Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. 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 the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm. Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed (Jn 18: 15-18; 25-27).
Last week I went to see the movie, Mary of Nazareth, with my buddy and his family. It is certainly not one of those movies that is going to wow you with its acting, beautiful sets, or special effects. It, however, was certainly worth the money because of its spiritual depth. The most powerful scene came at its depiction of Peter’s threefold denial of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me set the scene for you. First, we see Peter deny Jesus three times, which I have at the beginning of this post. Most of us are so familiar with this story that we miss how it impacts or relates to us. Immediately following his denial of our Lord, Peter looks up, and who does he see first? None other than the Mother of Jesus; Mary. What does he do? He runs to her. He falls to his feet weeping muttering things like, “Mary, I denied Him! I denied even knowing Jesus!” It is clear in this scene, that Peter is distraught. He has recognized his great sin. Then Mary, in the tenderness of a loving Mother speaks to Peter: “Peter, Peter, Peter. Jesus, knows that you love him. He knows that Peter. He knows that you Love HIM!” Then she embraces him, kisses his head, and assures Peter, not only of her love for him, but of Jesus’ love for Peter.
This moment in the movie captured well the real emotions that Peter was feeling. As I watched Peter run to Mary, I felt that I witnessed his distress. I witnessed Peter crying at how he denied the person that has Loved him the most. Then I watched Mary. I saw her hold him. I saw her comfort him. I watched intently as she assured him of Jesus’ unending love for him. Finally, she assures Peter that he has not lost his friendship with the Lord. Mary brings Peter out of his despair and back to the Hope he has in Jesus Christ. As I sat there watching this beautiful and intimate scene unfold, I realized that I too was crying. I recognized that I am Peter. I have denied Jesus. In every sin I have committed I have denied my Lord. But in that realization was the beautiful truth that my Mother Mary is there to lift me out of my wretchedness. I recognized that Mary has always been there to bring me back to Her Son. So, as I sat there watching this beautiful scene, I said to myself: “I must never forget this. I am going to be a Priest, God willing, and I will need to constantly run back to Mary, so that she can bring me back to Jesus. I must always run to Mary to hear those tender words “Stephen, Jesus knows that you love him. Jesus loves you.”
Later, my friend admitted to crying at this scene too. Then, overhearing our conversation, my friend’s dad said “Every man, knows how Peter felt in that scene.” This is the beautiful truth. Every man knows how Peter felt; unfortunately, however, not every man recognizes how much of Grace-filled moment it is. We have two options after a sin like that, we can either mope in our despair and deny the Love that Jesus wants to give us, or we can entrust ourselves to the Hope of Jesus Christ who freely forgives us of our sins.
Is should be no surprise then that I am going to propose Peter as the perfect model for this. Let’s turn to the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus calls Peter to be his disciple. Jesus has just helped Peter catch an innumerable amount of fish, then Peter recognizing who is before him exclaims “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Lk 5:8) The reason Peter is the perfect model is that he is a humble man. He understands his own poverty. Peter understands his own weakness and his own tendency to sin. Further, he recognizes that he is in the presence of the one whom he sins against; his Lord. But the second part of humility is to be able to see ourselves as God sees us. Peter, because he has allowed Jesus to enter his life, knows how the Lord looks at him. Peter knows the loving gaze of his Lord. Why is this important? Let us go back to that moment in the movie when Mary is holding the crying Peter. If Peter, in his humility, only knew of his wretchedness, he would not be able to receive the love from Mary, nor would he be able to receive the perfect love of Jesus that forgives him of his sins. In other words, Peter understands his own weakness, he understands his need for forgiveness, and finally, Peter trusts in the Love of Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ. In many ways I am like Peter. But, in many ways I am not. There have been several times in my life where I have sinned greatly against our Lord. But, there have also been many times where I have not trusted in his mercy, where I have forgotten just how much the Lord loves me. What a travesty this is! I must never forget, we must never forget, just how much Jesus loves us and offers us His forgiveness. Just as important, we must never forget that our Mother Mary is there for us to bring us back to Jesus. And when we find ourselves in the depths of despair, we must run back to our Mother, so that she can remind us of the Hope we have in Jesus Christ.
That is Christianity. That is the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that by his Cross and Resurrection, He has set us free! He is the savior of the world! Let us learn from Peter. Let us learn true humility: to understand our own poverty, weakness, and our need for Christ; and also, learn to trust in His unending and particular love for each one of us. Then we can truly say: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
In the love of Christ,