Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When was the last time you denied knowing Christ?

Please trust me when I tell you it is not be accident that the Church this week before the Great Fast calls our attention to the events of Holy Week. Great Lent is an ancient journey and sacred tradition for members and catechumens of the Church to focus attention on the really important things in life. These things have nothing to do with stock markets and international trade deals, but everything to do with the eternal comfort of our souls. As the Great Fast approaches, the Church invites us to take a moment and consider the question of denial. When was the last time you denied knowing Christ? Take a moment to read today’s Gospel reading for the Tuesday before the Great Fast...
Gospel Reading: Luke 22:39-42, 45-71; 23:1 (RSV) - At that time, when Jesus came out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."  And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done."  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, "Why do you sleep?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation." While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them.  He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?"  And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?"  And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, "No more of this!"  And he touched his ear and healed him.  Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me.  But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house.  Peter followed at a distance; and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  Then a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, "This man also was with him."  But he denied it, saying "Woman, I do not know him."  And a little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them."  But Peter said, "Man, I am not."  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, "Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean."  But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying."  And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  And 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. Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, "Prophesy!  Who is it that struck you?"  And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council, and they said, "If you are the Christ, tell us."  But he said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God."  And they all said, "Are you the Son of God, then?"  And he said to them, "You say that I am."  And they said, "What further testimony do we need?  We have heard it ourselves from his own lips." Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate.
Saint Peter whom we know as the leader of the Apostles fell to the temptation of self preservation and denied even knowing Christ. In Peter’s case it wasn’t just once but three times before he realized his sin. Fortunately for Saint Peter, Christ forgave him and offered Peter the chance to repent after the resurrection when He asked, “Simon Bar Jonah, do you love Me?” (John 21.15) Three times Peter denied knowing Christ, so three times he was able to confess his love for Christ.

I’m sure there have been days, weeks or month even, in your life when you have denied knowing Christ either in words or actions. We each fall to the temptation of self preservation at one time or another. That is one of the great benefits of the Great Fast. We have a chance to repent and confess, in actions and words, our love for Christ. The Sunday before the Great Fast is known as Forgiveness Sunday in the Church. Take a few minutes this week and consider how you may have denied knowing Christ in your life. Then come to Church Sunday and confess your love for Him by being with Him in Church and offer your voice in praise of His glory. Call you priest and make an appointment for Holy Confession during the Great Fast. It worked for Peter; it can work for you.

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