In the Gospel according to Luke we hear this concerning Peter: “And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:52-62).
Peter is destroyed as he realizes his denials, which Jesus had predicted. This was a low point in Peter’s life. He had committed everything to Jesus. He had gone the whole way of Christ’s ministry. Now, as Jesus is arrested and Peter’s dreams are crumbling before him, he denies knowing the one whom he had followed so closely. And as the cock crowed and Jesus cast his eyes on Peter, so it was. Peter had fallen and was ashamed.
This is the bottom for Peter, but it is also a turning point. Peter would go on to lead the Church from his bottoming out. It has been said that the mountaintop can be best viewed from the valley. We spend most of our time in the valley. Like Peter with his denials of knowing Jesus, we too have moments of denying Christ in our lives.
When we are brought up short, as Peter was when the cock crowed and Jesus cast his eyes towards him, we tend to re-evaluate our lives. It is from this re-evaluation that we can realize, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “a newness of life.”
When a person loses their job, we see a similar kind of re-evaluating goes on. The person reviews just who they are and what they are good at. Early on this is a depressing time. Self-esteem is at a low and it’s hard for a person to realize that they have any redeeming value to the work world.
It’s a soul-searching time. After a while, all of this self-analyzing finally turns from negative thoughts to positive thoughts and a plan. The person is usually better off for the experience and a joy is felt in that “newness of life.”
And so it is with the inmates that I meet in prison ministry. They have more of a burden than does the jobless man. For many of them it seems like a bottomless bottom, but when they confess to knowing Jesus, everything changes.
Living out many years in prison, a seemingly irreversible negative thought, can be turned around when an inmate admits to knowing God, forgives himself and proceeds to change his environment.
Like Peter we must weep bitterly over disappointing our savior Jesus, get over it, forgive others and ourselves, and then use our experience upon which to build a life that exalts our Lord. Thanks be to God.