ANIMA CHRISTI: Chapter Ten (Part Two)—In The Light Of God’s Word by Marie Paul Curley

Chapter Ten (Part Two)—In The Light Of God’s Word by Marie Paul Curley

From Soul of Christ

Then they seized him [Jesus] and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house.  But Peter was following at a distance.  When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.”  But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.”  But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”  Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”  At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

Theme for Holy Hour:
Christ’s Sheltering Love
Suggested opening hymn: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” by Frederick W. Faber, or “Hold me in Life,” written by Huub Oosterhuis and translated by David Smith and Forrest Ingram, (based on Psalm 25).
As you begin your adoration, pray to the Holy Spirit to help you discern the loving action of God in your life.

Adoring Jesus In His Word

Perhaps our first response to this reading is the question: Why – and how – could Peter betray the Lord just hours after he so strongly declared his loyalty?  But then we quickly realize that our question is not so much about Peter but about ourselves.  How many times have we declared our love for the Lord and resolved to imitate him more faithfully, only to find ourselves in even greater need of forgiveness?

The inconstancy of our behavior and of our own hearts rightly haunts us, but when we examine our thoughts, choices, and motivations, we need to do so under the compassionate gaze of Jesus.

The real question in this gospel is: Why would Jesus turn to look at Peter just after he denied him a third time?

Throughout the gospels, Jesus never blames anyone for hurting him.  He speaks and defends the truth unapologetically but never defends his own person.  Even when Judas betrays Jesus, his reproach is not blame, but more of a warning for Judas.

Jesus gazing on Peter at that moment has one purpose only – to communicate his love and compassion in the very midst of Peter’s haunting betrayal.  The love of Jesus is faithful – stronger than any evil, even our sins and betrayals.  That gaze seared Peter to the heart.  It would also sustain him through the darkness of the crucifixion and death of his Master – and perhaps through the rest of his life.

So many people picture God as a wrathful judge who looks on us in contempt when we sin.  Instead, our loving Father looks on us with compassion, regretting the harm that our sinfulness causes – not just to others, but also to us.  At the moment that Peter betrayed Jesus out of fear and weakness, Jesus took that weakness on himself and transformed it.  Both Peter’s denial and Christ’s forgiving gaze marked Peter for the rest of his life.  The leader of the church would be a man forever humbled by his own weakness and forever strengthened by his experience of the absolute fidelity of Christ.

What a marvelous grace to pray for: to be transformed by the mercy of Christ!

Pray Psalm 18 in gratitude for the sheltering love and mercy of God present and active in your own life.

Let us read again the passage from Luke 22, imagining that we are present at that time and place.  Perhaps we stand in Peter’s sandals and are stunned by the compassion in Jesus’s eyes.  Perhaps we are a bystander who is deeply moved by the loving gaze of Jesus.  Perhaps we are one of the servants puzzling over Peter’s tears.

Following Jesus Way

After we prayerfully enter this scene, let us put ourselves in the place of Peter and openly bring Jesus our sins:

What sin is deeply rooted in me, the most humiliating sinfulness that I struggle with?  Can I bring this to Jesus now?  How does Jesus respond with his saving love – a gaze of gentle compassion? the healing touch of his hand?

The Almighty God who knows the number of the stars also knows our hearts better than we do.  He knows our weakness and he also knows our muddled desires for goodness, for union with him.  As we surrender our sinfulness to his loving mercy, we lay it at his nail-pierced feet.  This is why he died for us – so that sin can no longer claim any power over us.

We allow Christ’s loving gaze to warm us, embrace us, and shelter us.  Though we may fail and fall into sin again, we allow his love to lift us up in hope – that his love, grace, and mercy will triumph in the end.  Jesus did not just die for us, he also rose for love of us; and we share not only in his death, but also in his resurrection.

Our struggle with sin is fittingly seen as spiritual battle, with eternal consequences.  A going into battle mentality highlights various helpful attitudes to bring into our spiritual lives, such as vigilance, single-mindedness, determination, discipline, and self-denial.  Our primary weapon – both defensive and offensive – is our relationship with God.  Saint Paul encourages us:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

You may wish to pray with these words of Ephesians, asking Jesus to shelter and strengthen you.

Ephesians 6 gives us an entire arsenal of spiritual weapons, but specifically mentions the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” which can free us from every evil, every trap, every deception.  Many conversations – including Saint Augustine’s – were precipitated by reading the Word of God.  Blessed James Alberione believed so much in the power of God’s Word that he wanted every member of his religious family to carry a passage of the gospel on his or her person.

Make a list of favorite scripture passages to turn to whenever you are overwhelmed, discouraged, or feel the pull of temptation or weakness.  Pray with one of them now.

Out of their personal experience, many of the saints emphatically recommend turning to Mary the Mother of Jesus as the sure way to grow in union with Christ.  Blessed James Alberione wrote: “Mary participates in the Eucharistic mission of the Divine Master.  In Mass, Communion, and Eucharistic visits we always find Jesus, the Son of Mary.  The application of the merits of Jesus Christ, from Calvary to the completion of the centuries, is made by Mary.  At the crib, in the temple of Jerusalem, at Cana, Mary is always there.  Usually she followed Jesus when he preached, and on Calvary she participated in his sorrows.  In her heart and her arms she carried the growing church which today she defends, comforts, and sustains.

In Union With Jesus Through Mary

When Jesus entrusted Mary to us as our mother, he gave us one of the greatest treasures we could ask for on our journey to union with him.

Prayer to the Queen of Apostles

I thank you, merciful Jesus, for having given us Mary as our mother.  And I thank you, Mary, for having given the Divine Master, Jesus, Way and Truth and Life, to the world, and for having accepted us all as your children on Calvary.

Your mission is united to that of Jesus, who “came to seek those who were lost.”  Therefore, oppressed by my sins, faults, and negligence, I take refuge in you, mother, as my supreme hope.  Turn your eyes of mercy toward me.  Bestow your most maternal care upon me, your neediest child.

I place all my trust in you for pardon, conversion, and sanctity.  Form a new class among your children, that of the neediest: those in whom sin has taken root, where formerly abounded grace.  This will be the class that will most move you to pity.  Receive my poor soul into this class.  Work a great wonder by changing this great sinner into an apostle.  It will be an unheard-of wonder and a new glory for your son Jesus and for you, his and my mother.

I hope to receive everything from your heart, mother, teacher, and queen of the apostles.  Amen.

(Blessed James Alberione)

Pray the Rosary, asking Mary to help you especially where you feel most vulnerable.
Entrust your vulnerability and struggles to her, knowing that she will draw you closer to her son.
To conclude this time of adoration, sing a hymn to our Blessed Mother, such as the traditional chant, “Hail, Holy Queen,”
or “Mary, Woman of the Promise,” written by Mary Frances Fleischaker.

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