One of our deepest needs and desires is for security. In early life, physical and emotional security are essential for healthy growth. In a good home the child has space to test and provoke, to push against the limits imposed by loving parents. These limits are both the predictable security we need but also, eventually, the lines we need the courage born of security to cross. As with all growth and health, and immigration policies, the secret is the right measure of creative tension.
Children are deeply affronted and hurt by injustice and betrayal. But these failures of the human do not only shake the secure lines of our world; they also raise our awareness to see the meaning of justice and fidelity, the world of virtue rather than merely the systems we defend in order to keep us safe within our limits. If, as adults, we are only preoccupied by the security of our borders we have not matured as human beings capable of real freedom, of seeing the happiness of being citizens in the world of virtue – goodness, kindness, humanity, compassion. In this world of grace there are no borders.
Today, in Christian gatherings around the planet, the story we have been preparing for during Lent is told again. We only have a limited number of opportunities in life to hear this story, told in this way: in a community of faith and in days where the sacred symbols are particularly irradiating. Each year, during Holy Week and according to our capacity to pay attention and be present, we listen to and interiorise the story of the last days of the life of Jesus. How he – and we – face the great insecurity of death is the big test of virtue and spiritual maturity. He shows it can be done; and, if we listen to the mysterious end of the story, the bursting out of light and life from the deepest darkness of death, we see that this is a story whose end is, in fact, a new beginning in which fear itself has been transcended. It is the story of all stories.
It pivots on the most terrifying and painful of insecurities, which is not physical pain but the extreme suffering of betrayal. There is nothing worse than being let down by someone in whom we have placed trust. Anger and profound sadness ensue with a disillusionment that cannot be consoled. We may also glimpse how we too have let them or others down. Betrayal usually has a reciprocity that we are forced to recognise over time. There are always contexts. But there are also betrayals where we are the innocent party. The suffering here is acute because it threatens our very sense of self. This is why abuse is such a crime against children, usually committed by those who have been abused themselves, because in the depth of the psyche sin is contagious and requires deep healing. This story is about the universal healing of karma.
As you listen to the story today – this year it is Matthew’s account (Matthew 26:14-27:66) – spare a thought for Judas, so close, even in the spelling of his name, to Jesus. We don’t know why he betrayed him, only that he felt remorse afterwards. His character in the story is the archetype of the worst in human relations. Yet, he was included in the great forgiveness that from the Cross Jesus extended to humanity in all our private and public guilts. It was a force of mercy that split the Temple in two: temples are so often places which deny forgiveness. So, let’s work on forgiving Judas and we have then got the point of the story.