It is Holy Week. So many things have wanted to pour out of me this week, or come to words through me, and I haven’t had the time, and I’m bursting at the seams. I am tempted to let some of them tumble down here in a most disorganised way. Perhaps, I should limit myself to the first.
Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. Grey skies, a dry spell between showers, a few daffodils pinned on the light shadow of a shuddering tree, Father Anthony with his smile in his eyes, kids crossing their palms, procession. We read Mark’s version of the Passion. I read along. As every time, and maybe even more this year that I have recently come back to communion, I feel my heart painfully tightening until the moment of Peter’s fall. The denial of saint Peter. And as he breaks down and weeps, I too break.
Here is Peter, or Simon, to whom Jesus gave the name of Kephas, the rock. How not to be touched by him ? He embodies humanity in all its tenderness and imperfection, in its moving and messy thirst for love. I certainly love him, for his passion, for his frailty, for his faults, especially this one, the one. A more serious one can hardly be conceived, coming from a man who was amongst the first companions of Jesus, who walked along him for three years – and what years ! -, sharing his bread, his wake, his sleep, his prayers, his friendship. A man who loved Jesus at first sight. When he was told, not long before the master’s death, that he could have no part with him if he didn’t let him wash his feet, didn’t he exclaim : “Then, Lord, not just my feet, but also my hands and my head as well!” ? How he would need it !
What did he know of the divinity of Christ ? What did he understand of the Son of Man ? That remains unknown, but one thing certain is he loved Jesus, as much as he didn’t know himself. “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” And “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” It is almost as if these fiery proclamations summoned upon him the hour of darkness. But they didn’t : the hour of darkness was summoned long before, and not confined to him.
Standing by the fire, face and hands in the glow, the first amongst the disciples, the friend, the brother, the lover says, repeats and swears that he does not know “this man about whom you are talking“. In the Devil’s soft hand, Peter is tried, stumbles on the oh-so-natural fear of death and falls as fully as possible – thrice. “And immediately a cock crowed a second time.“
In the denial of my brother, I hear my own. And underneath this terrible event, from which it should be impossible to rise again, preceding and following it, resounding from the place whence love stems, I hear Jesus, at the end, in the last text of the Gospels, asking thrice : “Simon, son of John, do you love me ?“. To the unfaithful, the weak and the cowardly, but to the friend who cried, Jesus entrusted his lambs, for whom he became man and died.
That is why I became a Christian. I believe that a God who decides to become lowly and die, a God who chooses Peter, amongst all, to steer his ship, the God of the kenosis, was not created by man. In him, unfailing love is proven. Tonight, the light will be rekindled.
En l’église Saint-Pierre-et-Paul de Ville-sur-Saulx. Source : Wikimedia Commons ; author : Amassychamp.