On St. Peter’s Repentance

A Lenten Reflection for Wednesday after the Second Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications

The Repentance of Saint Peter – Guido Reni

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

Wednesday after the Second Sunday in Lent.
On St. Peter’s Repentance.

Today, my soul, fix your attention on that most affecting scene which was enacted in the high priest’s palace after Peter’s denial of our Lord. Just at that moment Jesus was conducted across the court, and He turned His pale, sorrowful countenance towards the apostle, looking at him with a pained and yet most affectionate expression. When Peter sees his Master, sees how pathetically, how pitifully he looks at Him, a sense of his guilt, the consciousness of his crime overwhelms him. He had sinned against Jesus, his afflicted Lord, now subjected to such terrible suffering; he had actually denied Him. Now the knowledge of this is borne in upon the unhappy apostle in all its force, and almost beside himself with grief, he hurries from the spot in the bitterness of his repentance.

1st. Consider this point: Peter leaves the court where he had been standing, he quits the scene of his sin. That was the first step in the path of penance. He will not stay a single second longer in the place where he had fallen so deeply; not a moment longer will he tarry in the company of those persons who were the cause of this fall. Here you see the first fruit of repentance, and also the first condition of penance. Fly from danger, fly every occasion of sin. Nothing else is of any avail. No tears of penitence, no practices of penance are of any use unless you cut yourself off previously from the occasion of sin, unless you forcibly tear yourself away from intercourse with those who lead you to sin, unless you avoid all that tempts you to sin. And mark this also, my soul—you must immediately act as Peter did; all delay is dangerous, it is a link wherewith the devil binds you afresh to the sin which you may perhaps deeply bewail.

2d. Consider furthermore that Peter withdraws into solitude. His fault is committed amid the tumult of the world, whilst he sojourns amongst his fellow men; his penance is begun in solitude far from the busy world. There in calm seclusion his storm-tossed, shipwrecked soul will be once more at rest. There he will come to himself, he will come to the knowledge of God, and labor uninterruptedly at the task of healing the sore wound his soul has sustained. Hence learn that flight from the world, flight into solitude is the second condition of true penance. Withdraw from the turmoil of human society, where your heart will never find repose and self-knowledge. As the author of the Imitation says: “In silence and quiet the devout soul finds floods of tears with which she may wash and cleanse herself every night, that she may become the more familiar with her Creator the further she lives from all worldly tumult.” (Im. B. i. ch. 20.) Of this you see an exemplification in Peter. In the noisy court he sins, in the lonely place he sheds tears.

3d. Consider how he begins to weep bitterly. His tears flow freely, not tears evoked by fear of punishment, but by contrition and love, which will cleanse his soul from the stain of the sins he has committed. Nor was it on that night only that Peter wept; every time he heard a cock crow, those penitential tears gushed forth afresh in expiation, so that according to the ancient tradition, two deep furrows on his cheeks marked their course. See that you also, my soul, mourn for your sins with a like bitter grief. You are, it is true, more or less safeguarded from them by God’s mercy since you entered the Religious state, or since your conversion, but never forget that you are a penitent; this remembrance will make all that is hard in your state light and easy, all that is bitter, sweet; it will enable you to bear hardships and humiliations more readily, and if the stream of your contrite tears should dry up, then apply yourself to the contemplation of your suffering Lord, of Jesus persecuted and afflicted; see how He looks at you as He once looked upon Peter, with the same sorrowful, appealing expression, pained by your many, your countless transgressions and misdeeds—committed in spite of the many graces you have received—and assuredly tears of sincere compunction will again flow from your eyes.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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