By Tom Quiner
I want you to try to imagine something.
Your best friend is in danger. He is being dragged by an angry mob across the busy plaza in the downtown area of your city. Suddenly, one of the mob sees you and shouts, “Look, it’s his friend! Get him!”
They begin to rush you.
You know that the same fate awaits you as your friend, and so to save your skin, you shout back, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know this guy! Never saw him in my life! Now get away from me.”
And then comes the moment that will haunt you the rest of your life: your friend looks you in the eyes in recognition of what you’ve just done, as the mob drags him off to be beaten, tortured, and murdered.
You abandoned him.
You betrayed your friendship.
You and I can rationalize the situation. Your lie was understandable. You could have been killed, too. Why should two people die when a simple lie could save your skin and cut the casualties in half?
Try telling that to Simon the Fisherman, the Rock, the first Pope who you and I simply know as Peter.
He lived through such a nightmare some 2000 years ago. It started in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross.
Peter didn’t just betray his best friend, Jesus, he betrayed the man that he KNEW was the Son of God, the Messiah.
He KNEW because God revealed it to him.
The guilt that engulfed Peter is beyond our ability to comprehend. You and I have surely had our moments where we have felt guilty about our conduct or the way we handled a situation. Nothing can compare to what the Rock of Christ’s Church must have felt.
These events are described in the Gospel of Matthew beginning in chapter twenty-six. We know the story has a happy ending with the resurrection of Christ. But Peter surely carried the baggage associated with his three denials. Just imagine how guilty he must have felt when he saw his resurrected friend. His joy would have been tinged with sorrow over his conduct a few days earlier.
In this ‘year of mercy’ in the Catholic Church, as proclaimed by Pope Francis, let us remember the lavish mercy displayed by Jesus toward his friend on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, as related by the Gospel of John beginning in chapter twenty-one. The resurrected Christ visits the disciples as they fish. He has breakfast waiting for them when they come ashore, with Peter leading the way.
When they have a moment together, Jesus asks three provocative questions to Simon Peter, son of Jonah: “Do you you love me?” Do you love me?” Do you love me?”
With each affirmative response, the increasingly emphatic Fisherman says yes.
And with those three yeses, his three denials were undone.
Scripture has a lot of gut-wrenching passages. This is one of the top ones for me. What must it have been like? What was the expression on Peter’s face? How about Jesus, what was His expression?
This is but one scene you will experience in my new musical, THE FIRE AND THE MERCY, The Pentecost Musical.
I write faith-based musicals because this art form allows us to amplify the emotion of far-removed events and hopefully help us better understand the Truth they are trying to convey.
Or another way of looking at it is a musical like THE FIRE AND THE MERCY allows the audience to experience scripture from this “inside-out,” so to speak. Or as Walter Cronkite used to say, “You are there!”
The mercy that Jesus displayed towards the man who was supposed to be the main guy for building His new church is profound. Without Christ’s loving mercy, nothing was possible for St. Peter. With it, nothing was impossible.
I hope you have an opportunity to see this show in a church near you in April.
[ATTENTION Singers: Auditions are this Sunday at Holy Trinity at 5PM.]