Reading John 13
31-32 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around! 33 “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’ 34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
36 Simon Peter asked, “Master, just where are you going?” Jesus answered, “You can’t now follow me where I’m going. You will follow later.”
37 “Master,” said Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!” 38 “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.”
Augustine was getting closer to believing in Christ, yet still a tempest raged within himself – one that he could not put into words even for those closest to him. Later, when he recalled those past experiences, he was convinced that God alone had known and heard all and that his internal turmoil had been spiritually meaningful. He did not see it at the time but Augustine still wanted to get close to God on his own. Yet he was now aware of his weaknesses and the need to cleanse his heart of his pride, which made it impossible for him to have an objective view of his spiritual condition.
"My swollen pride got in the way and kept me from you, and my face was so puffy that my eyes were closed. But you, Lord, abide for ever and will not forever be angry with us, for you have taken pity on us who are earth and ashes; and so it was pleasing in your sight to give new form to my deformity. You goaded me within to make me chafe impatiently until you should grow clear to my spiritual sight. At the unseen touch of your medicine my swelling subsided, while under the stinging eye-salve of curative pain the fretful, darkened vision of my spirit began to improve day by day."
Peter’s reaction in our reading was spontaneous and honest, and without a second thought he reassured Jesus that he was willing to lay down his life for him. He did not know that through those words he showed overconfidence in his own strength to help Jesus. How wrong was he, as in reality he was a fearful man and it was rather he who needed support from Jesus.
Peter, Augustine, and many other believers had to go through the purifying fire of God’s love to experience the unseen touch of God’s medicine. Jesus shows us the power without which we cannot take up our cross and follow him. This power is Jesus himself.
Help us, Jesus, to experience the mystery of your death, so that we may abandon our pride, confidence in self-reliance, and need to search for happiness on our own. May we open up completely to your saving work and the grace that you offer. Amen