It is noteworthy that Holy Scripture records first, that Peter emphasized his third denial with curses and oaths; and second that the cock crowed for the third time, at which instant it suddenly dawned on Peter that this is the very thing Christ had foretold; and third, that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter and he remembered the word of the Lord, how He said: ‘Before the cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice,’ and Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Lk. 22: 61-62)
There is a powerful lesson to be drawn from the fact that Peter endeavored to strengthen his third denial by cursing and swearing. Peter had been and was a fisherman. Before being converted and called to the apostolate, he had been a man of strong language. The three years with the gentle Christ had weaned him away from that habit. He was certain, no doubt, that he had mastered control of his tongue and language. Certainly the companionship with Christ had done much, but it had not done all. The “old man” was still alive and the “new man” was weak, and so the battle ensued and the old habits were quick to return. From this, we may learn that the fact that we have not committed sins of habit for a long time does not mean that they are completely eradicated. We must ever be on the watch and pray that we may not fall into them in times of temptation or stress.
Next, note that it was not until the cock crowed thrice that Peter remembered the words of our Lord. It is hard to understand why Peter did not realize what was happening after he heard the crow of the rooster after the first denial. And why did Peter not remember Christ’s prediction after the second denial? No, it took three denials and a heartbreaking glance from the gentle Savior to touch Peter’s heart, and to recall to mind the words of the Lord concerning Peter’s vain boasting about fidelity.
Learn from this that sin deadens the heart to every voice and blinds the eye to sin. From your own experience perhaps you can recall occasions when you yourself were so attached to sin that the warnings of your parents, the stirring sermons of retreats and parish missions left you cold and unmoved.
It may well have been that the gentle Savior looked tenderly at you too as He did at Peter. How wonderful is our God, who at a time when He Himself was about to be sentenced to the cruel death of the cross, thought of His poor weak Apostle, and forgot Himself and His own condition to cast a tender, merciful, understanding glance at His follower. “He spoke with His eye,” says Erasmus. The power that went with that look struck Peter’s heart. Without the calm sovereignty of that look, without its accompanying pitying kindness, Peter might well have followed the footsteps of Judas.
Walk the Way of the Cross today and beg of the gentle Christ to let His sacred healing glance fall upon you as it fell upon Simon the Cyrenian, St. Veronica, and the women who wept as He passed. Catch His eye as He falls under the cross and beg of Him to preserve you from despair.*
See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.
*Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle.