The Kiss, a poem by James Wright
|James Wright, American Poet.|
Wright's poem, written from the perspective of Judas, reveals the redemptive power of the story we remember this Holy Week, how the awareness of our own inevitable participation in the evils of this world brings us, ultimately, to compassion.
"Flayed without hope, I held that man for nothing in my arms."
The story of the Passion can be interpreted in a way that is unnecessarily harsh about human good intentions and agency. We are the crowd that calls for His crucifixion; we are the disciples who run away; we are Peter who denies Him three times. We are Judas who betrays Christ that day, and everyday since. And there is nothing that we can do, since our betrayal leads to His death, and only God can defeat death. The story of the Passion can be told as to defeat all hope of human agency for good.
I think such interpretations are extreme. I am, of course, a religious liberal, and what is a religious liberal except one who re-interprets the Christian stories in the light of human agency?
But the closer we come to the existential moment of crisis in our lives, the more our will defeats us. Judas thought he had made a good deal to survive what seemed a climactic moment in his life. He had followed this guy Jesus into Jerusalem and they were all going to die, and he saw the reality of the situation first and got the deal, a deal that saved his life.
But he did not know what time it was. There is a time when each of us must surrender our will to something more right, larger, more alive in that moment. We don't schedule our time to arrive at the crossroads, we just find it in the rearview mirror and we are on the wrong road. "without hope."
Surrendering to compassion without hope is the only way at that point.