Holy Week is upon us, and regardless of your commitment to the Lenten practices you made around Ash Wednesday, there is still time to re-center yourself upon the spiritual meaning of Lent. Over the next several days we walk together with Christ up until his passion and resurrection. Catholic in Recovery will be offering short reflections throughout the week to unite us with the journey of Christ.
In today’s Gospel reading (John 13:21-33,36-38) we witness Christ reclining at table with His disciples once again. Building up to the moment where He is to shed His life for us, He notes that one of His disciples will betray Him. We know that the one whom He is speaking of is Judas. However, Peter, perhaps with a bit of uncertainty and fear of being separated from the Lord, raises questions about whom it will be. I can’t help but think that there is a bit of doubt in Peter’s heart that the Lord may actually be referring to him as the one who will betray Jesus. We hear in other Gospel stories that Peter would rather maintain the comforts of the Lord’s presence without the cross (Transfiguration of Jesus, Luke 9:33).
Regarding my own experience, I can relate to Peter declaring, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Making that declaration without the grace that accompanies true surrender is like asking God to lead me under my own conditions. I have been there many times prior to getting sober and while in recovery. Christ predicts Peter’s moment of unfaithfulness by saying, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
Peter still doesn’t get it, and oftentimes neither do we. How can we? We, like Peter, think and make plans according to our own limited understanding of how grace ought to be distributed. In Peter’s situation, it is not until he comes face-to-face with his own human weakness that he finds truth in God’s plan. After denying that he knows Jesus—even shortly after Christ tells him he would—he experiences “metanoia”, or spiritual conversion, through repentance.
Isn’t this true for us? Our shortcomings and the resulting failure to meet our own expectations can lead us doubting ourselves. However, just like Peter, God calls us back to Him—to surrender to Him and to carry His cross. Christ did not turn on Peter after his betrayal. Instead, he gave Peter understanding and the gifts to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. Years later, after establishing Christ’s Church, Peter ultimately does come through on his promise and gives his life in the name of the Lord.
How can we use moments of our own weakness to cultivate an awareness of the presence of God?
What areas of your life are you gripping tightly to in an effort to serve the Lord according to your plans and under your conditions?
What moments of love and grace have you experienced as a result of witnessing God love you even through your shortcomings?