The Word — A terrible denial

Published 12:16 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022

Brother Maximilian Watner

“Then he began to curse and to swear that he kew bot the nan” (Mt. 26,74)

St. Peter, who was clearly the leader of the Apostles, had drastically changed his attitude in the last hours. Just a short while before, in the Garden of Olives, he had drawn his sword, full of self-assurance and bravado, to defend Jesus against the soldiers who had come to arrest Him. Now, with his human hope and all-too-human dreams in utter shambles, he is reduced to denying that he even knows our Lord.

Lent is the season during which we should meditate on the passion of Jesus. Surely one of the greatest sufferings that He endured was the threefold betrayal of one of His favored disciples. This episode of the Gospel is full of lessons for us, about us. Christ wants us to penetrate deeply into the meaning of repentance, humility and fidelity.

What is our first reaction after we realize that we have sinned? We cover up, pretend it didn’t happen or it wasn’t us. What did St. Peter do? He owns up to it, accepts responsibility. None of the other disciples witnessed his denials. If we know of his betrayal, it was probably because he himself told the four Gospel writers. We even see that the two Evangelists, Matthew and Mark, who were close companions of St. Peter in particular, write about the event in greater detail than the other two.

What do we do after we humbly accept responsibility for our sin? We hide in shame, perhaps priding ourselves that we are humble. The problem here is that we retain that radical self-centeredness which was the cause of our sin in the first place. We are sorry for our sin because it has caused us heart-ache, or damage to health or reputation. But we never have a thought for our Father’s glory that we have dragged through the mud of sin. When will we admit that even our sins are included in the mercies of God? That God’s mercy is greater than our weakness?

The humility of St. Peter is shown less in admitting his sin to the world than in what he did afterwards. In spite of his unworthiness ‚— of which he was now well aware — he remained at the post to which his Master assigned him. He continued to be a leader to the disciples and bear witness to Christ, eventually to the point of shedding his blood for his Lord as a martyr in Rome.

What was the cause of the difference between Peter on the night of the Passion, crushed by his own sin, and Peter who was faithful to Jesus the rest of his life? Two wonderful events: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.

Imitate Peter’s humility; stop believing in self; replace presumption with a humble and fervent love for Him Who earned for us forgiveness — by His Cross — because He loves us with a divine love.

BR. MAXIMILIAN WATNER is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at webmaster@stas.org.