The Defining Moment

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Defining moments occur in the history of each individual, of every nation, and, once, of all mankind. The resurrection of Christ is the culmination of a series of defining moments in the story of humanity and its relationship with its Creator. The reality of sin destroyed the intended harmony between God and that most marvelous of his creative efforts: man and woman. The narration in Genesis of humanity's fall from grace speaks vividly of the flaws in human nature. When confronted by God and required to account for themselves, Adam immediately blames Even and, by inference, God: "It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit and I ate it." Eve's response reflects the same flaw: "The serpent tempted me and I ate." The sin of disobedience, the lack of personal responsibility, and the human desire to covet what belongs to God results in this terrible separation of God from his people. The struggle between grace and sin is apparent throughout human history in both Biblical and extra-biblical literature. Reconciliation and salvation would take place in the life of Christ through a new and eternal covenant that Jesus would establish by his death and resurrection.

The events of Holy Week were laden with defining moments for the apostles and for all of the disciples of Jesus. Due to their import, those events reached the very core of faith and the meaning of human existence. The Church, as we know it, is the result of men and women who have been affected by the experience of walking with Christ. An experience that has not only touched their lives, but reformed them. The manifestation of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ by its very nature calls a person to a perception and a faith-decision unique in human history. One can only be awe-struck in contemplation of the impact on the followers of Jesus who witnessed the happenings of that Thursday through Sunday that changed the world. The occasions of the institution of the Eucharist, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ carried the duel effect of fulfilling the life of Jesus and beginning a new life for his disciples.

Emblematic of the transformation demanded by the events of Holy Week is the figure of Peter. Scripture touchingly describes his love for Jesus, his boastful declaration of resoluteness and loyalty, his denial of Christ and his bitter sorrow over his cowardice. Peter had to be acutely aware of how well Jesus knew him; how his bravado stood upon "clay feet". Yet, as Jesus rose from the dead, Peter would rise from defeat and despair. One can only speculate what thoughts Peter entertained during this time. He had been weak. Jesus knew it and he knew it. But Jesus also chose him to be the "Rock" upon which the Church was to be built. Somewhere in the darkness of that night and in the darkness of his grief, Peter felt the healing, forgiving love of Christ. Thus, the courage and zeal that Peter would show in proclaiming Christ and sustaining a community of faith took root. He had come to know himself, to define himself.

Perhaps for all of us there is a moment in the experience of living when the substance of our hopes, fears, regrets, virtues, vices and prayers converge and we, like Peter, must face the totality of our characters. Confronted and challenged by these truths, we reach the turning point of our lives. Are we Peter? Are we Judas? Do we find our end in our grave or before the empty grave of the Risen Lord? As Peter did, may we rest and act accompanied by the assuring presence of Christ.

"The Lord is loving unto us, slow to punish, but swift to pardon. Let no one then despair of his or her own salvation." St. Cyril of Jerusalem

May we be given all the grace and wisdom we need to serve God well and to live in celebration of that greatest of defining moments which we know as Easter.

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