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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 14- Peter Denies Knowing Jesus

Matthew 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." 38 But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about!" As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazorean." Again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man!" 39 A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away." At that he began to curse and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: "Before the cock crows you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly.

This must have been the worst moment of Peter's life.  Peter LOVED the Lord.  Peter left everything he had to follow Him.  Peter witnessed many miracles and was one of the three disciples to see Jesus' transfiguration.  He even offered to lay down his life for Jesus.  And now look at Peter.  He is denying that he even knew Jesus. Jesus predicted this would happen and Peter was devastated that Jesus would think he would do such a thing, and then he did it. 

Let's look at the way this scene unfolded.  When Peter denied Jesus the first time, he sort of deflects the accusation by saying he doesn't know what the girl is talking about.  But when the second time rolls around, he is more adamant about not knowing Jesus- he swears an oath that he doesn't know Jesus.  When he is questioned publicly by a group, he curses and swears another oath saying he doesn't know Jesus.  So with each instance, Peter's denial grows more escalated.  In Luke's gospel, Jesus is said to have locked eyes with Peter when the cock crowed.  Peter must have felt that sin like a dagger to his heart.

The way in which Peter's denials escalate from a passing lie to one person and then to shouting and swearing in his denial to many people illustrates how easily sin grabs a hold of us.  At first, the sin seems small.  And when we feel like we got away with it, we find it easier to sin again- maybe even something more serious.  If left unchecked, the sinning gets easier and easier and before we know it, we are in a real mess.

I can relate well to this cycle of sin.  I can relate well to Peter's denial of our Lord.  When I was working three jobs as a full time student in college, getting to Mass was almost impossible.  So, sometimes, I didn't go.  And as time passed, I didn't go more and more often.  Before I knew it, I was hardly going at all.  When I wasn't going to church, I sometimes found myself in conversations where the Catholic/Christian faith was being attacked.  And I didn't say anything.  I didn't stand up for my faith.  I didn't want to be labeled as the "girl with religion."  I also didn't always behave like someone who loved the Lord.  For the most part, I just did what I wanted and silenced the now very soft voice calling me to a better life.  By the time I was older, I realized that I was missing something important in my life.  I knew I needed to start going to church.  I knew I needed the Lord.  And in that moment, the cock crowed.  And I realized that I had denied my Lord.  I had not been a good witness.  I had cast Jesus out of my life.  So, I went to confession for the first time in 10 years.  And I said to the Priest that I felt like Peter.  I knew and LOVED the Lord, but I fell away.  And I publicly denied that I knew Him.  It wasn't a good feeling.  But in that confessional, I felt forgiveness.  I felt as if my slate had been wiped clean.  And I took the Lord's hand and started out on the road less traveled once again.

Jesus taught: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).  Peter's sin was horrible.  If Peter never confessed it, it would have cost him his salvation.  But he did confess.  And the Lord forgave him.  And then He gave him the keys to the Kingdom.  Peter was the rock upon which He built His Church.  That is a powerful lesson in the Lord's mercy.

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