Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then 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.
It is so hard to stand accused – of little things, of large things – it doesn’t matter. We want to hide. But we cannot. So we try to stay present, but in disguise. Or we speak and tell lies, or tell only a partial truth – that our good intentions somehow went awry, that our inattention had some good cause, that there’s a hidden virtue in our flaws. In explanation we might justify ourselves, might soothe our affront at not being understood.
Carefully building our denials, we become lost to the present moment, to the sacrament of grace that is played out in our domestic spaces, the conversations with those we love. We barely hear them. In our inattention, we deny again.
We carry our hurts and feel their weight. They bend us down, focus our eyes on the ground, and although they are nothing, phantasms only, they are so heavy that they labor each step, and make us inept. We forget how to look up with the eyes of love. We slip into the dream that our suffering is the only suffering, that we are alone.
After we deny, we feel a gaze. The silent, thin regard of the beloved, who stands accused. He has refused the smallness, the disguise of denial. He refuses to hide.