Dr. Gomez shared this reflection at the Holy Week Mass on April 13, 2022.
With Holy Thursday and Good Friday coming up, I want to specifically talk about our guy, Peter, and his part in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. I’ve talked about Peter’s imperfections and mistakes before, and they continue right up until the crucifixion. Once again, it seems like Peter just can’t get anything right. Jesus asks Peter to pray with him, but he falls asleep. When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, Peter panics and slices off somebody’s ear. And three different times, Peter denies even knowing Jesus, his best friend. What we don’t always talk about, though, is that when Jesus is actually crucified, Peter is not at the foot of the cross. He never even showed up. And I wonder why that is. I’ll get back to that.
So this past weekend, my son Peter (not Peter the apostle), and I had the chance to use his Oculus. For those of you who don’t know, the oculus is a virtual reality headset that makes you feel like you’re totally immersed in the world of the game.
So I am wearing the headset, and it was a lot of fun battling skeletons and other monsters as my son laughed at my pseudo-warrior antics. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a VR experience, but it really pulls you in. It’s like it takes over your imagination so much so that you start to have real feelings. So yes, when the skeleton jumped out at me, I actually jumped back and ducked. Sure, I was a little scared. I’ll admit it.
So where am I going with this? Sometimes I think there are times in our life when we wear a metaphoric VR headset. We let our imagination convince us that certain things are real or true or are going to happen–even though they’re not—and it brings about self doubt or a false sense of self. Because of this metaphoric oculus we make assumptions about ourselves and about what other people think of us. We toss and turn the night before a test or an interview convincing ourselves that we are not ready. We stare at our phones waiting for someone to text us back, and we think she doesn’t she like me…it’s been too long…what is she doing? Ten minutes before a game or performance we start to think what if I fail? In short, our imagination sometimes is so powerful, that we wonder if we are qualified enough or doing well enough in a relationship, in a job, in school, in a friendship, or just in life. And a lot of times it’s all up in our head…it’s not real.
Sometimes we let our emotional imagination dictate our reality, and create this false reality where we’re never good enough. Sometimes we live too much in our head.
Now I’m not saying we need to assume we’re great all the time, and life is perfect. I’m just saying we need to take off the oculus, challenge those assumptions, and not let that self doubt define us or shut us down.
So what does this have to do with Simon Peter and Jesus? As I said, I don’t know why Peter didn’t stand at the foot of the cross. Maybe he thought Jesus would never forgive him. Maybe he thought Jesus was angry with him. Maybe he thought Jesus never wanted to be his friend again. Maybe Peter had that metaphoric oculus on, and was living inside his head, fixated on where he had stumbled over the past few days rather than what he really wanted to do, what he really needed to do–which was to be there for his best friend.
At the foot of the cross, John was there. Jesus’ mother was there. And Mary Magdalene was there. I point this out because throughout our lives we all have our own crosses to bear. And while we’re not being crucified, there will be times when we’re hurting an awful lot, or when we’re scared, or when maybe we feel like the whole world is against us. Who is going to be at the foot of your “cross”? Maybe even in this last school last, there have been times that have been really tough. Times you’ve been hurting. Who has been there for you “at the foot of your cross?”
Let’s reverse it. We know our friends may have had their own rough patches, struggles, anxieties, and doubts. Were we there for them? Were we at the foot of their cross? If not, what stopped us? Was it the oculus, our own self-doubt that we could actually help?
So this Good Friday and maybe, who knows, every Good Friday after this, you will think in gratitude for the folks who were there when you needed them the most, and you will think of the times you were there for others. And as we grow in faith, I hope you recognize that by being there for others, with others you are giving glory to God. If reflecting on this makes you think you could be more grateful, or you could have been a better friend, maybe this is the time to reset. Take off that Oculus, put aside the self doubt, and recognize that you are awesomely and wondrously made, and know that giving your best effort, with your whole heart, every time, is a form of prayer.
Please know, just as always, I’ll be praying for you and our faculty and staff this Holy Week and on Easter Sunday. When I think of what I am grateful for, one of the first things I think of is you. Happy Easter! I love you an awful lot. Let’s go Prep!
alumni, parents, and friends of Prep are always sub umbra Petri—under the shadow of Peter.
Michael Gomez, Ed.D., ’91