"Full Moon in the Desert Skies"
Throughout my many years as a priest, there have been countless occasions for being with folks in their happiest times, at their highest points, and also in their darkest and most pain-filled times - engagements, baptisms, weddings, funerals, deathbeds, divorces.
But, in all the high points and all the low points I have shared with people, the times when I have witnessed the greatest emotion and the deepest pain were those times when people have come to me to talk about how they had been betrayed - especially when they were betrayed by someone they deeply loved and trusted.
Although it happened years ago, I still can remember an occasion when a young wife and mother came to me to talk about her husband's blatant infidelity. She was riddled with such intense pain over what he had done. Her conversation with me was laced with tears and sobs- such deeply felt emotion.
As our conversation proceeded, I also sensed that a deeply-held underlying anger was simmering beneath the surface of everything this afflicted wife was saying. And then in one, violent, sudden outburst, it all spilled out into harsh, shrill cries for vengeance and retribution. She told me that she wished her cheating husband "would die in a car crash for what he did to us."
It became quite obvious to me that her desire for vengeance was causing this poor woman as much suffering as her husband's betrayal.
The pain of betrayal cuts deeply. The desire for retribution cuts even deeper.
Yesterday, a full moon in the desert sky was so bright that it literally woke me up in the middle of the night. My bedroom looked like a set from a Hollywood movie - the rays of bright moonlight illuminating the darkness in a mystical, magical glow.
As I lay there in bed, now fully awake by my moonlight encounter, I was reminded of a moonlight story found in the Christian Scriptures - a story that seems particularly appropriate for this time of the year in the Christian Holy Week - now at the threshold of celebrating the last days of Jesus on earth. It's a tale that speaks not only to Christians, but to the heart of every human being.
As the story goes, on the night before he died, under the light of the full moon, Jesus and his disciples went out to an olive garden to pray and rest. But, Jesus' good friend and disciple, Judas, wasn't among them. Instead, Judas had gone to fetch the police. He was about to betray his dearest friend Jesus. When they arrive at the garden, Judas tells the police that they should arrest the person whom he kisses.
In the middle of the night, under the light of the full moon, Judas, the traitor, betrays his dear friend Jesus with a kiss. Betrayal with a kiss - the very thought of it is so unbearably painful. It cuts to the heart.
There is a related story- it isn't found in the Scriptures.Yet, like most of the stories in the Bible, it is a legend that is wonderfully metaphorical.
According to this legend, Judas has now died. After betraying his friend Jesus, Judas had gone out and hung himself, and he is now suffering in hell. Jesus, who has died on the cross, also shows up in hell and he stands before Judas. When he see Jesus standing there before him, .Judas crouches in fear, expecting to feel the full brunt of painful retribution for the insidious betrayal of his friend.
Instead, filled with compassion, Jesus lifts up his still-beloved friend Judas, and he kisses him! And with that kiss Judas is now in heaven.
The kiss of betrayal has been redeemed by a kiss of compassion. Redemption with a kiss - such a magnificent legend, such a powerfully poignant and tender metaphor. I'll be thinking about this all day long.
The pain of betrayal cuts deeply but the desire for retribution cuts even deeper.
Anger, hostility and a heart full of vengeance is a bitter poison that will ultimately eat away at the spirit and hurt even more deeply than betrayal. The only antidote for this poison is to let go of it, and let compassion take its place.
Betrayal with a kiss. Redemption with a kiss.