Why did Peter react as he did – in this Gospel?
Was he afraid? Because, if Jesus was going to be arrested and killed,
it would be natural for Peter and the other disciples
to fear being killed along with him.
And after all, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied the Lord,
and all but one of the other apostles ran away.
“Fear” is a really good subject to talk about right now,
between the concerns about the Covid virus,
and what’s happening in the economy,
and the violence and disorder in so many places,
and a national election on top of all that.
I’ll say again what I’ve said before:
if you find you are weighed down with fear, or anger,
maybe turn off the TV news?
Maybe spend less time on social media?
This is a good time to recall the virtue of prudence,
which is not the same thing as fear,
but I think a lot of people are lumping them together.
Prudence is how we try to keep some balance,
And make careful choices – but prudence always keeps its head.
Prudence doesn’t give up and doesn’t run away;
Prudence doesn’t panic; prudence keeps calm and finds another way.
Because, after all, the rock beneath prudence is faith.
Now, just to be clear, taking precautions doesn’t mean you lack faith.
Is it a lack of faith to put on a seatbelt?
That sounds more like presumption.
Remember when the devil tempted Jesus and said,
Jump off the temple, the angels will save you!
And Jesus said, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.
Faith is having trust and confidence in God, first and last;
Not that he’ll prevent all trouble, but that trouble can’t separate us.
That trust, that faith, is what keeps us calm, no matter what.
The apostles were slow to learn this, but eventually they did:
that if they are with Jesus, there is NOTHING to fear.
This makes me think of Maximilian Kolbe, who was in a death camp.
The worst place on earth; hell on earth.
And yet he kept calm, how? Because he knew Jesus was with him;
And nothing the Nazis could do to him could change that.
Thinking again about Good Friday:
Did you ever notice that while we know the apostles ran away,
we know nothing about what they were doing,
and even more, what they were thinking?
They had been with Jesus day and night for three years,
and I wonder if – when they ran and hid –
that sudden separation from Jesus horrified them far more
than their fear of suffering, and even death?
Because after the Resurrection, they never ran away again.
They all faced death for Jesus, with complete calm.
Notice in today’s Gospel, Jesus doubles down on the Cross
after Peter says what he says.
Not only is the Cross in view for Jesus,
the cross lies ahead for you and me.
There is no other way.
It’s not that our Lord is cruel;
Rather, Jesus knows we will cling to everything:
our stuff – and the more we have, the more we cling to it –
or to our health, or our careers,
or our expectations about the election,
or our grudges and hurts, and above all, to our pride!
We cling to it all, and only when we let go can we take hold of Christ!
That’s what the Cross does for us: it means letting go,
and finally, all we have left is Christ.
So: we’re riding a roller-coaster these days. Keep calm.
There’s nothing that can happen to any of us or all of us together
that is bigger than Jesus, that is more than Jesus can handle.