June 29, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters—
Happy feast of Saints Peter & Paul!
My heart bears a great love for these two men—one the traitor upon whom Christ built his church, the other a persecutor-turned-convert beneath the merciful gaze of the Lord.
When I think of St. Peter, I think of the Garden of Gethsemane, and the question of Jesus to his apostles: “Could you not wait an hour?” Could you, who love me, whom I have loved, not wait with me another hour—as my being prepares, as my body and mind and heart suffer the preparation, for Calvary? Could you not wait with me?
He does not ask, “Could you not stop this? Could you not save me from this? Could you not pray for me from the safety of your home?” Rather, “could you not wait with me—here?” Oh, the humanity of Jesus! This humanity which longed to know the proximity of friends; this humanity which, when the suffering approached its apex, bent in an open plea, an open begging, for their accompaniment! Jesus cried out for accompaniment! Near, heart to heart, gaze to gaze, shoulder to shoulder—the terror of the night made its tremors known.
I want to point your gaze to the abandoned among us. The homeless on the streets, in whom Jesus lives, they who carry his image—from within them, Jesus asks, “Could you not wait with me an hour?” Could you not pause, and ask for their name, which Jesus whispers to them in their abandonment in hopes that they will hear his voice? (Do we not remember that Jesus begs us to love, without ever setting limits—not just those who are rich, those who grasp the etiquette of the day, those who delight our heart…)
Those among us, even intimately close to us, those whom we regularly encounter: they who carry crosses that seem impossible to carry, crosses from which we flee, unwilling to face another’s suffering that penetrates, perhaps, more deeply than our own—from within them, Jesus asks, “Could you not wait with me an hour?” Do we not remember that we are called to imitate him, and if his heart is so achingly moved, ours should be too, and rather than draw far away, we should always draw closer?
You and I belong to the Church! This Church is the continuity whose seed lay even in Peter’s terrified heart, that melted upon an encounter with compassionate mercy. His is a form into which we can enter now, terrified also, knowing the Lord has conquered. You and I walk the same path! We cannot walk the path alone! You and I seek the same goal, a Heaven meant to begin even on earth—this Heaven in which we shall be so closely bound.
Let our call to love be such that we do not step back when another seems dirty, lost, self-sufficient, or broken-beyond-belief—no, let these be those exact moments in which, upon recognizing Jesus’ Gethsemane in another, we lay our wills, our time, our selves down, and love another as we ourselves would want to be loved. Let us bear forth mercy, mercy, mercy, to melt broken and sinful and frightened and lost hearts. No education could have prepared the apostles, and so too no education can prepare us, fumbling fools and sinners, to make our way moved by the Lord’s grace.
Courage, brothers and sisters! Let us walk in the path of the saints, those who let the Lord strengthen them in the most impossible of tasks. Courage!