroad Publishing Company, NY, 1998, p. 64-65.