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Coming from the Passion Narratives read during Holy Week, those words uttered in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 26:69) by a maid have a special resonance in this increasingly pagan world. Peter had been full of devotion only hours earlier before he heard these accusatory words, promising fidelity to our Lord no matter what.
Yet here was this maid pointing a bony finger at him no doubt, throwing him off guard as he denied even knowing Jesus, who was now facing his Passion and death at Calvary
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote that Peter had “an exaggerated self-confidence in his own loyalty.” Peter might well have wondered how could Jesus even think he would deny him three times before the next morning (Matt 26:33-35).
Hadn’t Peter gone immediately into battle when Jesus’ enemies came to arrest Him, cutting off the ear of one of the High Priest’s servants? Yet only a short time later the Apostle’s bravado was gone!
It was replaced first by his curiosity about what was happening to Jesus. Then he probably felt great sorrow at seeing our Lord so brutally treated. And after he was recognized in the high priest’s courtyard he probably experienced a stupefying fear of being violently persecuted as well!
The maid depicted in the painting above points a finger at Peter accusing him of being one of Christ’s followers (Matt 26:69). Peter responded to those who recognized him by denying he knew our Lord, not just to the maid in the high priest’s court, but to others as well, even with curses! Fortunately, as we all know, Our Lord showed Peter his ever abundant mercy after His resurrection (John 21:15-17).
Peter went on to serve our faith with distinction and great fervor, as shown in the book of Acts, before being crucified upside down according to tradition (as he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as our Lord) under the murderous regime of the emperor Nero in 67 AD.
I’ve often thought about how Peter gave us all a valuable lesson in not trusting solely on our own strength in serving and following Jesus. We’d all like to think we could be brave and noble if the situation warranted; no sweat.
We’re Christians, after all. We’re good people, right? And yet…it isn’t always so easy to follow the Ten Commandments and to love God “with all your heart, soul and strength” (Deut 6:5) is it?
Catholicism and Christianity in general are clearly on the defensive in this country and in Europe nowadays. While Beleaguered believers are facing what we call red martyrdom (where people suffer violent death), in the Middle East and Africa from Radical Muslims, we here in the West are more likely still to face white martyrdom from various forms of harassment, lawsuits, ridicule or even loss of jobs or family. The twin scourges of relativist apathy and political correctness haven’t helped things either!
The way of the Christian has always included the Way of the Cross in one form or another. And as Christ experienced human cruelty in His Passion, we bring a lot of that suffering on ourselves! Such is humanity’s fallen state that we often look to frivolities or even quite brutal ways to fill in the emptiness in our lives where God is missing.
As St. Augustine famously observed about God at the beginning of his Confessions "You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You."
As such, humanity as a whole has often followed a rather grimy Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald City of Man, often worshiping some Great and Powerful Oz who really is only some evil wretch behind a curtain, after all.
In compensating for their own inner weaknesses, tyrants throughout history have often unleashed stunning levels of brutality and destruction in their attempts to play God. From Herod to Hitler, before and beyond, such people are truly scourges upon humanity.
When Jesus is considered to be just some wise prophet, an afterthought, or even a myth, not as the rightful King and Center of our hearts, leaders trying to be Gods emerge, causing all kinds of calamities!
Nowadays atheists and various secular humanists and progressives say “we can get along without Jesus just fine, thank you”. Others follow Christ in accordance with this great line from Mark Twain: “God created man in His image and man returned the favor”.
They look to Jesus for inspiration about social justice, but wish to have the State do most of the heavy lifting to help the poor and afflicted, rather than the Church and various charities and communities.
Then the State becomes God. And more ominously, there are Muslim Jihadis in various parts of Europe seeking to fill the void left by those abandoning Catholicism and Christianity.
As various Wizards of Smart try to move us towards a one-world utopia, the pressure builds on Christians of all stripes to conform to this Brave New World of not terribly diverse diversity and not quite tolerant tolerance, a world in which Christ and His church take a backseat at best to the rule of what is called on various websites “globalism”.
It is not my place here to delve into the veracity of claims that there is some power-addicted committee, such as in those running the European Union, seeking only their own enrichment at humanity’s ruin.
It is quite disturbing nonetheless to see much of Christ’s Kingdom in the West being relegated to insignificance in favor of some secular technocratic utopia-to-be, with Radical Islam also on the rise at the same time. Christ Himself has been shunted aside to back rooms and side altars in His tabernacles in far too many of His churches nowadays!
In this country, as mentioned earlier, many Christians face an exile of sorts from their schools or workplaces from ostracism or even lawsuits or job termination. Of course, they can avoid this grief—as long as they keep their faith to themselves!
Sadly many of us human beings fear the crosses of loneliness or rejection enough to want to “go with the flow”, no matter what. We're only human, after all! If that means denying our Lord or His crucial teachings concerning morality, sexuality, and the family, so be it.
