The extensive Passion Reading for this day's Gospel is chosen from St. Mark, who treats the two Apostles who denied Christ. One was St. Peter, the other, of course, was Judas Iscariot, who swiftly left the Last Supper room to do his dastardly deed and ultimately despaired for the evil one had so greatly possessed him as the beloved disciple John points out so poignantly in John 13: 27 when the Evangelist writes, "And after the morsel, satan entered into him." As for Simon Peter, St. Mark gives special attention to him in today's Gospel. Always the inquisitive one, Peter presses Our Lord as to who is the one who will betray him. He even pledges his loyalty so boldly that he swears he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus knows only too well Peter's weaknesses and prophesizes in Mark 29 "But Peter saith to Him: "Although all shall be scandalized in thee, yet not I." And Jesus saith to him: "Amen I say to thee, today, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice."
Incredulous, Peter truly believes this will never happen, but alas we all know it did. We also know Peter went on to become the Rock Jesus had intended in founding His One True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
"Not I." How many times have we said that and then done the very thing we said we would never do? How many said they would never abandon the Latin Mass back in the 60's, or would never let the New Mass get out of hand, or would never accept receiving Holy Communion in the hand, or would never accept women in the sanctuary, or never accept standing during the consecration, or at communion time? How many who were scandalized by something thirty years ago are not shocked and scandalized today? Are we Peters or Judases?
Those who have remained true to the Immemorial Mass of All Ages and all the truths practiced by Holy Mother Church for 2000 years are indeed the Peters, yet they are called Judases by those who are really the Judases who have betrayed Our Lord and His Church for the thirty-pieces of silver in the comforts and ease of practicing their religion today in cafeteria style literally where sin is no longer considered horrible. If we continue on the path we're headed - well, it's a dead-end, folks. Despite all the hollow praise of progress given to the reforms of Vatican II, it is really only one big cul-de-sac with no substance, no fruits! Only where the True Faith is uncompromisingly kept will you find the road that surely leads to everlasting life.
Like Judas how many treat their Faith as a convenience, a nice little nook where they can accommodate their lifestyle but not have to give it much effort. Like Judas when things go south, not having firmly on them the Armor of God, they are easy prey for the very same evil one who tempted Jesus in the desert and the Garden of Olives, so magnificently depicted by Mel Gibson in his magnum opus of all time - 'The Passion of The Christ.'
The sin of Peter and Judas was equal. Both denied Christ.
What was the difference between the two? Besides character, one asked for forgiveness and resolved to amend his ways just as the Good Thief Dismas also did as he was clinging to life on the cross with Christ; the other despaired, too proud to come in humility and ask to be reconciled. Judas' actions were also paralleled by the Bad Thief who hung there scorning Jesus and deriding Dismas.
How many times have we denied Christ? Oh, true, they were small, but they build up. As Catholics we have the saving grace of the Sacrament of Penance. But we cannot abuse it. We can't feel it is a convenient outlet to just wipe away the same sins we intend to commit again. No, we must make a commitment to sin no more as the priest commands at the end of Confession. Sure, because we are human, we will sin again...but it is not because of a will to sin, but our weakness that we fall. The shame is in staying in sin, refusing to get up. There is no shame in falling and rising again, asking forgiveness. Jesus is always there to help us, just as He was there to forgive Peter He was there to forgive Judas, but the Iscariot did not respond.
Will we respond when we fail? Will we come running to the Merciful Heart begging for Mercy? Our Lady assures us of being forgiven and, with Holy Mother Church, encourages us to go to Confession often, at least once a month and more if possible. The more we take advantage of this wonderful Sacrament, the more we realize the graces inherent and the protective shell we can build around our soul and lifestyle to keep satan out.
We must be gird ourselves in the Armor of God as St. Paul strongly insists in Ephesians 6: 11-18. Like Peter, we too, have been chosen. Like Peter, we too, have fallen and will fall again. Like Peter, we can rely on the Holy Ghost to instill the Gifts that will enable us to continue joyfully on the way to Calvary as we eagerly repeat the words of the Psalmist in today's Offertory from Psalm 139: 5, "Keep me, O Lord, from the hand of the wicked: and from unjust men deliver me."
As we read today's Gospel in Mark's account of the Passion of Our Lord, let us remember as it says in today's Introit Nos autem gloriari - "But it behooves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ : in Whom is our salvation, life, resurrection : by Whom we are saved and delivered." One, Peter looked to the Cross for reinstatement in God's good graces, the other, Judas looked away and despaired.