Meditation in Poetry

by Kirpal Singh Literary Editor, The Times It is with great pleasure that we publish today a long, meditative, poem. Though Easter is over, the message or significance ought to live on, as does the whole story of Christ. To do justice to a poem such as “Self-Betrayed” would be to delve into questions which, perhaps, are better left to philosophers and theologians. Our interest in the piece is the poetry – the rhythm, the language, the tone, the theme. To do justice even to these is not possible in the short space that a single page a weekly newspaper provides. No, a full critique is impossible. But let me state that the theme is clearly sustained to the very end and this in itself is quite a feat. The poem is about faith and, as they say, faith moveth mountains. The intimacy of the tone, the simplicity of the language, the ordinariness of the rhythm, all make this poem likeable and readable and meaningful.

by Samu Batara Lord, why did you select Judas to be one of your disciples? He was the only Judean among the twelve. All the rest were Galileans. I don’t know but I often hate his name. Now and again I encounter that name to signify human beings who do things opposed to patterns of society. I haven’t really met a Christian named Judas, Lord. I presume all parents and baptizers dislike Judas, too, never christening children with such a fame. All regard Judas as having not loved you because he betrayed you! Was Judas not your friend, Lord? You called him to be one of your students and you were his teacher alright. Tell me, Lord, you did count on him, that’s why you chose him as a trusted friend. Did he not trust you in return that he betrayed you? A student who plays a trick upon his teacher does not deserve to be a student at all! Very disrespectful, ungrateful! You should not have chosen him

as a disciple in the first place, Lord. My brother, Judas was one of those whom I came for. My Father, who is also your Father, sent me not for the righteous but for the wicked. For it is not the healthy person but the sick who needs a physician. I summoned disciples from all walks of life, if you remember! Fishermen, tax collector, “poor” and “sinners,” men who could afford to deny and betray me. They were representatives of mankind for through them I wanted to bring total humanity back into the love of the Father. So you loved Judas, Lord, and all who were like him? I don’t hate Judas anymore because you don’t hate him, Lord. Some say you took him as a pupil for a certain purpose. And I’m trying to understand. Before Judas betrayed you, long beforehand you already knew he was going to do it. Why did you not get angry with him, Lord? But why should you if you wanted the scriptures be fulfilled? O yes, you came not to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets. And you said, what was written about you must come true. Lord, I think I love Judas. Or perhaps it is not love. I just want to thank him for helping you bring about a fulfillment of what was told about you in the old days. He must have been disillusioned with you for not publicly declaring your messiahship. Say, he had followed you in the belief that you would bring in a kingdom which could be hastened if he pressed you into political action,

to force your hand. Now I know, he did a good job of course, not for you but for me, Lord, for all whom you were sent here for. Judas made my salvation come quickly. He hastened the day of my deliverance from sin and death. The world then was waiting for so long, fainting hungry for a savior. And surely, you would not like us wait for nothing, Lord! Judas was used for that purpose – to drive you to bring about a plan in the fullness of time to unite all things in you. But if he accomplished a part of the plan why did you curse him then, Lord? Or was it a curse? I heard you say how terrible it was for that man who would betray you that it would have been better if he had never been born! My brother, have you ever been betrayed with a kiss? What does kiss mean to you? I counted Judas as a trusted friend, and he acted like a friend, but he deceived me! He only loved me for money. What I did not like was hypocrisy – that man shows something different from his inner feelings and just pretends. But Lord, have you not forgiven Judas? He felt very sorry for what he did to you. He repented and took back the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. Perhaps he didn’t intend to do you harm. Maybe he never dreamed that his act would bring you punishment. And he later realized his foolishness in betraying an innocent man to death;

so he hanged himself. He could no longer bear the guilt, Lord. My brother, everyone who repents must be forgiven. I never held forgiveness from all those who asked me. Even to the criminal who had never been with me before when he repented at the cross I offered him paradise. I always ask the Father to forgive those who do not know what they are doing. Truly I have forgiven Judas for what he did to me but killing himself was another thing. Man’s life is not his own but of the Creator’s. Man, therefore, has no right to take his life off. My brother, this commonly happens to you and your brothers and sisters around. You betray me and as a result you fall into darkness, you hunt for death. You lose your life! You don’t only know that I whom you betray am the Life! Lord, don’t pick at me, please! I have never betrayed you! Can you cite a single instance, Lord, when I did betray you? My brother, you often betray me. How many times have you been disloyal to me? How many times have you lost faith in me? How many times have you deceived yourself as well as your brothers and sisters? You do neglect my word. You easily forget me! And the worst thing is that you know I have been betrayed yet you still continue to betray me.

You mean to say, Lord, I am another Judas? I’m now afraid you are also displeased with me. Don’t be angry, Lord, please. Will you allow me to use reason to fabricate some justification. I heard you say that we would always have the poor. I did not hear you say we would always have Judases with us. Even then, Lord, I like to think that wicked people like Judas, like me, if I am one, are useful too. Don’t we have a certain purpose in this world, Lord? My brother, you are right! You can only realize the nature of light in the presence of darkness. You can only recognize fully what is right when compared to what is wrong. So the wicked people should enable you to notice the righteous, the upright. My brother, everything which our Father created is useful, it is worth its price. The evil ones and what they become should help you place your own self, to know on which side you should stand to consider which path you should follow. Still these contrasts of existence seem useless. How often, in your generation, men fall into the trap of the evil, so weak to uphold what is good. Past lessons should be enough to make you see. you prefer, however, to be blind when you could see. Or perhaps, just pretending to be blind. A judas is enough, my brother. We already had one and you know what happened to him. As much as possible I don’t want you to become one!

SELF-BETRAYED was published in The Times on Friday, 8 April 1983. The whole literature page was titled Meditation in Poetry. It was critiqued by Kirpal Singh, the Literary Editor. Self-betrayed was also published in the No. 18, Easter 1983 issue of The Family, national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.