SECOND WEEK OF LENT: WEDNESDAY
St. Peter’s threefold Denial
1st Prelude. Behold the Apostle in the hall of Caiphas, standing near the fire, in company with the soldiers and servants of the high priest.
2nd Prelude. Ask the grace of knowledge, and distrust of self.
POINT I. “Now when Peter was in the court below, there cometh one of the maid-servants of the high priest, and when she had seen Peter warming himself, looking on him she said: Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied before them all, saying: Woman, I know Him not.”
CONSIDERATION. Peter, having recovered from his terror in the garden, followed Jesus afar off to the hall of Caiphas, and there, in answer to a woman’s voice, the Prince of the Apostles denied his Lord. A short time before, he, more than all the other Apostles, had been boasting of his unchangeable fidelity. Great indeed was his weakness, grievous indeed was his fall.
APPLICATION. The fall of St. Peter shows us how weak is human nature, and makes us tremble for ourselves. But every effect has a cause, therefore let us look into what caused the Apostle’s fall. The Fathers give four reasons for it. He was presumptuous of his own strength, he had neglected prayer and vigil with his Master, he was rash in exposing himself to temptation, and he indulged tepidity and idle curiosity. “Peter followed Him afar off, and sat with the servants to see the end.” When we think over our falls, and the false steps we have taken in life, we may easily trace them to one or other of these causes.
AFFECTIONS and RESOLUTIONS.
POINT II. “And again he denied with an oath: I know not the man.”
CONSIDERATION. As the danger increased, St. Peter’s fear grew stronger, and he fell lower still. His first denial had been a cowardly falsehood; but his second was a perjury. His sins followed fast upon each other, and became more and more deadly.
APPLICATION. If once we give way to our passions, once yield to human respect, gluttony, curiosity, anger, sensuality, or any other sin, we shall soon be carried farther. Never let us venture to say, I will do what I wish for this once, and then I shall be at rest; or, I will go thus far in what is wrong, but no farther. This is a fatal delusion, and springs from a want of self-knowledge. The passions are like fire, which never says “It is enough.” So said St. Augustine, speaking from experience. And can we not confirm it?
AFFECTIONS and RESOLUTIONS.
POINT III. “And after the space as it were of one hour, one of the servants of the high priest saith to him: Did I not see thee in the garden with Him? Surely thou art one of them? But he began to curse and swear, saying: I know not this Man of whom you speak.”
CONSIDERATION. Rapid and fearful was the Apostle’s downward course. In less than two hours he thrice denied his Lord, twice he perjured himself; and finally confirmed his false-swearing by a fearful imprecation on himself. What shame and grief he then gave to the Heart of his Master, who at that very moment was standing only a little way off, enduring cruel insults for love of him!
APPLICATION. Why did our Lord permit him, who was to become the head of the Church, to fall so low? And why was it published to the whole world in the Gospel? The Fathers give the reasons for it. They say, in the first place, it was that St. Peter and his successors, the chief pastors of the Church, should excel in humility, and have a deep sympathy for the weakness of their people. Secondly, that the world, perceiving on what a weak foundation in itself the Catholic Church is built, should recognise that it is indeed the work of God, not of men, and that its existence is a wonder and a marvel. Thirdly, as a warning to men, that, no matter to what height of sanctity they have attained, they are still very weak, and stand in continual need of divine grace. We will therefore bless and exalt the wisdom of Divine Providence.
COLLOQUY with our Lord.