Barlaam on Repentance

“And, in sooth, even the chief of the disciples Peter, the Rock of the Faith, in the very season of the Savior’s Passion, failing for a little while in his stewardship, that he might understand the worthlessness and misery of human frailty, fell under the guilt of denial. Then he straightaway remembered the Lord’s words and went out and wept bitterly, and with those hot tears made good his defeat and transferred the victory to his own side. Like a skillful man of war, though fallen, he was not undone nor did he despair, but, springing to his feet, he brought up as a reserve bitter tears from the agony of his soul; and straightaway when the enemy saw that sight, like a man whose eyes are scorched with a fierce flame, he leaped off and fled afar, howling horribly. So the chief became chief again, as he had before been chosen teacher of the whole world, being now become its pattern of penitence. And after his holy resurrection Christ made good this three-fold denial with the three-fold question, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ the Apostle answering, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’

The Lives of Barlaam and Ioasaph by John of Damascus

In our times of failure, of fault, of fear, may we always remember to repent, to wash our lives clean with the baptism of tears.

How often have I felt like Peter in this passage.  I see what I’ve been working for, what I’ve been living for going down in flames born of my own cowardice.  Of course, the real pain is in coming face to face with the person you let down and trying to squeak out those words, “I love you”.

Of course, in this passage, Jesus goes beyond Peter’s expectations and begins to ask him if he’s been tending to his King’s flocks.  Forgiveness is melded into commission.  Being forgiven isn’t about finding someone’s favor so you can sit back and relax, it’s more like being inducted into his court.  Now that you’re in the King’s presence, you have a job to do.  First and foremost, we need to start breaking our ties with our old masters and acknowledging our King, even when we’ve betrayed him.


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