Two Nevers of Peter

Chapter 5 Reflection of Peter: Disciple and Pastor (By Fr. Eusebe Menard, O.F.M.) Juune 17, 2016 By Daniel Valente

Peter declared two absolute “NEVERS” at the Last Supper.  He wisely disavowed his first refusal to have Jesus wash his feet and relented (see John 13), but his staunch proclamation never to abandon the Lord, “even if I must die with you,” ended far more farcically and painfully (see Luke 22 and John 18).  Not only did Malchus have to endure the agony of having his ear sliced off by a sword, Peter had to endure the self-lacerating realization that he had indeed turned his back on the Lord and denied Him, as Jesus had foretold (see Matthew 26).

Fr. Menard writes in chapter 5 that, “Jesus never refuses Peter. He accepts and he loves him, middling as he is, so that Peter in turn may accept himself and recognize that he needs a master.”  The perspicacity of Fr. Menard’s observation is easily applied to every man and woman, not just a great saint like Peter whose penchant for impetuousness (“foot in mouth disease”) made his humanity on display all the more human.

Modern mouthpieces erroneously pontificate historically inaccurate and theologically inane positions that have tragically, even infiltrated Catholic schools and C.C.D. programs.  “Jesus was just a nice guy and a wise teacher, he came only to teach people how to love each other and be nice to one another.”  And yet, the stark reality of Peter’s example should make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up, and make all of the baptized faithful wake up and take notice.  If the first Pope, a man established in Jesus’s inner circle of the inner circle (the Apostles) who accompanied Jesus for three years as an eyewitness to His miracles and teachings, can get things so wrong in his prideful proclamations of “NEVER,” only to relent and deeply feel the effects of His sin, how much should we recognize our need of a Savior?  The good news is itself the Good News: Christ accepts and loves everyone in all our particular and collective sin, dysfunction, and personal mess.  We are only asked like Peter to relent.

We are all in need of having our feet washed by Jesus Christ.  I am a sinner.  Accepting Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection not only as an act for all humanity, but for me personally, puts me on the road to journey to Him in eternity.  But the road is long and tough, full of mud and rocks, the dirt and dung that go with living in the world in our particular time and space.  Sometimes we just trod through it and pick all the nasty stuff up on our feet.  I need my feet washed as Jesus did for his band.  The Lord pours out grace super abundantly that cleans and heals my feet through the sacraments and the church as if they were the feet of a newborn.  My pride often gets in the way of admitting my feet indeed stink and need washing.

How easy it is for me, for all Catholics, to say like Peter, “I’d never abandon you Lord.”  Granted, few of us will abandon the Lord in some defiant act of apostasy or public heresy.  Personally, that’s another story.  We turn our backs on Jesus like Peter did in a thousand ways great and small each day, and most of us are so unaware of our own unawareness we might as well be sitting next to Peter around that fire outside the high priest’s house.

How intent we are to get to Mass on Sunday morning.  I will follow you Lord, look, I am here at church unlike my no good (fill in the blank about who were judging and feeling an erroneous sense of moral superiority)  Monday morning, we’re gossiping about another coworker around the water cooler.  Tuesday, we’re complaining to our brother-in-law about some church teaching we no longer follow, I’ll do my own thing, the church has to “get with it,” even though we really don’t get it.  Wednesday we drive past the homeless alcoholic without so much as giving him a kind word, buying him a cup of coffee or a sandwich, even though you can make the sacrifice.  Can you make the sacrifice to give her a Rosary and tell her that God loves her, or do you rush off to (fill in the blank)?  Thursday, we lose it on the kid or our parents.  How come he/she doesn’t get algebra, I was so talented at math?  They’re just lazy and don’t care, I should be spending their tutor money on something for me instead!  Why doesn’t Mom or Dad just figure it out, the TV remote isn’t that complicated, why the heck are they calling me at work?  Friday we grab a beer after work with the guys and notice the ill-clad young woman trying to make time with the other men.  “What a slut!” you think, not knowing she never had a good dad like you, so she’s broken and looking for male affection denied her in childhood, albeit in an unhealthy way.  By Saturday, when you’re thinking unkind and uncharitable thoughts about the clerk at the store (Why do they hire those people?) you’ve rounded out your week turning your back on Jesus each day.  Oh, but you will be at Mass on Sunday?  Excellent!  I’m sure you’ll be complaining about the second collection to assist (fill in the blank) because those people really ought to help themselves.

Fr. Menard observed that Peter was actually telling the truth, he did nor know Jesus.  A fascinating argument that begs the question- Do we ?  If we claim to know Jesus, why do we choose Peter’s example of denying Him, rather than St. John or the Blessed Mother?  And when the bitter tears do come in a wellspring self-realization to our sinfulness and inadequacy, do we run back to the community (church) and the Lord for healing and restoration as Peter did?