Kelsey: The Ballad of Judas Iscariot
“We forget that the real task is to bring the totality of our psychic being to God and not just to repress and split off those parts of ourselves that we cannot change.” —Morton T. Kelsey in The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation (Paulist Press, 1976).
Theologian Morton Kelsey wrote a very practical book more than fifty years ago called The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation, which affirmed that meditation is not only for those in Eastern religions. His revised edition, which was published twenty years later, The Other Side of Silence: Meditation for the Twenty-first Century, contains more of his writings for an audience that is now more familiar with Christian meditation. Kelsey believes that meditation is simply the way we set up the conditions to prepare for the God who is seeking us and breaks through to us, particularly in silence. “Doing meditation” involves using biblical stories, dream images, poems, and images from other sources.
Included in Kelsey’s book is a moving poem, “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot,” by the Scottish poet, Robert Buchanan, which I read and meditate on every Easter season. It reminds us that no one is lost or unforgiven or unloved by God. The ballad must have been powerful when sung. The story is of Judas wandering through regions of darkness until he spies a light from a lantern at a doorway. Jesus is holding up the light, and he beckons to Judas to come in and join his fellow disciples who are getting ready to eat. Jesus tells Judas that they were just waiting for him before pouring the wine.
I offer the poem also to spiritual friends who feel they have done something unforgivable, or that God no longer loves them; and of course, I meditate on it myself when that darkness of guilt or shame or a poor self-image surrounds me as well. Judas is a reminder and icon of times when we cannot accept that we might be forgiven or loved, or are having trouble opening ourselves to God’s Grace continuously offered through dark and light times in our life. In all honesty, was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus really worse than denying Jesus or abandoning him as the others did? Judas simply could not ask for or accept forgiveness, and had forgotten that the God of his understanding was a loving and forgiving God.
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