It is a timely reading for Holy Week, and we hear Peter’s denial every year at this time. Sometimes twice. Would we add a third time at a Communal Penance liturgy, or in form I with an individual penitent?
As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t grown accustomed to watching Peter in these Scriptures. In a way, it feels a bit like moral voyeurism. I feel guilty for the man. It’s like when my siblings got into trouble when I was a kid. Occasionally, I felt they got theirs … finally. But usually, I wanted to keep my head down. And I didn’t feel it was my business.
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.”
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!”
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.
Do Peter’s denials inspire penitence in my own life? I suppose it’s easy to say, as Peter himself did, “I will never deny you, Lord.” But we do reject Christ and his way. Quite often it is in subtle ways. A little bit here and a little there.
We deny sin. We deny it a little more vehemently, pressed. Peter even curses, lashing out, when someone insists. Of course, his sin is not in his association with Jesus or not. His anger is clearly self-directed. He knows he is in denial. He cannot hold it in.
Can we place ourselves in Peter’s place, denying the Lord? Maybe this reading works better for an individual penitent. If a parish does a Communal Penance liturgy during Holy Week (not that we don’t have enough on our plates) this Gospel seems appropriate. What do you think?