4. Jesus is denied by Peter
Leader: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
All: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Quiet moment of asking: “that I might become more aware of the shame and confusion that Peter felt within himself, firstly when he denied his friend Jesus and then, as the cock crowed, when he fully realised what he’d done”.
We listen to the words of Matthew’s Gospel and we see how Peter denied knowing Jesus, getting more and more agitated each time he did so, and then was overcome with grief at what he had done.
Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him saying, “You, too, were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it in front of them all. “I do not know what you are talking about,” he said. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” And again, with an oath, he denied it, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “You are certainly one of them too! Why, your accent gives you away.” Then he started cursing and swearing, “I do not know the man.” And at once the cock crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, “Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26: 69-75
NOTICE – A silent contemplation moment
Notice how you feel about St Peter here, in this moment. What was going on inside him as he heard himself making these three denials of Jesus, his friend and his Lord? Talk to him, even, and let him tell you about it, and even the bitter tears he shed; let his experience remind you of any moments when you’ve done something like this. But then let him tell you also about what happened later; the Lord forgave him and, not only that, placed him at the head of our Church, the Risen Christ’s body on earth!
Good and gracious God, we are aware of the many occasions when we deny you in small ways; at work, in relationships, with friends when it feels easier to go along with the crowd, turning a blind eye to things that are wrong, keeping quiet about what we already know about you and your mercy. We can look for the easy way out in order to avoid saying what we should say about our faith. All those small denials build up; they corrode our hearts, our souls. They can also be a bad example, a scandal, to others. The women and bystanders who identified Peter were surely scandalised by his loud denials and Peter would have realised this, as he reflected on his experience. We can be like Peter here, who already had come to know you and love you yet still denied you; not once, not twice but three times. We recognise in some ways the shame and confusion, his stings of his conscience, as he panicked under questioning and denied you. Yet also we know, as Peter eventually remembered, of your overwhelming desire to encourage us and to forgive us.
Strengthen in us that desire, placed in us by the Holy Spirit, to be true to our faith and true to our best selves.
Together we pray; Lord, we want to walk beside you in your suffering. Forgive us; and help us to see you in the suffering of the poor.