Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not."...Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, "Are not you one of his disciples? He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him? Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed. (John 18:17, 25-27)
The denial of Peter is one of the most-recognized moments in the passion narratives and is recorded in all four Gospels. There we see all of Peter's bravado and solemn declarations of loyalty spoken on Holy Thursday dissolve into a heap of panic and cowardice when he is faced with the reality of Jesus' arrest. Peter's repeated denial of Jesus seems to be an epic failure and an irrevocable breach of friendship. But that is simply not true. No sin or denial, no matter how grave, is ever out of the reach of the mercy of the Lord.
In a 2006 General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about how Peter's stumbles were not unique to him, but affect the lives of Christians in every age.
"Peter's rash generosity does not protect him, however, from the risks connected with human weakness. Moreover, it is what we too can recognize in our own lives. Peter followed Jesus with enthusiasm, he overcame the trial of faith, abandoning himself to Christ. The moment comes, however, when he gives in to fear and falls: he betrays the Master (cf. Mk 14: 66-72).
The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness. Peter, who promised absolute fidelity, knew the bitterness nd humiliation of denial: the arrogant man learns the costly lesson of humility. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness.
Once his attitude changes and he understands the truth of his weak heart of a believing sinner, he weeps in a fit of liberating repentance. After this weeping he is finally ready for his mission."
Likewise, Pope Francis, in a February 2014 homily spoke about the necessity of understanding Peter "...within the context of a long journey, after having traveled a long path. A path of grace and sin." It is "the disciple's path", the Pope said. In fact, he added, "following Jesus enables us to know Jesus. To follow Jesus through our virtues" and "also through our sins. Always following Jesus!" (L'Osservatore Romano)
Perhaps we identify with Peter this Holy Week: afraid and ashamed of our own failings. Then, like Peter, we must persist in following Jesus in spite of our weaknesses, sins, and missteps along the way. We must learn to see our life of faith as the journey which both Popes speak of - a journey which has all the drama of human success and failure. We must rely completely on God's grace and not our own strength to help us resist the temptations along the way. When we stumble and fall into sin, we must trust Jesus' mercy and run to beg for his forgiveness, so that through the mercy of God, we too, like Peter may be "ready for our mission."
Lord, in the depths of my heart I desire to follow you, and to publicly demonstrate my love for you, but my fear of being persecuted by being associated with you is crippling my faith. Forgive me Lord, for the times when my fear has paralyzed me and I have denied you before others. Strengthen me, through the power of your Holy Spirit, that I may become the bold disciple that you wish me to be and declare my love for you with every fiber of my being.
Read Other "Who Am I" Holy Week Reflections here:
Am I Pilate?
Am I Simon?
Am I the Good Thief?
Am I the Centurion?
Be sure not to miss a post by subscribing today to receive new posts directly in your email by entering your email address below.