Throughout the last three weeks of our Lenten journey, the gospel according to John gave us profound insight into the Truth of Jesus’ mission—the glory of his Cross. However, today’s gospel takes us back to the eyewitness account of the evangelist Mark, whom scripture scholars would all agree, depended heavily on the testimony of St Peter.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this humble fisherman, who abandoned both his faith and his friend for a short time, but who most significantly never despaired.
Jesus quoted scripture immediately before the discussion with Peter about his upcoming denial. He said – “I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”. He interprets the scriptures about himself and more so fulfils it.
We see the truth of this, when there was no one left at the foot of the Cross, except for St John and Our Blessed Mother. Peter was chosen to shepherd the group of disciples after Jesus’ death, however the devil had plans for him. Satan in his own way, attempted to “strike him down” and Peter in his naivety was convinced that he would persevere even in the midst of others losing faith.
We know how the events unfolded; Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny him three times, to which Peter replied: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”.
Many of us journey in our careers or vocation with the best of intentions like Peter. Full of confidence and zeal, we firmly believe that we can conquer all life’s challenges by ourselves. Unfortunately, the last place we often examine is within ourselves, for there is where both fear and pride exist; which can cripple any good effort.
We cannot rely on our own resources; we must always trust in God as Jesus did, and in order to do this, we must always be present to him in prayer, the greatest resource gifted to us. Jesus teaches us this lesson when He says, “You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test”.
Peter would eventually learn his lesson after Jesus’ resurrection, where he tells us in his own letters, that we must “be calm and vigilant, for the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat—stand up to him strong in faith!” (1Peter 5:8).
The devil however, would not manifest himself as a powerful beast but as one who comes with a gentle kiss—and a betraying one at that. Prayer helps us to be vigilant, so that we do not miss a thing, and so that Jesus after pleading with us to be aware and alert, would not have to tell us “Go on and rest—it is all over!”
This gospel teaches us that when danger is before us, prayer not only helps us to see the advancing trials in all its complexities; it also helps us to humbly submit to our Father in heaven, so that if it be His will, through obedience we would endure the particular torment, for His greater glory and the atonement of our sins.
Jesus’ disposition before his accusers was one of silence. He was truly “calm and vigilant”. On the other hand, a fearful Peter was quite vocal. “He started calling down curses on himself and swearing”. In trying to defend himself, he denied both Christ and his own very self.
We must realise that the truth needs no defence—only custodians. In a culture coloured by violence and selfishness, where the devil ‘accuses’ us day and night; rhetoric cannot save us—only love. How do we keep “calm and vigilant” with fighting in our schools, an escalating murder rate and corruption in our politics? We do it by guarding and loving all our actions that are rooted in pure love of God and of each other.
This Holy Week, let us pray especially for our religious leaders, educators, politicians and heads of households; and all our shepherds throughout the nation. May they truly listen to God and love Him even more.
In fact, let us pray that we may all be given both a disciple’s tongue and a disciple’s ear, so that we may follow Christ always, even through persecution and insult. Let us pray that we may never deny or resist God’s saving presence in our lives and that we may always live in the truth of Jesus Christ who died for our sins.
The Gospel Meditations for March were by Br Maurice White OP, a former Arima/Malabar parishioner, and teacher at both Fatima College and Holy Cross College. He is currently studying for the priesthood at the Dominican Seminary in Dublin, Ireland.