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I love Jesus/Peter events. I think we all have some Peter traits that give us those “love Jesus, but not too prudent myself” moments.

Jesus came down from a mountain where he spent time alone in prayer. He sees the terrified disciples in a boat tossing around in a violent sea. When the disciples see Jesus walking toward them on the sea, they think it’s a ghost. Jesus assures them, “It is I, do not be afraid.” Peter challenges the ghost, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Naturally Peter gets out of the boat, takes a few steps, then either thinks he can do this on his own and therefore sinks, or that Jesus will not continue to take care of him, so his doubt sinks him. Peter calls for help; Jesus rescues him saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” They get in the boat together; the wind dies, and the text says the disciples realize that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus and Peter get into that fishing boat together. That boat is Peter’s life. By means of that fishing boat Peter sustains his life. Jesus accompanies Peter back into the life that Peter lives.

The Jesus who will know when our faith is weak, will offer his hand when we fail, if only we put out our hand, and then Jesus will accompany us in our very own lives.

In her book, THE EMERGENT CHRIST, Ilia Delio defines forgiveness as “an act of love that creates a new future.” I believe that is how Peter felt.

Oscar Romero was born in El Salvador in 1917, ordained in 1942. He served various communities during turbulent times of the ’60s and ’70s for the nation and for the Roman Catholic Church, a corrupt government, ruthless military, influence of the wealthy, and a cooperative Church. When Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he abandoned the hierarchy’s traditional role of defender of the status quo. The grace of God reached out to him, and Romero reached out to the poor, the victims of ruthless repression. The Lord accompanied him in his outspoken demand for reform. And, the Lord accompanied Romero into everlasting joy when he was shot while celebrating the Mass in the small chapel of the hospital where he lived.

Other lives, our ordinary lives, also have the opportunities to respond to Jesus’ call for us to reach out and accompany others in ways the Lord provides for us. We just need to be willing. Notice this about the Peter and Oscar events: the Lord didn’t ask for their ability, the Lord asked for their availability.

Let’s consider the ordinary experience of a child’s birthday party.

Our precious little daughter Amy was not graceful or coordinated as a child. Her classmate Natalie invited all the girls in the class to her birthday parties, preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, now it was time for her third grade party. Of course Amy went again, but this time Amy announced her arrival home by calling out, “Mommy, Daddy, I won, I won.” With her faux gold medal to prove it, she told us that she won the three legged race. Ummm, who would chose Amy for a partner? “Natalie’s grandpa asked me if he could be my partner,” she volunteered while I was wondering. She looked up and said to him, “Is that OK?” Without a word, he put his leg in the pillow slip, held it open for her, the whistle blew, and off they went to cross the finish line first. He was there every year, and that good man was not going to watch this little girl go home again without a first, second, or third place ribbon. He knew about winning and losing. You see, Natalie’s grandpa, as he was known to Natalie’s friends, was Stan Musial. As often as Stan Musial crossed home plate, he holds no statistic that matters as much in my heart as the time he carried a third grade girl over the finish line and into a whole new experience of self-esteem.

As we come to the Lord in tonight’s Eucharist, may we give thanks for those who have accompanied us to empowerment in our lives, and may we ask for the grace to accompany others as God calls us to do so.

Amen.

Kay Schmitt

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, A

Photo by Juan Salmoral on flickr.com

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