— Sabbato post Dominicam Quartam in Quadragesima — Statio ad S. Nicolaum in Carcere —
Peter moves in and out of the scenes of Christ’s trials with regularity. Recovering from his first panic at the arrest of Christ from which he fled, he managed to recover enough of his bravado to follow Christ at a safe distance when the Saviour was taken to the home of Annas. Here he was content to remain outside until John used his influence to get a maid at the gate to permit Peter to enter the outer court. It was here that Peter first denied he was a follower of the Messias.
When Christ was lead bound to the house of the high priest Caiphas, Peter followed, and managed to get a place near the glowing fire in the outer court where he was spotted as a stranger and again accused of being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. Again Peter denied this and did so with a very unconvincing reply couched in forceful language: “I do not know the man.” (Mt. 26:72)
It was about an hour later now and Peter had returned from the gate, where he had gone after the second denial. He may have heard the shouts of the assembled Sanhedrin crying out in mock indignity that Christ was guilty of blasphemy and was worthy of death, for the sacred writer says that Simon Peter was standing warming himself (Jn. 18:25) when “one of the bystanders came up and said to Peter: ‘Surely thou art one of them, for even thy speech betrays thee.’ Then he began to curse and swear that he did not know the man.” (Mt. 26: 73, 74)
You will note that Peter made his three denials flatly and peremptorily. He made a triple denial and this indicates revolution. He made the denials not before one witness but before many, and so gave scandal, for no doubt there were some of the common people who maintained some reverence for the great wonder-worker Christ, and Peter’s denial of his Lord and Master may have hardened them and the scandal may have prevented some of them from going forward to testify in Christ’s favor.
It is of worthy note, too, that Peter remained in the outer courts of both Annas’ and Caiphas’ homes. He mingled with the servants and accepted their hospitality, shared the same fire, and sat with them. True, he did quit their company once and go to the gate but he quickly returned. Many persons step out of the midst of sin but hang about its courts. They themselves would not be outrageous sinners but they retain a taste for sin. They may not openly commit sins against the Sixth commandment but they harbor bad thoughts and desires and use impure language. They are not drunkards themselves, but they keep company with loose-livers and wild scatter-brained individuals and groups. Keep ever before you the picture of Peter denying his God. Peter was a great and forward disciple of Christ, and who drew his sword in Christ’s defense, but now behold him denying that same Christ before a few servants and soldiers. Great is the force of evil company to pervert even a godly mind. As the body is infected by pestilent air, so is the soul infected by the contagion of bad company.
Ask yourself today if your friends are all of a high type and beyond reproach. Do you always give your friends good example? Do you profess Christ to your friends or are you sometimes afraid to make the Sign of the Cross and say Grace before and after meals in their presence? Are you afraid to visit a church when you are with friends? Ask St. Peter today to pray for you that you may never deny God by word or deed.