When the maid points her finger saying “you too were with the Galilean” no one wants to reply affirmatively only to hear “What are you? Some kind of Bible thumper? You don't really take all that religious nonsense seriously do you? It’s so medieval and bigoted! And what about all the church scandals?”
To which I might respond, yes but these evil clergy who have corrupted the faith will not have the last word, any more than Satan will! There are still many good priests out there, and more and more people are seeing the need to clean up decades of festering corruption as we move forward, even if the church becomes smaller in the meantime as a result.
Remember what our Lord told Peter in Matthew's Gospel: "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18).
Another challenge comes from the atheists for whom science is God, for whom the test tube is the tabernacle. “We have technology!” they might say,“We have breakthroughs coming in artificial intelligence, genetics, and transhumanism, the marriage of man and machine, and more pointing the way to immortality and paradise!”
Do you hear the serpent in the garden of Eden hissing “You shall be as Gods knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5)?
Speaking of technology, there is a danger that we all might face in a few years as man worships himself on this great new altar. The combination of a cashless society with RFID microchip implants in our skin.
While none of us should be Luddites, ignoring the definite advantages and advances in treating diseases, for example, and in communications, there are still problems up ahead.
Many Christians, especially Evangelicals, have their spider senses tingling about the dangers posed by these chips. The sections in Revelation referring to the Mark of the Beast (Rev 13:16-18) and the eternal doom of those who take the mark (Rev.14:9-11) come to mind.
On a secular level this road to hell is paved with only the finest intentions. The purpose of a cashless society, we are told, is to help root out international drug cartels, terrorists, and other societal menaces.
Considering how many payments are already digital, with online transactions and numerous credit and debit cards, why not make it easier, so goes the argument, to check out of a supermarket with just a flick of the wrist? We already use such chips to locate lost pets, don't we? But at that point, we lost sheep will become even more lost!
Even those who think of Christianity as a contrived fable need to see that implanted chips could very well be the ultimate way to dominate, control, terrorize, or even liquidate a population.
If you need that “mark”, that smaller than rice grain chip, to buy or sell anything, and they turn off your chip, you starve! (This might also happen even with plastic replacing cash. There are also privacy concerns even if this is all just done by “smart cards” with no implants.)
Even if there are no implants or chips, there is a menacing risk of each of us, as currently in China, having a “social credit score” tracking our lives in and out of cyberspace. Such a number defining what you can or cannot do or say could become increasingly and dangerously coercive!
So, that to me might be the ultimate moment of the maid pointing her bony finger at each one of us headed our way: Take the chip, or otherwise follow the powers that be with the right “social credit score” and give up your faith; or perhaps trade it in for a watered-down version of Catholicism, or perhaps some One World blended religion, for your own good of course! And that faith might very well have very little relationship to traditional Catholicism or to Christianity in general!
Hopefully this is only a harbinger of a bad dream. Yet, in any case, Jesus asked us to carry our crosses in following Him and even said we who suffered persecution for His sake would be blessed in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10-12)!
This sounds like quite a tall order, I know. I’m not sure I can measure up to it myself if things get really bad and we face a major depression from debt crises or a global war, or perhaps from a cyber attack that takes down the power grid.
Would I turn against God then out of a jumble of confused emotions or a misplaced “survival” instinct? I hope not, but studying Peter’s denial has given me a valuable lesson as I mentioned earlier: not to just assume that I can love and serve Christ in any situation without asking for His help and His strength.
In other words, you can't go it alone, folks! You need Him now more than ever!
Yet how do you defend our Lord and His wonderful faith with others like those mentioned earlier who might challenge your wisdom...or, either directly or indirectly, threaten your livelihood?
Prayer is essential in staying close to Christ in these uneasy, turbulent times ahead, even if its only for a few minutes a day. Even short prayers to check in with your Creator. And try to educate yourself about Catholicism and common objections to the faith, even if it's only for a short time time, whenever you can.
Websites like Catholic Answers can provide great assistance. Then you can be ready to give a reason for the hope in Jesus inside you. After all, that’s what the man who had denied Him three times, St. Peter, advises us to do in his first letter (1 Pet 3:15)!
This can make it easier for you to explain to people that we're not just a bunch of backward-thinking killjoys. And the more love and patience you can show in letting Christ work through you on this the better!
If nothing else, try to adopt as Christ-like an attitude towards others as possible with His help and grace. There is a quote attributed to St. Francis that affirms this advice: "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words."
I’ve listed some additional resources below I hope might be helpful in learning more about our faith, And don’t ever hesitate to ask our Lord for His help and guidance through Prayer and His Sacraments!
The going is getting rougher indeed these days, but remember that in the end we are not just on the winning side, as citizens-in-training for heaven, but on the loving side as well!
As the well-known priest Father Mark Goring says at the end of his YouTube videos “Viva Christo Rey!” Long Live Christ the King! God Bless,