April 5, 2020 - Palm Sunday
(Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14—27:66)
Today's very long Gospel reading covers most of two chapters of Matthew. One of the many events covered in this Gospel is the denial by Peter. The Gospels enumerate several of Peter's failings. There is the time he doubted Jesus' advice to put out into deeper water; the time he became fearful of the waves when walking on the water toward Jesus; the time he suggested building tents at the Transfiguration instead of grasping the importance of the moment. Peter even tried to dissuade Jesus from his destiny on Calvary so that Jesus had to rebuke him sternly, saying “Get behind me, Satan!” And now we see the worst failing of all. Here, at the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, after witnessing all the miracles, experiencing the love of Jesus, being the first apostle to proclaim Jesus is the Son of the living God, and sharing in the Last Supper, Peter still fails to admit that he even knows Jesus, apparently out of fear of embarrassment in front of some people in the streets. Later martyrs have done much better than Peter on this score. They maintained their faith in Christ in the face of the threat of a horrible death. No such threat was facing Peter at this time. He was challenged first by a maid, then by another girl, and then by a group of bystanders. Probably the worst that would have happened to Peter is that he might have been mocked.
Nevertheless Peter had a good heart despite his weak will. Jesus saw his heart and tapped Peter to lead the Church. Peter went on to overcome his weak will, and he did die a martyr's death years later at the hands of the Romans. Like Peter, we may see ourselves as failures in our faith life, even as we have been given one opportunity after another to believe in and to do God's will. As we head into the most holy week of the year, let us remember that the same Christ who took someone as flawed as Peter and made of him a shining example can turn our lives around as well.