Tag Archives: Peter’s denial

Profound Pity

Jeremiah 3:14-17, Jeremiah 13:10-13, Matthew 13:18-23

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. (Mt 13:23)

When the apostle Thomas said, “Unless I see the print of the nails and put my finger where his nails were…” (Jn 20:24) we see how stubborn he was in his doubt. It would have been justifiable if he had not immediately believed, for we read, “One who trusts others too quickly is light‑minded” (Sir 19:4).

But to overdo one’s search, especially about the secrets of God, shows a coarseness of mind: “As it is not good to eat much honey, so one who searches into the majesty [of God] is overwhelmed by its glory” [Prov 25:27]; “Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power. Reflect upon what has been assigned to you, for you do not need what is hidden” (Sir 3:22).

Throughout the Gospels, we see the strongest signs of God’s profound pity. First, in this: that He loves the human race so much that He sometimes allows tribulations to afflict his elect; seeds to fall on thorns and stones; doubting Thomas, Peter’s Denial, etc. God permits this so that from these, some good can accrue to the human race.

God allowed the apostles, the prophets and the holy martyrs to be afflicted: “Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (Hos 6:5); “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Cor 1:6).

This is both remarkable and puzzling. Through profound pity, God allowed some Saints to fall into sin (as David did by adultery and murder) in order to teach us humility through refinement in the furnace.

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio (c. 1601–1602) / PD-US

The Look

Peter’s Denial by Carl Bloch

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Luke 22: 54-62)

How did Jesus look at Peter? What was on his face that made Peter remember that he had denied Christ, just as Jesus had predicted? What did Jesus’ expression say that made Peter go out and weep bitterly?

Jesus could have looked at Peter with a smug face that said, “I told you so!” How many of us would give someone a smug expression after being proved right?

He could have looked at Peter with anger. “How could you deny me, after everything I’ve taught you, everything I’ve done for you!?!?” How many of us would respond in anger, upon discovering that someone we loved denied even knowing us?

Christ could have looked at Peter with hurt and sadness, where his eyes said it all: “All I ever asked from you was to follow me, and you can’t even do that when I need you the most…” How many of us would respond to being betrayed with tears in our eyes?

Jesus could have looked at Peter in any of those ways – they are all certainly human responses – and any of these responses could certainly lead Peter to weep.

But these looks don’t belong on the face of Jesus that Peter knew; the Jesus that we all know.

I believe that Jesus looked at Peter with love. When I read and reflect on this passage, I picture Jesus’ eyes saying, “I forgive you. I am with you to the end. I still love you, no matter what you do.

And that kind of expression – that look of love, even when we feel unworthy of being loved – is what made Peter weep.

Wouldn’t you?

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali