Station Church: SS. Pietro e Marcellino
When St. Peter drew the sword and made a thrust at the servant of the High Priest, Malcus, he no doubt, meant to inflict a more telling wound than the mere severing of an ear. An instant before Peter’s display of poor marksmanship, the Apostle had asked our Lord this question: “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?, (Lk. 22:49) but our Lord replied: “Put back thy sword into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or dost thou suppose that I cannot entreat my Father, and he will even now furnish me with more than twelve legions of Angels? How then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled, that thou it must happen? (Mt. 26:52-54) Before Christ had finished the above reply, Peter had already cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.
Cornelius a Lapide, the famous commentator on Holy Scripture, asserts that Peter meant well in going to the defense of his Master, but that the Saint acted unwisely in that he did not permit himself to be guided by faith, rather he allowed himself to be carried away by his natural impetuosity. Therefore, Peter committed two faults: (1) against the will of Christ, inasmuch as he did not wait for Christ’s answer and (2) his use of the sword was in revenge rather than an act of defense. Besides this, Peter’s act was one of great imprudence, for by it he surely could not expect to free Christ from the hands of so formidable an enemy. In fact, his act merely served to arouse the anger of the soldiery against the Savior, and thus, exposed himself to the likelihood of a similar death.
Had Peter exercised his faith, he would have realized that, had Christ so desired it, He could have struck down His enemies, or hidden Himself as He had done before; in other words that, as the Son of God, He stood in no need of human defense. No doubt Christ wanted to teach the head of His Church on earth in particular, and all His followers in general, that they should meet malicious persons with meekness, patience, and charity. The general idea in all such matters is to show yourself meek, patient, and forbearing so that by such means, your enemies will find their anger softened.
We must follow this rule in daily life. St. Paul was wont to teach his followers this great lesson: “If it be possible, as far as in you lies, be at peace with all men … “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:18, 21) We are encouraged to practice the virtue of forbearance by the prospect of a double gain for ourselves, in as far as, thereby, we become more Christlike and perform a meritorious act of self-denial, and an act of love for our enemies. Such conduct is profitable, too, for our neighbor who, at the sight of such virtue, is moved to reflect and is led into the way of salvation.
One sword we must take care not to use to destroy or harm others is our tongue. Examine yourself today on just how you act when unjustly accused or attacked.*
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*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle