Tuesday of Holy Week 2015 by Father Damian Towey
As often as we read the Passion or recall the events of Holy Week, one of the saddest episodes in the gospels is Peter’s denial of Jesus. We wonder how Peter could say he did not even know him after all that he had witnessed first-hand – his healing of the sick, the dazzling vision of Jesus in his transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, the calming of the storm on the lake …
And yet there is something inside of us that also says: Peter, I understand. I understand the fear you felt. I understand the pressure you were under. I understand the how and why of your betrayal. But that word ‘betrayal’ makes us cringe — we see it as a sin of monumental proportions – not in our canon of transgressions – not something of which we could be guilty.
‘I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me. The disciples looked at one another, puzzled as to whom he could mean’. Still each one of them asked, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ Perhaps we, like they, understand betrayal better than we are willing to admit. That maybe we too have a price. Judas’ price was thirty pieces of silver; Peter’s price was going about unnoticed and unthreatened by the onlookers in the courtyard. While we are appalled and ashamed of what Judas did, while we are saddened at Peter’s disowning of Jesus, within each one of us is a painful sense of shame and embarrassment about our own price. An acknowledgement – that there but for the grace of God go I.
We betray others – and God – in many small, seemingly inconsequential ways – through mindless gossip, through aloofness, through silence, through rationalization, through fear. Sometimes, more seriously, we betray our values, our faith, our friends – and ourselves.
The fact of the matter is we understand betrayal all too well. But so does Jesus – that’s why he is so compassionate toward his disciples on this night before they’ll all fail him, tenderly calling them “my children”. That is why from the cross he reaches out to all of us who betray him and in his infinite mercy begs his Father, ‘Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’.