Wednesday of Holy Week | Into the Abyss

BY KELLY SWAN | April 17, 2019
Today’s Readings

I grew up in the heart of Appalachia, in West Virginia, in a sea of mountains, valleys, cliffs, boulders, and rivers. I’ve been a bystander so many times as braver folks than I paddle through raging rapids, climb precarious rock formations, or tether themselves to a cord and fling themselves into the abyss of those spaces in the name of adventure and courage.

I have, countless times, stood on a precipice, on the edge of a cliff, but I’ve never gone over the edge. I prefer to simply admire the view and walk back into the sense of shelter that these gentle mountains bring. I was the cautious friend and sister for many years as my friends and brothers flirted with the edge, and I’m the same as a mother now.

As I read today’s Gospel, it feels much like standing on a precipice—risky and precarious. For days, we’ve been hearing the story, told in different ways, of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. This is the defining moment, the tipping point, the moment when we step off the cliff into the abyss of human pain and suffering embodied in Christ.

We are held in suspense, knowing what will come as Holy Week progresses. In just two short days, on Friday, we’ll meet the depths of sorrow and brokenness in Jesus’ suffering and death.

I can’t help but understand, as I place myself in this week’s Gospel stories, that it would have been so easy to step away from that suffering into the shelter of gentler spaces. To not take the risk of bearing witness and being associated with Jesus’ implied guilt. To find a warm fire, like Peter will do, and attempt, essentially, to skip Good Friday.

And wouldn’t it be easier to do that in our world as well? We all want Easter. We want healing, and wholeness, and redemption. But none of that comes without risk. What Jesus calls us to time and again is risky. It is uncomfortable. It requires us all to step into the abyss—to meet one another in the depths of betrayal, sorrow, and brokenness. It requires faith that resurrection will come.

3 replies
  1. George Bur, S.J.
    George Bur, S.J. says:

    Thank you, Kelly. Easy to see why you are communications director! Your word is engaging and compelling. I can only imagine the graces required for you to be a mother in this risky world and also to be confident in God’s care for your children. Thank you for giving us a vivid example of risk taking.

  2. Mary Frances Burke
    Mary Frances Burke says:

    Thanks, Kelly for this post and for your work in this Ministry. I was touched by the idea of walking away from the precipice. We have worked in marriage ministry for years and contribute to a marriage blog. We work with couples who want greater intimacy, but are afraid to be vulnerable and to step off into the deep. I loved the analogy of stepping off and entering into the passion. Sometimes being vulnerable and sharing our needs is painful. It may not be the pain and fear of an immigrant coming forward. But we can become so steeled in our independence that the pain and fear in jumping off the precipice seems insurmountable. Thanks again for your insight!


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