“His blood be on us, and on our children”
Holy Week is the week of betrayals, our betrayals of Christ and our betrayals of
one another. Betrayal lies at the heart of the Christian religion. The most
intense expression of our betrayals of Christ is captured in the kiss of Judas.
The point of Holy Week is that we are all complicit in that kiss. We are all the
betrayers of Christ in one way or another.
The mercy of Holy Week does not lie simply in the relentless and heart-rending
spectacle of our betrayals, however. It lies in the mercy of Christ who
overcomes the betrayals of our hearts. It is only in that mercy that we can
contemplate our betrayals. The kiss of peace signals the victory of the
resurrection over the kiss of Judas, the betrayers’ kiss. But how easily and how
frequently do we betray even the peace of Christ.
That is why we need Holy Week. We need to face the spectacle of ourselves as the
betrayers of Christ. Holy Week does not allow us to cast an accusing finger at
others but rather to point the finger at ourselves. The point of Holy Week is to
place us in the passion of Christ for us. We are not spectators so much as
actors in the very drama of salvation itself. The liturgy is eloquent in making
We have just participated together in the Passion according to St. Matthew. You
and I are those who have cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he
who comes in the Name of the Lord” and then, we have turned around and said
repeatedly and just as insistently, “Crucify him, Crucify him”.
Such is the paradox of Palm Sunday. The King enters triumphantly into his royal
city where he will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, where he will be
spitefully entreated, where he will be spitted upon, where he will be mocked,
where he will be beaten, where he will be crucified, where he will die. And we
are the crowd, the soldiers, the chief priests, the women, the disciples, Pilate
and Caiaphas, Herod and the centurion, and so on. We are all in this story. The
whole of our humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly - is on display and we
are all involved and implicated in the heart of the matter.
The heart of the matter is our betrayal of Christ. “All we like sheep have
gone astray” is the strong and unambiguous scriptural statement of the
matter. Like the disciples in the Upper Room on the night in which he was
betrayed, at the fellowship of the table, no less, it belongs to us to say,
“Is it I, Lord, Is it I?” and to realize that yes, it is you and I who have
betrayed the truth and the goodness of God; it is you and I who have betrayed
one another. Sin is about our betrayal of the truth and the goodness of God
without which there is no truth or goodness in us. This is part and parcel of
the good news of Holy Week, the good news that is at the heart of the Gospel of
In the betrayal of Christ and in his crucifixion we are allowed to see this in
ways that make it perfectly clear to us. Our betrayals are made visible to us
through our participation in the Passion of Christ. But the point is to move us
to penitence and to compassion, to love and to service.
Some of you may wonder, ‘how have I betrayed Christ? I have simply gone about
my life trying to be good and nice. I wouldn’t have said and done what others
did at the time of Christ’s crucifixion’. So some of you might think and
some of you might even say.
Well, it is my duty and my conviction to say to you directly and firmly, but
lovingly, ‘you are wrong’. We are all complicit in the crucifixion of
Christ in “our thoughts, words and deeds” and, perhaps, most of all in
our indifference to the things of God and to the sufferings of others. I am
sorry but all of us have not done all that we should or could have done in our
lives; all of us have thought, said and even done things which are not hid from
God and which we know or should know we should not have done. There is nothing
more tiresome or pathetic than Maritimers’ claims to sentimental niceness, on
the one hand, and self-serving self-righteousness on the other hand.
And nowhere is the betrayal of Christ more evident among Christians than in our
neglect of the worship of God. There is no excuse, I am sorry to say, though
there are many explanations. I know only too well how busy people’s lives are
and how complicated. Mine, too. But what is always needed is a deeper
commitment and a deeper conversion of our lives to Christ in his body
I know, too, that the institutional church does not paint a very appealing
picture, compelling our loyalty, our love or even our respect. Guess what? Our
church is a church in betrayal of its own principles and in betrayal of its own
people. But the spectacle of all our betrayals is not to make us complacent and
indifferent or judgmental and accusatory of others but rather to call us to
account individually and corporately.
The failure on the part of all of us, priest and people alike, is the failure of
the Church to be the Church, to be the place where we confront our betrayals in
the all-forgiving love of Christ crucified. Too often our own agendas get in the
way of the will of God revealed in the sacrifice of Christ for us. A church
which is agenda driven is a church that betrays Christ whose “kingdom is not
of this world”, however much it must be made manifest through this world.
Nowhere do we see that more poignantly and more provocatively than in Holy Week
when we immerse ourselves in the Passion of Christ as presented and proclaimed
in all four gospels. Nowhere are we challenged more completely. And yet, once
again, you will hear me say this and most of you will ignore what belongs to one
of the glories of our spiritual tradition, our liturgical immersion in the
Passion of Christ. And of course, more will be out at Easter than Good Friday.
Such, too, is the nature of our betrayals.
Yet, once again, the Word is proclaimed and you and I are convicted, yet again,
of “the blood of Christ” through our betrayals of his love. And yet
again, that blood is outpoured for us to drink to our heart’s delight because of
the events of this week, because of the Passion whose fruit is the Resurrection.
“His blood be on us and on our children” and so it is, but in the mercies
of Christ that same condemnation which we bring upon ourselves is turned to joy,
a joy tinged with the sorrows of this week, a joy sharpened with the
heart-rending knowledge of our betrayals. Such is redemption. We can ignore it
or we can will it by being present where it is proclaimed. That is our
challenge, the challenge which in the paradox of Holy Week we bring upon
“His blood be on us, and on our children”