So many things happen in that Upper Room at the Last Supper that the Church breaks up the accounts of that event. We will hear later this week of those foundational sacramental moments with the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist that we as Catholics revere and treasure, later in the Easter Season, we will reflect on Jesus bearing his heart and soul in his discourses to the apostles where you sense those around the table with Him were hanging on His every word. Tonight’s Gospel [read it here] is very different. As we enter that Upper Room, and take another step further into this Journey of Holy Week – we focus on Peter – and you get the overwhelming sense of confusion. There’s lots of questions that illustrate this confusion –
Who would betray Jesus?
What did Jesus say to Judas?
Where is Judas going?
Jesus is talking of being glorified, where is He going? why can’t we go with Him?
Peter’s not just confused with all these things going on around him, how things are unfolding and why… But even more, we can hear and see there’s confusion deep within Peter himself. He underestimates his weakness… He makes empty promises… It’s striking that Jesus so calmly, and clearly points this out – without confrontation or debate… He doesn’t call Peter out. He doesn’t give him an out. And you can almost sense as Jesus is speaking to Peter he’s in denial, he’s not listening, he’s confused why Jesus is saying these things. We can incorrectly assume that this is all simply predetermined, that these actors have their assignments in the Passion play – and that the narrative is fixed. But the reality is that Jesus knows Peter…better than Peter knows himself. Two Sundays ago we heard that line from the Old Testament as God was looking through the sons of Jesse for the King of Israel – that line: Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
That comes to mind in this scene -that God sees, looks into the heart – that He knows us that well. It’s beautiful and terrifying at the same time when we reflect on that. Like Peter, we want to focus on the parts of our hearts that are devoted, that are loyal, that want to follow wherever Jesus is going. We want to ignore the parts of our hearts that are broken, that are limited, that undermine those best efforts. Deluding ourselves into thinking that if I ignore the problem it will just go away – if I deny it, then it doesn’t exist…
As the Passion unfolds, and knowing the story, we know that Peter will realize all of this, all too quickly. In the space of a few hours he will once again feel the extremes of emotion going from sitting in this most intimate of spaces with the fullness of love who is Jesus to denying even knowing Him . It will cause Peter to weep. Peter will weep that his fears got the best of him, weep that his weakness reemerged once again at the worst possible moment. He will wonder why he failed, how he could’ve denied Jesus. He will tell himself he’s not worthy to be Jesus’ disciple, and possibly even wonder how Jesus could’ve been so wrong in ever seeing him as anything other than a fisherman.
But the good news is that Jesus has no confusion about Peter. Jesus hasn’t changed His mind or made a mistake in calling, in choosing Peter. But until Peter gets to a place where he can look with honesty at his whole heart – to generously offer his gifts, and to have the courage and trust to acknowledge and face his weaknesses… to let the Lord into them, let the Lord love him as he is, and work through those very weaknesses in humility… until he is able to do that, Peter will remain confused… As will each one of us as well.