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  • Sarah Raad

Pentient

“With that one look Peter, under the eye of God, became Peter the penitent.” (Venerable Fulton J Sheen, “Treasure of Clay”).

The Denial of Saint Peter (Caravaggio)

I have been meditating upon the moment in Christ’s passion when he looked at the Apostle Simon Peter after He had been denied three times.


That instant, that moment, that glance may – at first – appear to be such a little tiny thing for a person to think about, but over the last few days and weeks my thoughts have become transfixed on that moment’s glance of Our Lord…


“…But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62).


They stood Him there – I stood Him there – He who is King of the Universe… And they bound Him in chains and rope – I bound Him. They spat at Him and beat Him and they slapped against His flesh – and I spat at and beat and slapped Him too. They treated Him with indignity and plotted against Him – and I joined in their counsels. And they shouted at Him and abused Him – and I, who claim to love Him with all my heart – shouted loudest of all…


And while they did that, and while I joined them, there sat Peter – over on his own at the fire, at a distance. And the worst part of all of this, is that I too sat there at a distance, and I continue to sit at a distance now too…


And there He stood – He the Magnificent King of all Creation – bound, accused and beaten. And there He waited in silence. And despite all of that where did He look? Upon whom did His glance fall?


Did He look to His accusers to show them the power of His Majesty? Did He look with wounded eyes of reproach on those who beat and abused and hurt Him?


No.

He looked directly at Peter – sitting there at a distance – scared and alone…

Venerable Fulton J Sheen described that instant so much more beautifully than I ever could in his autobiography, “Treasure of Clay” when he wrote… “He did not speak; He just looked. I am sure that what was written on the Master's face was: ‘Peter, I love you still. You have denied Me, but I will not deny you. I cannot give you up.’” The grace which saves a soul is not a noisy thing. No one saw that look except Peter himself… that look opened the sluices of Peter’s heart, for ‘he went out and wept bitterly.’”


And I have been reflecting upon that look – for it was surely a look of such tender pity – of such mercy – that without even speaking even a single word, God was able to direct Peter to understand his shame and his weakness.


“One look of Divinity is enough to convict us of sin, and with that one look Peter, under the eye of God, became Peter the penitent. Sin is not just a transgression of the law… Every sin beats against Love.” (Venerable Fulton J Sheen, “Treasure of Clay”).


And now as I reflect on the look of my Beloved, it occurs to me that He is glancing at me too – all the way to where I sit at a distance from Him – and His glance of such tender pity pierces my very soul and reveals to me all the shame and weakness of my being. And under the eye of God, I pray too that I can become Sarah the penitent.


That is my dearest prayer…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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