March 10, 2018

Saturday after the Third Sunday in Lent

And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14: 69-72

 

I have grown to admire and love Peter more and more. As a child, Peter was presented to me as the most Holy and Perfect of the Saints, holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and head of the Church on Earth. He was so perfect and saintly that he seemed aloof and out of reach. However, when I read the Gospels and Acts on my own, I came to see Peter as a person full of flaws. He was impulsive, rough, outspoken, crass and surly. He failed Jesus many times. Even in Jesus’ darkest hour, Peter denied knowing Jesus. I came to see Peter through a looking glass that reflected the person I was – flawed, insensitive, impulsive, and sinful. As a result, I found hope in Peter. If Jesus was willing to empower Peter and give Peter authority, then perhaps, Jesus would empower me to live out my vocation in order to build the kingdom of God here on earth in spite of my flaws, sins, and shortcomings. I grew to love Peter not because he was superhuman but because he was truly human, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, often putting his foot in his mouth, and even prone to violence as when he cut off Malchus’ ear. Peter did protest that he didn’t know Jesus and through his remorse and tears came to face the reality of his own ugliness. As a result, he realized that Jesus loved him for who he was. By coming to know his true and authentic self, Peter realizes that he was finally seeing what Jesus Christ saw and the reality that Christ loved him anyway. In the end, Peter came to love himself and love God and was willing to sacrifice everything for Christ, even his own life. May we have such hope.

 

The Rev. Tim Gavin
The Episcopal Academy

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February 23, 2018

Friday after the First Sunday in Lent

Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. Mark 14:29-31

 

The disciples were with Jesus at the Last Supper when he startled them with these words: “…one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me”. We are told that “They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, Surely you don’t mean me?” Can you imagine being told that one of your intimates was about to betray the person around whom your life had centered for three years?

Yet there was a bit of the disingenuous about the disciples’ reaction. Their question was a denial; it wasn’t, “Well, it’s not me, Lord.” Rather it was, “You don’t mean me (do you)?” This subtle question reveals the reality that each of them understood that they were capable of the betrayal. While it was Judas who would betray Jesus to the authorities, the other disciples also betrayed him. Peter would betray him sitting around a blazing fire warming himself outside the High Priest’s house. His betrayal took the form of the threefold denial of knowing Jesus. All of the other disciples would flee from the authorities and leave Jesus abandoned to face his death alone.

In Lent we are asked to look at our lives and their estrangement from our Lord. It is a period of reflection and repentance. It is also a time of hope and mercy. Just as each of the disciples betrayed our Lord, so do we when we break the bond of love which belongs to God alone – “you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.” Yet we also ask the question, “Is it I, Lord?” afraid to admit the answer, “Yes it is I.” When I was in elementary school, the Dominican nuns taught that it was our sins that crucified Jesus, and that God’s love was so great that even if there was no other sin than mine, Jesus would have gone through with the Passion. In the great Holy Week hymn, “Ah, holy Jesus” we sing the words, “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus,” I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.”

Lent is another chance our Lord gives us to make those changes which allow us to be reconciled to himself, but to do that requires us to look into the depths of our souls, to look into the mirror of our souls, because that will give us the honesty to answer the question the disciples posed, “Surely you don’t mean me?” Reconciliation requires change and that is frightening; yet it the only way forward. During Lent the refrain from the song, “Man in the Mirror”, sums up this inward introspection beautifully, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror/I’m asking him to change his ways/And no message could have been any clearer/If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Let us join Jesus at the rock and pray for the courage to change by reconciling our lives with God. This God who brought Jesus from his great ordeal to the day of resurrection and will bring us from the death of sin to a new life of grace. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 103, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins/nor rewarded us according to our wickedness./For as the heavens are high above the earth/so is his mercy great upon those who fear him./As far as the east is from the west,/so far has he removed our sins from us./As a father cares for his children so does the LORD care for those who fear him.”

 

The Rev. Frank Wallner
Saint John’s, Lower Merion