“I am not.”
I twinge each time during the Good Friday service when Peter denies being Jesus’ disciple with the words, “I am not.” Peter and Jesus have been through so much together, and yet on Good Friday Peter denies having been a close disciple. Three times Peter betrays his friend, his own integrity, and his own belief that a better world is possible.
I twinge because who could fault Peter for wanting to protect himself during a violent, vulnerable moment, when the cause he has pledged himself to appears to be unraveling completely. I twinge because I’ve been there, and I know you’ve been there. We’ve all denied Jesus hundreds of times in order to avoid suffering as a Christian.
Good Friday is raw. This day invites us to look at the suffering we deny, the suffering we can’t bear to see and feel in a world fraught with sin, death, violence, war, hate, injustice, division, poverty, and illness.
The desire to escape suffering is all too human, all too understandable. It seems impossibly difficult sometimes that God would ask us to risk our own comfort, our own security, or perhaps even our own lives to accompany others in their pain. Do you ever become frustrated with God by the amount of suffering that pleads for accompaniment in our world today? Do you ever become frustrated with yourself for resembling Peter’s pattern of denial? I know I do.
It is impossibly hard to deal with so much pain by ourselves, which is why I am grateful that our Ignatian spiritual tradition encourages us to pray for the graces we need. On Good Friday we can pray for the grace to remain at the foot of the Cross and be present with someone who suffers. We can pray for the grace of faith in the Paschal Mystery even before it unfolds.
- In what ways do you resemble Peter’s denial of suffering?
- What graces do you need to pray for to accompany someone in your life who is suffering?
Ellie Hidalgo is co-director of Discerning Deacons, a project to engage Catholics in the active discernment of our Church about women in the diaconate and to contribute to the renewal of the diaconate for our times. Previously, she served as pastoral associate at Dolores Mission Church and School in Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles, CA. Ellie received her master’s in pastoral theology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is based in Miami, FL.