Christ predicts the Flight of the Apostles and the Triple Denial of Peter.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Christ predicts the Flight of the Apostles and the Triple Denial of Peter.
“Behold, the hour cometh, and it is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”—St. John xvi. 32.
JESUS was, meanwhile, drawing nearer and nearer to the Garden of Gethsemani. Knowing how short was the time that remained for Him to converse with His beloved disciples, He ceased not to instruct them, by both word and example, concerning those things which He deemed best adapted to promote their spiritual advancement. Therefore, He dwelt especially on the virtue of humility, on the propriety of always having a pious diffidence in one’s own strength, and on the necessity of having recourse to God by means of prayer, especially in the hour of temptation. The Divine Master had often taught those same lessons, but the apostles, thus far, had derived but little or no profit from them. They had not yet received the Holy Ghost, and therefore, though instructed in the school of the Incarnate Wisdom, they were still only rude fishermen, ever attached to their own opinions and ambitious of worldly honors. They had not been reared amid the grandeur and riches of the world, yet they found it very difficult to submit to the requirements of self-denial, the humility of the Gospel, and the doctrine of the cross. Thus on that very night when Jesus foretold how imminent was His passion, even while He was speaking to them on the subject of human frailty and urging them to have recourse to God for help, the apostles thought themselves unconquerable, and unanimously protested that they were willing to give up their lives for their Divine Master. On account of a fervor which was the happy effect of the Holy Communion which they had received that night, they thus rashly relied on themselves. But Jesus, who knew what was to happen in a few hours, said to them: “My dear disciples, you now follow Me and confess that I am the Son of God, because you have had strong evidences of My divinity in the numerous miracles which you have seen Me perform by My own power. You have seen Me give sight to the blind, restore health to the sick, make the lame walk, and raise the dead to life. But when you shall behold Me a prisoner, bound like a malefactor, dragged before judges, and afterwards condemned to a most disgraceful death, you will waver in your faith and be greatly scandalized in Me. Alas! not only will your faith waver, but you will abandon Me and leave Me in the hands of My bitter enemies. Yet I shall not be entirely forsaken, for My heavenly Father will be with Me; and assisted by Him, I shall have sufficient strength to suffer the ingratitude of your abandonment, the insults of My enemies, and the disgraceful and cruel death of the cross.”
Venerable Bede tells us that Jesus thus predicted the flight of the disciples, not for the purpose of rebuking them for their weakness and infidelity, but in order that after the commission of the crime they should not despair of His mercy, but immediately seek God again through penance. Therefore, to arouse more and more in His disciples hearts this confidence in the mercy of God, Jesus added: “But after I shall be risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.” This was equivalent to saying: “I shall be made to suffer a most cruel and unjust death; but when I shall have lain three days in the bosom of the earth, as Jonas was three days in the body of the whale, I shall raise Myself up gloriously from the grave, and, triumphant over death, I shall go before you into Galilee. There we will meet, and you shall then know how truthful are My predictions and My promises.”
Every word of our Divine Saviour conveys an evidence of His love for us and gives us a lesson for the guidance of our lives. This twofold lesson of the necessity of diffidence in our own strength, and of boundless trust in the mercy of God, is taught us every day, either by the contents of some pious book that we read or by the words of some good sermon that we hear. Sometimes, alas! it is also taught us by the sad example of once most holy persons whose rash confidence in themselves precipitated them into the gravest disorders. From such unhappy cases we should learn to grow more and more humble. If, at times, we ourselves fall into those excesses which, on other occasions, we so loudly reprove in our neighbors, we should at once have recourse to God. He will not fail to extend His mercy to us, if we promise ever more to be faithful and sincerely ask pardon for our past offences. Before sin is committed, let us tremble at the thought of God’s justice; after it is committed, let us take courage at the thought of His mercy, and immediately have recourse to our amiable Saviour. A contrite and humble heart Jesus will never despise.
These last admonitions of Jesus, instead of inducing the apostles to conceive a great diffidence in themselves, seemed only to confirm them the more in the good opinion which they entertained of their own strength. St. Peter, in particular, protested his fidelity with great emphasis, saying, “Although all shall be scandalized in Thee, I will never be scandalized.” O Peter! Peter, instead of praying to thy Divine Master to confirm thy faith, dost thou dare presumptuously to promise that thou wilt never fail? And dost thou not perceive that thy indiscreet fervor, far from making thee more, only rendereth thee less acceptable in the eyes of God? Ah! far better for thee hadst thou cast thyself at thy Master’s feet and implored the grace of remaining faithful.
But let us hearken to Jesus’ reply: “Amen I say to thee, that in this night before the cock crow, thou wilt deny Me thrice.” How did Peter act upon hearing this terrible prediction? Did he throw himself at his Master’s feet to ask pardon for his presumption? Did he, at least, beg for the assistance of divine grace in the great danger which awaited him? Did he bewail his presumption in having believed himself to be better than the rest of his brethren, though he was soon to be proved the weakest of all? No; but, as St. Euthimius remarks, the more Jesus Christ affirmed that Peter would deny Him, the more obstinate Peter grew in his presumption. And again Peter passionately exclaimed, “Yea, though I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee.”
This terrible presumption of Peter is surprising in one who had so long listened to the teachings of Christ; and it is not at all relieved, but, on the contrary, it appears more shocking from the fact that the other apostles shared it; for the Scriptures tell us that they also protested their fidelity: “And in like manner said all the disciples” (St. Matt. xxvi. 35).
What happened to the apostles, and especially to St. Peter, on that very night is known to all, and it will furnish abundant matter for reflection in future considerations. However, in order to derive some spiritual profit from the present consideration, let us reflect that the apostles were so inflamed with love of Jesus Christ that they would not believe that they could become scandalized in him and abandon Him,—they who had seen so many miracles performed by Him; they who had been for three years under His teaching; they who had that very night received Communion from His sacred hands. Now, who among us will dare say that he loves God as ardently as the apostles loved their Master? And if they, notwithstanding all their love—a love a thousand times greater than ours—abandoned Jesus Christ even at the very beginning of His passion, what should we think of ourselves and of our own strength to resist temptation? Our Divine Lord Himself gives us the answer: “Without Me you can do nothing.” He does not say that we can do something, however little; but He affirms that we can do nothing whatever without His grace. Let our love be ever so great and fervent, let our life be ever so austere, let our faith be ever so strong and lively, let our hope be ever so firm, let our charity be ever so ardent,—it is, and it always will be, true, that without the grace of God we can do nothing. Let us, therefore, be ever diffident of our own strength, always placing our confidence in God and shunning carefully every dangerous occasion of sin. Thus we may hope to obtain God’s holy grace, without which we can do nothing towards attaining eternal life.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
The first temptation is riches, the second honors, the third pride, and by these three degrees Satan leads us to all other vices. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, thou knowest my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes thou wert pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from where thou dost dispense thy favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence, to implore thy maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for thy favors, I will endeavor to imitate thy virtues, that I may one day share in thy glory. R. Amen.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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