Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week: Monday - Peter's Denials

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, central panel): 
Jesus Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.
The Passion of Our Lord
Jesus having been much ill-used, is led into one of the courtyards. He then turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61). Their looks meet. Peter would like to bow his head, but he cannot tear his eyes from Him, Whom he has just denied. He knows the Saviour's looks well; that look that had determined his vocation, he had not been able to resist either its authority or its charm; and that tender look of the Master's on the day He had affirmed, looking at His disciples, "Here are my brethren, my sisters, my mother!" And that look that had made him tremble when he, Simon, had wanted to banish the Cross from Jesus' path! And the affectionately pitying look with which he had invited the too-rich young man to follow him! And His look, clouded with tears, before Lazarus' tomb ... He knows them well, the Saviour's looks.

And yet never, never had he seen on the Saviour's face the expression he sees there at this moment, the eyes marked with sadness but without any severity. A look of reproach without a doubt, but which becomes suppliant at the same time and seems to repeat to him, "Simon, I have prayed for thee!"

This look only rests on him for an instant; Jesus is violently dragged away by the soldiers, but Peter sees Him all the time (G. Chevrot, Simon Peter).
He sees that compassionate look of Jesus fixed upon the deep wound of his guilt. He now understands the enormity of his sin, and the fulfillment of Our Lord's prophecy about his betrayal ...

Contrition gives special strength to the soul; it restores hope, makes the Christian forget himself and draw close to God once more with a deeper act of love. Contrition proves the quality of interior life and always attracts God's mercy; ... this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit ... (Isaiah 66:2)

Christ found no difficulty in building his Church upon a man who was able to fall and who did fall. God also counts on weak instruments, provided they repent, to carry out his big project: the salvation of mankind.
I will never forget when I first read the Gospel where Jesus turns and looks at Peter. What a terrible moment of sudden knowledge that must have been. I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are "found out" and the remorse and shame that flooded Peter on that instant. How many times have I given Jesus reason to look at me like that?

On the other hand, I also read a commentary mentioning that Jesus turned and looked at Peter first ... indicating that God always looks first (echoes of the parable of The Prodigal Son to meditate upon there). Which is a comforting thought especially when we, like Peter, have fallen so far and need to get up again.

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