Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with Richard Rohr: The Pain of Betrayal

Tuesday of Holy Week | Readings: Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33, 36-38


We continue on two powerful tracks, the second of the Servant Songs and the unfolding of the events leading up to Jesus’ death in the Gospel. There is a poignant passage in the Servant Song that illustrates and prepares us for two betrayals that are about to happen: “I thought I had toiled in vain and uselessly, I have exhausted myself for nothing” (Isaiah 49:4). Surely that is the human feeling after someone we love turns against us. On some level, we all feel we have made some kind of contract with life, when life does not come through as we had hoped, and we feel a searing pain called betrayal. It happens to all of us in different ways. It is a belly punch that leaves us with a sense of futility and emptiness.

And here it happens to Jesus from two of his own inner circle, both Judas and Peter. The more love and hope you have invested in another person, the deeper the pain of betrayal is. If it happens at a deep and personal level, we wonder if he will ever trust again. Your heart does “break.” It is one of those crossroad moments, when the breaking can forever close you down, or in time just the opposite—open you up to an enlargement of soul—as we will see in Jesus this week. What is happening is that we are withdrawing a human dependency, finding grace to forgive and let go, and relocating our little self in The Self (God), which never betrays us.

It can’t! It might take years for most of us to work through this; for Jesus it seems to have been natural, although who knows how long it took him to get there. All we see in the text is that there are no words of bitterness at all, only a calm, unblaming description in the midst of the “night,” which is almost upon us.


“‘I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me. . . Be quick about what you are to do’ [Judas]. . . . And it was night! . . . ‘you will lay down your life for me [Peter]? I tell you truly, the cock will not crow before you will have disowned me three times.’” —John 13:21, 27, 30, 38


“Solitary Jesus, you get more alone as the week goes on, till all you have is a naked but enduring hope in God. Do not bring me to such a test, I would not know how to survive.”

¡Haga clic aquí para ver la traducción en español!

Donate to Franciscan Media!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter​

Includes Saint of the Day, Minute Meditations, and Pause + Pray.