Don’t know what it is with me and the setting sun, but lately it seems to be encouraging me to take a second look at things.
An enigmatic sculpture on one day. An ordinary STOP sign on another.
Or more precisely, the reverse side of a STOP sign in my neighborhood. It didn’t seem like art in this instance, but it certainly got my attention – the way the light played on an object I must’ve seen a thousand times before.
I wonder if it was like that for Peter when Jesus asked him to step apart for a time of quiet prayer. The Impetuous Apostle, mere minutes after declaring his unshakeable faith in Christ, lets his mind wander a bit in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus encourages him bluntly: “Watch and pray.” Yet he cannot keep his weary eyes from drifting off into sleep.
Was it because Peter thought he’d seen all this before? Jesus, heading off to a quiet place to pray? Nothing to see here. Nothing significant to notice. And it chills me to admit how my own heart tends to frost over at the prospect of today encountering one of the longest Gospel readings of the liturgical year.
“Let’s pick up the pace. Let’s keep this proclamation moving. We’ve heard it SO many times before…”
When I examine these dusty stirrings in my heart – when I take a second look at my world-worn attitude – I find myself stepping squarely into the Impetuous Apostle’s grimy sandals:
Peter was following [Jesus] at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard…
“Following…at a distance.” In other words, “Sure, Jesus – I’ll be your disciple. But it really has to be on my terms. I’d like to retain control of the situation, if you don’t mind.”
So when I say “Jesus is Lord,” when I confess my faith in him during the Creed, is my declaration in fact any less hollow than that of the High Priest?
“I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus wryly observes. And as the events of his Passion continue to unfold, I take a second look. I notice that in the end, Jesus has no real need of a hollow confession of faith – whether from Peter, from the High Priest, or from me.
Even the rocks and stones themselves proclaim the Truth of the situation:
And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
The key question then for Holy Week seems to be this: Will I remain content to follow Jesus from a distance? Something about this matter tells me, it is indeed worth stopping…to take a second look.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Thank you John.
Good to think/pray about these things as we enter Holy Week…