St. Anthony Messenger

April 2014

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Page 17 of 59

N INCIDENT in the Gospels can help us put the worst act we have ever committed into perspective. It's what Peter did to the Lord on the evening of Holy Thursday. Peter, the leader of the apostles, did some- thing he would never forget. On the night Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing him and being his disciple. And, shockingly, he did this three times. Worse yet, Peter was not being tortured (though many years later he would be, as would many Christians who were burned, beaten to death, or crucified for their faith). We go back to the Last Supper, when Jesus frightened Peter and the others by describing a dreadful series of events. Jesus' enemies would arrest him. He would be beaten and put to death on the cross. He also warned them that their faith would be shaken. Peter, filled with self-confidence and pride, assured Jesus that his faith was unshakable. Jesus then predicted Peter's denials. Again, he protested: "Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you" (Mt 26:31-35). Peter's Loyalty Is Tested The actual test confronted Peter hours later in the courtyard of the high priest where Jesus was being held. Note that he was not being threat- ened by someone in authority or by some tough guards who remembered Peter when they arrested Jesus in the garden. It came from a teenage servant girl. She saw Peter warming himself by the fire and told him that she rec- ognized him as one of Jesus' followers. Peter was startled, shocked, and filled with fear. In an instant, all of Peter's bravado from a few hours before had vanished. "I do not know the man," Peter said loudly, trying to sound convincing to those around him. In a panic, Peter moved on. Another bystander heard Peter's Galilean accent. Surely this linked him as a disciple of Jesus. Matthew relates, "At that he began to curse and to swear, 'I do not know the man'" (Mt 26:74). Despite all his protestations of loy- alty and bravery just hours before, Peter's self- confidence collapsed like a house of cards. He had perjured himself. How serious was Peter's triple denial of Jesus? More than a few spiritual writers would say it trumps even Judas' sin of betrayal. Peter's Road to Redemption Could Peter forget what he did to Jesus that night? Jesus had even washed Peter's feet a few hours earlier. No amount of repression, rationalization, or denial could ever blot out from his mind those denials. They were forever part of his personal history and memory. Think of the night when Jesus was led across the courtyard and saw Peter. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke no words. He simply looked at Peter. At that moment, Peter saw Jesus' battered face and realized in his heart the terrible thing he had done. What did Jesus convey with that look in St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g 1 6 ❘ A p r i l 2 0 1 4 B Y J I M V A N V U R S T , O F M S T. P E T E R ' S R egret Jesus showed his friend the way from regret to healing. He can do the same for us. A ILLUSTRATION BY HEIDI YOUNGER

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