Q: Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life? (Pt 5)
Forgiveness is a deep part of the Resurrection story, an aspect on which we often do not focus. But it is integral to understanding the Resurrection and God’s call of the twelve.
How do we deal with those who hurt and betray us? That is a question the Resurrection poses. It would have been much easier for the apostles if Jesus was not raised from the dead. But He was raised, and they needed to face Him in all their shame and pain and failure.
Have you ever been betrayed by someone who loves you and professes they will always be at your side—no matter the cost? Has your family ever had to live through public failure and betrayal?
If you have experienced this, then the Resurrection story has something to teach you about God’s way of dealing with this kind of gut-wrenching experience.
Public failure is devastating. There is no easy way to live through it as a family. Regardless of the issue, if there is a perception of betrayal and a hint of failure, it tears a couple apart and is the cause of very deep pain and, many times, a wound that is lasting.
How do families recover from this wound? Well, the Resurrection has something to teach us about betrayal, failure, hurt and public scandal. Let us look at the story again.
Betrayal and failure
Table fellowship in the first century is very intimate. Each person is sitting on the ground, leaning on the person next to him to prop him up. You are in constant contact with the person next to you. This is the setting on the night before He dies.
“Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve,” Scripture says. “And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me’” (Mt 26:20–21). There is denial and even deflection. Even after Jesus speaks of the impending betrayal, He consecrates bread and gives them His body to eat and the cup of His blood to drink.
He gives Himself fully in an act of intimate love to the one who will betray Him. I want you to ponder this for a moment. It is a very bitter and difficult teaching.
After the Eucharist, Jesus then predicts that all His disciples will be scandalised by Him (cf Mt 26:31). Peter famously gives his assurance that he is prepared to die for Jesus.
We know the story; Judas betrays Him, and Peter denies Him three times that night. The others scatter. Only the Beloved makes it to the cross. How do we respond after such public failure?
When a spouse is unfaithful, or has done something really wrong that has become public, how do you respond? This, too, is the Resurrection story.
Jesus’ example is very difficult. He gives Himself completely without holding back, although He knows they will disown Him. To love is to give yourself to another. Jesus shows this love in its most profound sense. He gives Himself even when He knows they will not give back in return.
Love in the face of betrayal
There is a very touching scene in the Resurrection appearance. The disciples, even after encountering Christ, are lost. They do not know what to do and Peter says he is going fishing. The others follow him. Remember that Jesus called Peter from fishing? He goes back to what he did before the call.
Jesus meets Peter where he is, He shows him unconditional love and extraordinary generosity. This is our first challenge. How do we greet the person who has betrayed us? Are we generous or stingy to them?
Jesus prepares breakfast for these men on the seashore and invites them to bring some of the fish they had caught. This is touching. He is inviting them to participate and to share the fruit of their labour. He brings them to table fellowship and gives them bread and fish. They know it is Him.
The next part of the text is also very moving and a real pattern of reconciliation. Three times Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?” Three times he said, “Yes”. But the story is much more complicated than the English allows us to see.
First, Jesus addresses him as Simon—his name before he was called. Second, the Greeks have four words for love. English only has one.
Jesus says: Simon do you love (agape) me more than these others? Agape is a love that is expressed in laying down one’s life and sacrificing oneself for the sake of the other.
Peter, chastened by failure answers: “Lord, you know I love [philio] you.” Philio is a lesser form of love; it is the love of friends, but not of laying down one’s life, not sacrifice, not martyrdom.
Each time Peter answers, he is reinstated in his mission as leader of the flock—to take care of the lambs, to take care of the sheep, to feed the sheep.
With great compassion, Jesus asks Peter the third time, “Do you philio me”, meeting Peter where he is, asking him to give what he can. By lowering the bar Jesus shows what we do when the one who professes to love us messes up. We meet the individual where he or she is, and we accept what the other can give.
Jesus was the one who was hurt and betrayed. Yet He was the one who made the first move—the one to show mercy.
This should challenge all of us. To live the Resurrection is to give till it hurts; it is to love by reinstating the one who has betrayed us and dishonoured us publicly, and to do so with tenderness. The Church is God’s family. So, every family needs to see the example of forgiveness at the heart of the Church.
We often think we help people change by rubbing their face in their failure. Jesus thinks differently. He loves much and trusts us to change. Peter eventually displays agape. He dies a martyr.
In God’s family there is forgiveness, trust, and restoration. Is this lived out in your family also?
Have a conversation with God about how you treat those who betray and hurt you. Make a step with one person.