Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Failure is Not Only an Option

"Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!"
-from the movie adaptation of the novel, "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexander Dumas

As we listen to the story of the Last Supper and the ensuing Passion and death of our Lord over the course of the Triduum and leading up to the Easter Vigil and eventual season, I have always been struck by the stark contrast between Peter and Judas. Both men fail. Both men betray Jesus. Both men show their humanity in such dark and troubling ways within the span of a few hours. We can also assume that both men would receive the same type of forgiveness if they had been willing to receive it.

Peter sought forgiveness; Judas did not. Peter allowed Easter to transform him; Judas did not. The difference between a sinner and a saint isn't that the saint never sins. It's that the saint, after falling, picks himself back up and tries once more to live a good life. Peter, as he is painted throughout the Gospels, is the epitome of this mantra. 

Get back up. Get back up. Get back up. 

In a sense, Peter is the ideal student. He tries. Goodness, does Peter try. He's not afraid to make mistakes like trying to set up tents for Jesus, Elijah and Moses during the Transfiguration. Mistakes like trying to walk on water - which he actually does for a few steps. Mistakes like being so brash as to say that he won't betray Jesus - which he actually does, three times. But, Peter doesn't give up. Despite some major failures, some big falls, Peter always gets back up. He keeps trying. 

Get back up. Get back up. 

Jesus, his Teacher, tells Peter that there will be a test, "Behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like 
wheat." Jesus knows that it will be a difficult one, especially for Peter. Jesus continues, "But I have prayed that your own faith may not fail." Finally, Jesus encourages Peter and even if the test doesn't go well, that all will be well if he just remains faithful, "And once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32)

Peter doesn't pass. But, luckily for Peter, his education doesn't end with Jesus's death. There is more to learn and the Teacher comes back to continue teaching. Luckily, Peter comes back to continue learning. Peter's education receives new life in Easter. He doesn't let an "F" keep him from taking another test. 

Get back up. 

Peter was resilient. He was a rock. He was the rock. 

Failure is not only an option for me, you, our students, Peter, Judas and everyone it is a guarantee. We will fail. We will make mistakes. We will fall. What we do after that failure, though, is what makes us who we are. Will you wallow face down in the mud or get back up? 

It may be close to Friday, but Sunday's coming...get back up.