Food For Thought
Kathy Bernard - Publisher

Jesus said, "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I
also deny before my Father which is in heaven"  Jesus said
Matt. 10:33


Would you be willing to give up your life to protect your family?  Your country?  A friend?  More importantly, what would you do if confronted with a choice to deny Jesus Christ or face death?

The idea that somehow we would have to stand up and be counted as disciples for Jesus in a time of  persecution makes us stop, reflect and begin to measure the strength of our belief in Christ, and the lengths we would go to defend the validity of that belief.  We might wonder if our faith could withstand a threat of death or would we be like St. Peter who, in a moment of human fear, denied knowing Jesus.

The following is a humorous story depicting man's human weakness: 

One Sunday morning during mass, 2,000 parishioners were
surprised to see two masked men enter, both covered from head
to toe in black and carrying sub-machine guns. One of the men
loudly proclaimed, "Anyone willing to take a bullet for Christ
remain where you are."  Immediately, the choir fled, the deacon
fled, and most of the people fled. Out of the 2,000 there only
remained around 20.

When the thundering sound of running feet subsided, the
masked man who had spoken then took off his hood, looked
at the priest and said, “Okay Father, I got rid of all the
hypocrites. Now you may begin your homily.  Have a nice day!"

the two men turned and walked out of the church.

Although the above story is an unrealistic portrayal of faith,
it does show the human nature of self preservation.  In
America, we have become so complacent and self assured
in our right to religious freedom, it does not enter our
consciousness that we might face real consequences for our
beliefs in the future.    

“How much do you mean to me, Lord",  is the question I
ask myself when I begin to doubt my own sincerity.  “Would
I be willing to give up my life for You if faced with a choice
of the real life hatred and persecution that exists in the world
today?   And if I fled the danger, could I live with the shame in
order to save my earthly life, only to lose it in the end if left unforgiven? 
Could I be comfortable with the dishonor
and disgrace I would feel if I turned and ran for safety? 

Saint Peter found himself in this human predictament.  In
St. Matthew 26: 31-35 , Jesus knew that His beloved disciple
would deny Him when put to the test after He was arrested: 
On the way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told His disciples,
“Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,  
‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock
will be scattered.  But after I have been raised from the dead,
I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”  Peter
declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never
desert you.”  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this
very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times
that you even know me.”   “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I
have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the
other disciples vowed the same.

Matthew 26: 69-75 shows the frail, human nature of Peter
when faced with reality of his love for Jesus.  He had to make
a choice to live or he could take the protective way out by
denying Jesus.  And so, when a servant girl came over to Peter
as he stood waiting in the courtyard to say to him,    “You were
one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”
But Peter denied it in
front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,”
he said.   Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed
him and said to those standing around, “This man was with
Jesus of Nazareth.”
Again Peter denied it, this time with an
oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter
and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your
Galilean accent.”
Peter swore “A curse on me if I’m lying
—I don’t know the man!”
And immediately the rooster crowed.
Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before
the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know
And Peter went away, weeping bitterly.

By our very humanity we want to protect ourselves and avoid
this Herculean test of faith.  It takes strength, courage and
valor to stand strong in the face of adversity and be willing to
die as a martyr
for Christ.  Simon Peter could not make the
sacrifice at that time.  But from that painful and enlightening
experience, Peter grew in his faith, becoming the disciple who
led others to Christ, finally giving up his life for his convictions.

"How far does my belief in Jesus Christ go?"  I ask myself
this question when I begin to doubt my own valor.  We as
Christians recognize the sin of human denial could happen to
some of us, but God will forgive  if we ask, for this
forgivenness comes from Christ's finished work on Calvary. 
And like Saint Peter, we can move on to victory in the future.

Today the goodness and mercy of God has carried us
through without the heavy price our ancestors paid in the
past, although in some countries it still exists.  Most of us
will never face martyrdom in our lifetime.   However, a
glimpse into the sufferings of those who faced torture
and death makes us realize the precious grace God has
bestowed on us as believing Christians today.  With this
blessing we are told to keep moving and spreading the
word to others as Jesus asks us to do.  Mark 16:15 reads,
"And then He (Jesus) told them, “Go into all the world
and preach the Good News to everyone.
  Anyone who
believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who
refuses to believe will be condemned.

And so, even though we do not face death for our beliefs as some do in other countries, we might ask ourselves, would we be like Simon Peter in that one moment of fear?  Or would we stand strong in our faith, depending on Jesus to carry us through?

          "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32).


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