While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’
At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept. - Mark 14:66-72
The Daily Office usually gives me a lot to think about, but this Maundy Thursday evening it isn't quite enough. I can read the story of the first Eucharistic meal, perhaps hoping against hope that the accusation of Jesus would not be true this time, but it always is and I know it. Still, we have the Eucharist to sustain us through the next few days when our emotions will be again made raw by the remembrance of the suffering of Christ on this night and his crucifixion on "Good Friday." Holy Saturday will be one of quiet waiting until the glorious explosion of joy, pageantry and thanksgving erupts at the services that mark the feast of the resurrection. But those days are in the future; tonight I come back to the portion of the gospel that is part of the story but not part of today's readings.
Following Jesus' arrest in the Garden, Peter followed Jesus surreptitiously; after all, it would do him no good to come right out and claim Jesus as his teacher and mentor when Jesus had just been arrested. Sounds like so many people who are part of an investigation into an alleged crime, "Nope, I wasn't there; I was somewhere else, don't know anybody, didn't see anything, don't know anything about it." Jesus had said that Peter would say something like that not once but three times and Peter just pooh-poohed the idea. He loved Jesus, he would never, ever deny Jesus -- but he did. Sometimes it is easier and safer to deny something rather than speak the truth and face the consequences.
Denial is a strange thing. It's a way of avoiding facing something that a person would rather not face. It attempts to avoid consequences that sooner or later will catch up to the person, only they usually think they can escape those consequences. Occasionally it may work, or work for a time, but eventually there will be consequences, often worse than would have been had they not been evaded. Peter was trying to save his own neck, a neck he would eventually have to stick out when it became his turn to first preach and teach the message of this Messiah and then run afoul of the authorities only to end up on a cross himself. Still, he managed to evade those consequences for some time, trying, in a sense, to make up for those minutes of denial. In a sense, he strove to redeem himself -- whether to God, to Jesus, to the other disciples or maybe to himself, who knows?
I've done enough denying in my life to know that consequences catch up. In the past few years I've had a nagging suspicion about a health problem but nah, I could justify ignoring it, thinking it was just temporary discomfort or just the result of getting older but never really wanting to face it. Then, more or less out of the blue, the time came when I couldn't ignore it any longer. There it was, staring me in the face. The time for paying the consequences had begun.
Lest anyone think I'm being melodramatic, I'm really trying not to be. Last Friday afternoon, after having seen my primary care physician on Wednesday, I got a message from his office stating that my blood sugar level was 260 and, with the symptoms he and I had discussed, he wanted me to make an appointment as soon as possible. I saw him on Monday afternoon and now I not only have a diagnosis, I have a major lifestyle shift to make. I have medications to take, finger-sticks to do and dietary limitations that are the hardest part of all. Instead of a whole cluster of grapes I am now limited to 17. Who counts grapes? Well, I guess now I do, huh? Big Macs may not be gone forever but now I will have to plan my whole day's diet around that one Big Mac -- and forget the fries, at least for now. It's not fun, but I'm really not whining. I'm just looking at the consequences.
Ok, so my denial isn't on par with Peter's, in the greater scheme of things. I haven't denied the Lord or that I knew him, but what I have denied is that I have done a lousy stewardship job on my body. It's easy to say my denial isn't as bad as Peter's, but it's my own denial that I have to pay for, just as he did. I read once somewhere that I can't compare my pain, my feelings or anything else, including denials, to anyone else's because I have to deal with mine, not theirs. Mine are the worst in the world because they are mine to face and deal with. I can empathize, I can sympathize, I can even identify with another but I can't walk in their shoes or completely understand how they felt or why they react as they do. I'm not minimizing their pain or inflating my own; I'm simply stating the truth as I see it, right or wrong in anyone else's eyes.
Holy Week is supposed to be about focusing on the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This year, however, part of my focus has been a focus on my own trial, crucifixion of a way of life I'd found comforting, and a potential resurrection of a new and healthier me. Maybe it's petty, but it's the way I am looking at it at this moment.
I believe I am going through a strange and different kind of Holy Week observance, but in the end, I have hope of my own new life. I have the example of Jesus to look to and follow.
Have a blessed Tridiuum.