|Peter Denies Christ ~ Gerard Seghers|
Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him saying, "You, too, were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it in front of them all. "I do not know what you are talking about," he said. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazarene." And again, with an oath, he denied it, "I do not know the man." A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "You are certainly one of them too!" Why, your accent gives you away." Then he started cursing and swearing, "I do not know the man." And at once the cock crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, "Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times" And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)
PETER IS UNDER a lot of stress - even his cloak seems to be agitated. Two confrontational young women have asked Peter about his relationship with Jesus. Then there is a kind of gang-up as the bystanders confront Peter too. And Peter fails the test.
Some people live such a marginalized Christianity no one would ever suspect this was their faith confession. Recently we've heard it asked: When they come to arrest the Christians, will there be enough evidence to convict you? The new Coptic Martyrs, beheaded by crazed Islamic zealots, whispered the name of Jesus as they were murdered.
Some years ago, during a period of very hot racial tension in one of New York City's boroughs, people in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood stood, even on the steps of their own church, screaming hateful, menacing threats and slogans. Apparently not even the priests were brave enough to appear, insisting this couldn't happen on Church property. We might wonder if the priests ever got up in the Sunday pulpit to condemn the incidents or to tell the congregation: If you've participated in the street-hate, you should refrain from receiving Holy Communion until you've confessed.
But there is more. What is Jesus doing as Peter denies even knowing him? He is standing in solidarity with all of those who are denied, unclaimed, nameless, un-befriended, forgotten, anonymous, disappeared...
When Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity came to the United States they began their work by visiting nursing homes in poor neighborhoods. Mother noticed that many of the residents spent the day in the lobby and that whenever the front doors opened the heads would all go up, hoping for someone to come in who would recognize them - claim them.
The great poverty of the First World is the loneliness of so many people, having no one. Jesus has no one in this passion scene as Peter denies their friendship.