"It was two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. and the chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death."
With the solemn entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem we enter upon our celebration of the great mysteries of Holy Week. The reading of the account of the Lord's Passion and death in the Gospel of St Mark sets the scene for
the events which we are about to celebrate.
It is one thing to be chosen as an apostle, it is another to persevere in following the call. Judas, like the ' other apostles, had in Jesus the most perfect Teacher and Spiritual Director, the most perfect of Novice Masters.
The apostles lived, in St Benedict's words, in "the school of the Lord's service". Nevertheless, in Abbot Benedict's words, Judas "ran away from the way of salvation", about which he had heard the Lord say "that the entrance must needs be narrow".
In the words of St Benedict, Judas did not "make progress in the way of life and in faith", nor did he "run on the path of God's commandments, but he abandoned the Lord's instructions, and did not faithfully observe his teaching, nor share through patience in the sufferings of Christ", but it is known only to the mercy of God whether he "shares in his kingdom".
As they were eating, Jesus said: "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Jesus did not reveal to them the sin of Judas, it was not for them to judge and condemn Judas.
If he who has power to forgive sin did not reveal the sin of Judas, let one who reveals the sin of another, who spreads scandal, calumny and detraction, tremble before the just judge.
The reaction of the disciples to the Lord's announcement of the betrayal was sorrow and confusion. They began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it 1, Master?" Judas did not, like the other disciples, call Jesus "Lord".
St Paul tells us that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." Judas did not have the spirit of God, for "the devil had entered into him". And the Gospel tells us "it was night" when Judas went out. It is always night for one who leaves the Lord.
According to tradition, St Mark was the disciple of St Peter. In Mark's gospel Peter is not portrayed in heroic terms and no attempt is made to diminish his failings.
When Jesus told his disciples "You
will all fall away" immediately the
impulsive nature of Peter shows itself. While Peter affirmed his loyalty to Jesus he showed his poor opinion of the apostles. "Even though they all fall away, I will not." The Lord answered: "Truly. I say to you, this very night, you will deny me three times." Peter insisted: "If I must die with you, I will not deny you."
We should thank God that such a weak man was chosen to hold the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. He will surely understand our weaknesses. When Jesus was led into the courtyard of the high priest, where the elders and the scribes were assembled, "Peter followed at a distance".
There are times in our lives when through our lack of "good zeal" we follow the Lord from a distance.
While the Lord's trial proceeded, Peter sat with the guards warming himself at the fire. We too in times of trial seek comfort and warmth elsewhere rather than with the Lord.
A maid seeing Peter warming himself looked at him and said: "You were with the Nazarene, Jesus."
But Peter denied it, saying: "I neither know nor understand what you mean."
Afraid, Peter went away from the light of the fire which shone on his face. He went into the darkness of the colonnade by the gateway. In the shadow Peter was less visible, all who sin avoid the light.
Another maid saw Peter, and said to the bystanders: "This man is one of them." Peter denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." He who had made the profession: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God", before a helpless maid declared: "I do not know the man."
Like many people in trouble, Peter, instead of keeping quiet, entered into conversation, hoping to be absorbed into the surroundings. One of the bystanders said to Peter: "Certainly you are one of them, for your accent betrays you."
This time denial was not enough. the Gospel tells us: "He began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, 'I do not know the man.'"
St Luke gives us a most moving
detail: "The Lord turned and looked
at Peter. And Peter remembered the
word the Lord has spoken to him that he would deny him three times." And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Even in his sufferings the Lord searched for Peter, he turned and looked at him. The Lord is looking for each one us. Let the light of his face shine upon us and we shall be saved.