Luke 22:14 – 23:56
As a young kid, I was always excited to listen to the Gospel on Palm Sunday. As the priest read the words of Jesus, the lector read lesser parts, and the parishioners acted as the voice of the people, it almost felt to me as though I was in a theater, watching a play.
I remember picturing the events of the Gospel in my mind’s eye, and with each voice envisioning a distinct character. There was one scene, however, that I always disliked the most – Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. I hated to see him deny God, not just once, but three times. I experienced this sinking feeling, the same one I’d feel when discovering that one of my celebrity idols had become involved in a scandal, or that one of my favorite athletes had admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.
As a child, I could never imagine that someone I held up as virtuous would have even the capability of falling so far. Being a child, however, meant that I approached life with a certain myopia that excluded any future possibilities and focused instead on the immediate failure or triumph. I also revered those above me as virtual superheroes, incapable of fault.
Stopping to smell the roses is rarely a bad thing and accepting moments as God offers them is often spiritually rewarding, especially in the practice of contemplation. Nor is having a role model, famous or not, somehow negative in itself. However, viewing failures, even those as blatant as Peter’s denial of God, as irreversible or hopeless, means forgetting the existence of God’s mercy. Placing others (or myself) on a pedestal of perfection means forgetting our human nature, our propensity for falling over and over again.
While it is painful to fall short of God’s expectations, it helps to remember the meaning of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. His suffering and death are a deep expression of his love, mercy, and forgiveness. He teaches us to never fear our failures but to instead replace them with hope and a new beginning, no matter how many times we fall.