Lent Day 25 - LIFE OF CHRIST, by Fulton Sheen
LENT DAY 25 – Wednesday March 14
“When Our Lord was arrested, Peter followed Him afar off; with him was John. They both went to the house of Annas and Caiaphas where our Lord was tried. The house of the high priest, where the trial was held, was like many Oriental houses built around a quadrangular court, the entrance to which was gained by a passage from the front part of the house. This passage or archway was a porch closed to the street by a heavy gate. The gate, on this occasion, was kept by a maid of the high priest. The interior court to which the passage led was covered with flagstones and open to the sky. The night was cold, for it was early in April. Peter had already failed the Lord in the garden by sleeping; now he had a chance to undo his failure. But danger lurked for Peter, first of all because of his exaggerated self-confidence in his own loyalty. Though an ancient prophet had told that the sheep would be dispersed, Peter felt that… he might be dispensed from such a collapse. A second danger was his previous failure when he was bidden to “watch and to pray”. He did not watch, for he fell asleep; he did not pray, for he substituted activism for spirituality by swinging a sword. A third danger was that the physical distance he kept from Christ might have been a symbol of the spiritual distance that separated the two. Any distance from the Sun of righteousness is darkness.
When Peter entered the courtyard, he began to warm himself by the fire. In the light of the flame, the maiden who had let him in the gate was better able to see his face. If the challenge to Peter’s loyalty had come from a sword or from a man, he possibly might have been stronger; but hampered by his pride a young woman proved too strong for the presumptuous Peter… Thrown off guard by the maid, he made his first denial. The maidservant said to him: “Thou too wast with Jesus the Galilean.” (Matthew 26:69) To everyone round about the fire, Peter answered: “I do not know what thou meanest.” (Matthew 26:70)
Peter began to feel uncomfortable in what seemed to him like the search-light of a flame that was examining his soul as well as exploring his face; so he moved a little distance toward the porch. Anxious to escape form enquiring faces and busy tongues, he felt safer in the retirement of the darkness of the porch. The same or possibly another maid came to him affirming that he had been with Jesus of Nazareth, and he denied it again this time by invoking an oath saying: “I know nothing of the Man.” (Matthew 26:72) He who had drawn the sword in defense of the Master a few hours before now denied the One Whom he had sought to defend. He who had called his Master “the Son of the living God”, now calls Him the “Man”.
More time passed, and his Savior was accused of blasphemy and delivered over to the brutality of the attendants; but Peter was still surrounded. Though it was midnight or thereafter, the crowds probably swelled at the news of the trial of Our Blessed Lord. Among those that were standing by was a kinsman of Malchus, who distinctly remembered that Peter had cut off the ear of his relative in the garden and that the Lord had restored it. Peter, all the while anxious to cover up his nervousness and to pretend more than ever that he knew not the man, became evidently very garrulous; and this gave him away. His provincial accent showed that he was a Galilean; it was generally known that most of the adherents of Our Lord had come from that area, which lacked the polished dialect of Judea and Jerusalem. There were certain guttural letters which the Galileans could not pronounce, and immediately one of the bystander said: “It is certain that thou art one of them; even thy speech betrays thee.” (Matthew 26:73) Peter invoked an oath, and now: “He fell to calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I know nothing of the Man.’” (Matthew 26:74)
Now in the chilly morn as the consciousness of guilt mounted in his soul, he heard an unexpected sound: “The cock crew.” (Matthew 26:74)… then there flashed across his mind the words which Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, thou wilt thrice disown Me.” (Matthew 26:75) At this moment, Our Blessed Lord was led from the scourging, His face covered with spittle: “And the Lord turned, and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) Though bound shamefully, the Master’s eye sought out Peter with boundless pity. He said nothing; He just looked… Peter might deny the “man”, but God would still love the man Peter…
“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62) Peter was now filled with repentance… His sorrow was caused by the thought of sin itself or the wounding of the Person of God… The same mercy extended to the one who denied Him would be extended to those who would nail Him to the Cross and to the penitent thief who would ask for forgiveness. Peter really did not deny that Christ was the Son of God. He denied that he knew “the Man”, or that he was one of His disciples. But he failed the Master…”
(Chapter 44, pgs. 728 – 734)
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