Hear God’s word spoken into that quiet place
- As you begin this time of prayer, pay attention to whatever sounds you can hear round about you. You may be in a very quiet place; still, there is likely to be something you can hear. Or there may be a lot of noise round about you, all the clamour of everyday life; or it might be that all you can hear is the music of this recording. Whatever your surroundings are like just now, notice the different sounds, and notice, too, where they come from.
- Now bring your attention inwards, and concentrate on any sounds nearer to you. Let the others go – they’ll still be there in the background. But focus on anything you can hear nearby, in the room where you are or coming from whatever or whoever is closest by. Pay attention for a moment to those more immediate sounds.
- Now leave those sounds, in their turn, to fade into the background as you let your attention move inwards. Find a quiet place within yourself, and for a minute or two simply rest there, in the quiet at the centre of yourself.
- Hear God’s word spoken into that quiet place, as you listen to the account of the next woman to appear in the Passion narratives.
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’
Try and imagine being a part of these events in your prayer
- Much has happened between the meal at Bethany and this incident in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. Jesus has journeyed daily into Jerusalem and taught in the Temple. On one occasion he “drove out all who were buying and selling in the temple precincts” and the crowds “went wild with excitement” Later that week he gave his disciples instructions for the preparation of the Passover; they met in the Upper Room and witnessed the institution of the Eucharist. Afterwards they went to the Mount of Olives and watched in fear and trembling as Jesus prayed in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then the soldiers, led by Judas, burst in and Jesus was arrested and led off to stand trial before the High Priest on a charge of blasphemy, punishable by death. Try and imagine being a part of these events in your prayer now. Try to experience something of the atmosphere, the emotion.
- The events of Holy Week are so fast-moving and dramatic that most people overlook the woman on duty at the door. Yet all four Gospels mention her and all agree that Peter’s first denial was provoked by her accusation. She is a servant to the high priest, who held one of the lowliest positions in the household, that of doorkeeper. Yet this simple maid is able to frighten Peter into denying the friend he had so recently vowed to defend, even if it meant having to die. How do you picture this woman on duty at the door?
- John tells us the mysterious other disciple speaks to her, presumably asking for Peter to be admitted. Does this imply that at least one of the disciples knew her quite well?
- We on the other hand, know very little about her. How do you imagine her? Is she simply curious as to what is going on and what all the excitement is about? Or do you imagine her differently? Mark and Luke describe her as a paidiske, a little maid, perhaps a mere child. In this case her question to Peter could have been one of sheer innocence. When does curiosity to find out more about people degenerate into gossip that can hurt and harm?
Talk to God
Perhaps there is something you wish to ask Jesus for forgiveness
- There is a legend – albeit without much scriptural basis – that identifies the maid on duty in the High Priest’s house with the Rhoda mentioned in Acts. She is also a doorkeeper, but the house is now that of Mary, mother of John Mark, where the disciples have sheltered after Peter’s imprisonment. Rhoda recognises Peter’s voice and is so overjoyed that he has found them again that, in her excitement, she forgets to let him in and leaves him standing in the street while she hurries away to tell the household.
- You can imagine how the legend arises. Stricken by remorse over her denunciation of Peter, the High Priest’s maidservant has now joined the small band of Jesus’ followers and found a new position with a Christian employer. Far-fetched? Perhaps. But perhaps, like Peter, this woman had a change of heart. Perhaps she, too, saw Jesus being led out into the courtyard. Perhaps he also looked at her and in his gaze she saw not only a profound sorrow over what she had done, but also a profound forgiveness. Have you ever had a change of heart in this way? Is it really that far-fetched?
- In Jesus’ eyes no one is beyond redemption. Peter is given another chance. Perhaps the maid, too, is given the grace to change her whole life and thus become an example and inspiration to others. Where do you see this need for another chance in your life?
- In these last moments of prayer, imagine yourself standing in the courtyard. What do you see? Who draws your attention? Perhaps there is something you wish to ask Jesus for forgiveness. Or you may wish to speak to Jesus about what you have experienced in this time of reflection.