Peter, whom Christ has proclaimed the rock upon which his Church is founded, denies his Lord before the servants of the high priest.
It is not for us to belittle Peter’s motives. As the disciple is being questioned by these underlings, the Master is being interrogated by those with the power to put either or both to death.
In the face of this violent assault, Peter has been forbidden to respond with the sword (Lk. 22:51), and finds himself less eager than he had anticipated to accompany his Lord to prison or to death (Lk. 22:33).
How many Christians relish the prospect of persecution? Yet we are taught that “the servant is not greater than his master.” If the they have persecuted him, they will persecute us (Jn. 15:20).
Good Friday is a good day to recall that Christ had to die for each of us, because each of us has betrayed him.
Faced with the horror of his own treachery, Judas turned in despair to those who had led him astray, and found no comfort. Peter instead met the eyes of his Master, and was saved.
In this probing poem, Lagrime di San Pietro, Luigi Tansillo (1510–1568) meditates on the effect our Lord’s gaze had upon his chosen vicar:
His eyes were the bows and His glances the arrows which, not content with piercing Peter’s heart alone, entered his very soul, there inflicting such wounds that for the rest of his life he had to anoint them with his own tears.
“Though profane things may be unworthy of comparison to things sacred,” the poet continues, “experts in the ingenious game of love can teach the apt but untried novice how, without speaking or writing a word, one can yet communicate with eyes alone.”
Our Lord is the leading expert in the most ingenious “game of love” imaginable. His eyes alone are able to penetrate our souls, wounding in order to heal the many fatal disorders afflicting us.
As we contemplate the loving gaze Jesus extends to Peter, and to us, perhaps our meditations may be aided by this setting of Tansillo’s poem by Orlande de Lassus (1530–1594):
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