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.
Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has done work related to parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her husband and four children.