The weight of disillusioning headlines can stoke a growing sense of betrayal: the betrayal of our nation’s founding values; the betrayal of parents’ trust by church leaders; the betrayal of women by a cascade of #metoo allegations. Whereas the effects of violence and injustice are not new or isolated, sometimes the onslaught strikes a personal chord in a manner experienced as betrayal. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that he knows what it feels like to be betrayed by those close to us.
John’s account of the Last Supper also prompts us to remember our own limitations and sanctimonious tendencies. Perhaps our work for justice veers into a woke self-righteousness that actually distances us from others, or makes us—like Peter—oblivious to our own limitations and complicity. We may become more concerned with firing off a witty tweet than genuine encounter across difference or others’ needs closer at hand. Or maybe we avoid responsibility altogether when such headlines become too overwhelming, we simply opt out.
Jesus shows steadfast love in the face of betrayal, washing and feeding his friends who will give him up and deny him in his hour of need. This is the merciful, courageous love Jesus invites us into as disciples, even in times that challenge us to our core.
For as Isaiah reminds us today, God formed us from our mother’s wombs to make us a light to the nations. It is out of our brokenness and vulnerability that we find strength to show love to survivors and repair our fractured institutions. We are called to insist on and embody life-giving alternatives in the face of betrayed values.
God is close to the brokenhearted. How can I show healing love to those feeling betrayed through a ministry of accompaniment and courageous work for change?
Kristin Heyer is professor of theological ethics at Boston College and her books include Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration (2012) and Prophetic and Public: the Social Witness of U.S. Catholicism (2006). Her work treats questions of moral agency, migration, the common good, and global ethics. She serves as co-chair of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. Her husband, Mark Potter, is a former ISN board member.