“And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, and warming himself at the fire.” – Mark 14:54
Hey, Peter, what was it like to see your best friend get pushed around, mocked, spit on and lied about? Did you make eye contact with the guards or try not to?
What did it feel like to turn your back on God, standing just yards away from Him beside a warm fire? Did you stand in the shadows so Jesus couldn’t see you? What did it feel like when He finally looked into your eyes? (See Luke 22:61).
Was it harder to hear the crow of the rooster or to watch the way they treated your God? Was it harder seeing the rock in front of the tomb or knowing that you fled when He seemed to need you most?
The night was freezing cold, the fire burning hot, and there was Peter: lukewarm. He chose to remain safe, a bystander. He was afraid to take a stand, afraid to engage – afraid, period. Although his body was next to a consuming fire, his heart was not aflame with love for Jesus but was consumed only with self.
It’s easy to shake our heads about Peter’s behavior, reaction and failure – easy, that is, until we put ourselves in his sandals.
- How many times have I turned my back on you, Lord?
- How many times have I had the opportunity to acknowledge You and have not?
- How many times have I followed You at a distance?
- How many times have I seen You clearly but tried to stand far enough away that You couldn’t see me?
- How many times have I claimed You as friend but not acted as one?
- How many times, Lord, will I abandon You in a time when I need to stand for Your truth?
- How many times will I choose to “play it safe” rather than living dangerously for you?
- What use do You have of a sinner like me, Lord?
Then the answer comes. He has plenty of use for me (and you).
Not only did Jesus forgive Peter, in spite of his failures, but also He gave him a place of honor as the leader of the early church. Peter was our first Pope. It was beside a fire that Jesus once again looked Peter in the eyes and asked him, “Do you love me?” three times. (See John 21:15-17).
Not only does God forgive us, but He believes in us, entrusts a mission to us and allows us to participate in His work, even after we’ve run from Him, even after we’ve been lukewarm. How great and how powerful is the mercy of God!
If you, like me, have been lukewarm toward Christ, you need to leave the false warmth of the world’s fire and experience the fire of the Holy Spirit. That only comes from abandoning the fear of what others might say or do to you. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Lord, set my heart on fire, especially when those around me need Your warmth.
Portions of this blog were taken from Ask the Bible Geek 2: More Answers to Questions from Catholic Teens