Peter Abandoned, But We Abide

Imagining a reflection of the sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, based on the Gospel of Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Peter abandoned us on that awful day. Even though Jesus had promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against him. Even though Peter swore up and down his fidelity to the death just hours before. Even though he was willing to fight by the sword and cut off a man’s ear in the garden. Early on that terrible, dark morning, he abandoned us.

But we abided. We women, and John, whom Jesus loved. We followed Him to Golgotha. My sister was so strong, to be there as the nails were driven into the hands of her only Son, to abide for hours as He struggled in agony, and every calumny and insult was hurled at Him—and at her, for raising this “criminal,” this “traitor,” this “blasphemer.” We all drew strength from her abiding grief and suffering. If only Peter hadn’t run off, unwilling to face us after his false declarations, he could have drawn strength from her too.

Jesus saw how Peter had abandoned us, so even in His pain, he undid His mother’s abandonment. John, He said, would be as a son to her, and she a mother to him. John, so young, so tender. He had never carried a sword, and he never would. He would protect her from hunger and loneliness, but he would never fight to protect her from the Evil One. She didn’t need that from him. Years later, John saw a vision of her with wings as an eagle to fly away, and the earth swallowing the Evil One’s venom spewed against her. No, she never needed a man with a sword. She only needed to abide in love, and the Creator of all the universe would protect her.

We all forgave Peter later. How could we not? Our Lord Himself forgave him on the condition that he devote himself to the feeding of our new community of love. Peter not only showed up for Pentecost, but he preached and baptized and helped 3,000 more join our numbers that day. He risked his life preaching the Good News, baptizing in the Holy Spirit, and celebrating the memorial of Our Lord’s passion day after day for decades. Peter finally made full reparation for his abandonment when he was led in chains and crucified himself, making up in his own body what we had shared with Jesus long before on Golgotha—His suffering for the sins of the world.

Though she forgave Peter, my sister still abides with John. She keeps pondering all that she has seen and heard, and she speaks with John of these things day and night. While the missionary men circulate letters detailing all the events they have witnessed, John ponders with Mary and writes of the deeper meaning of these things. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” John has written, he who has dwelt with the blessed woman in whom that very flesh had been formed, with whom the Word dwelt for 30 years. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them,” he has written, he who abides with the woman so loved by God that He took up abode in her womb.

Though my sister could forgive Peter completely for his abandonment on that terrible Friday, and she never complains that he seldom spoke of her in his missionary preaching, I do not have such perfect grace and resignation as she does. The demon of resentment towards Peter creeps up on me sometimes. This is the way it must be, my sister reassures me. A perfect Peter would become the object of worship. And Peter preaching the perfection of my sister would make her an object of worship. She will never allow that. Her mission—and Peter’s and his successor’s—is to magnify the Lord. It is not her word, nor Peter’s, that causes people to be born again, but the Holy Spirit. Peter and my sister were just the conduits the Holy Spirit chose; they both are but servants. If they were to seek glory for themselves, the Holy Spirit could no longer enter us through them. My sister has such perfect humility that she can see this even though she is actually glorious. Peter was not so humble; he had to be painfully aware of his own profound failure to accept his servanthood.

So when I think back on that dark day on Golgotha, I remember how my sister showed us how, and helped us to abide. Even when Peter abandons, we must trust Our Lord’s words that Hell cannot prevail; Peter will return to us soon, repentant. Meanwhile, my sister reminds me, and John, and Mary Magdalene to keep close to Jesus, abiding in suffering, abiding in hope, abiding in love.