I’m More Like Peter Than I Care to Admit

I am more like Peter than I care to admit.  Every time I hear the Gospel in which Jesus tells Peter he will deny him three times before the cock crows I usually think to myself, Peter may deny you but I wouldn’t have.  I always think that for some reason if I had been in the same shoes as Peter there is no way no how that I would have denied Jesus.

I don’t really know why I’ve thought this maybe it’s because I’ve always been really good at following directions.  When I was a young lad I used to love to fish.  I mean I was obsessed with the sport.  I had tackle boxes filled with lures and I’d read just about any book I could get my hand on regarding the topic.

Every year the local mall would have a boat/fishing show.  For me this was my young selfs definition of heaven. Aisles upon aisles of the latest and greatest fishing boats, lures, guides and even a few free samples.  I used to get all excited when the ads would come on the radio announcing the boat show.

One particular year my family went to the boat show and on the way there I was envisioning all the sights and smells that was my favorite sport.  I remember when we arrived at the show, my Mom and Dad had to make a return at a store and I was asked if I wanted to go with or stay out in the mall and look at boats.  I chose the boats, but before my parents left I was given what I thought were specific instruction not to leave the wing of the mall I was in and that my parents would come back and get me.

I was thrilled to be able to look at boats and not have to go return whatever it was my Mom needed to return.  It didn’t even matter to me that the section of the mall I was in was filled with pontoons and not fishing boats. It was still better than waiting in line for a return.

I strolled around each pontoon looking at the different features each pontoon making more excited to go and see the real boats, the fishing boats.  I could see a couple of fishing boast over in the distance, but there weren’t in the wing I was in and therefore off limits.  Besides my parents would be back soon enough to get me.

The time passed slowly, ten minutes began twenty and twenty began thirty and still no sign of my parents.  Maybe they had forgotten about me, but no matter how much I wanted to go out and look at the other boats I stayed put.  I was told to stay by the pontoons and that’s what I did.  After about an hour and a half my family finally came back to get me.  Turns out my Mom had assumed I’d be out wandering the show and that she would eventually run into me.  I wasn’t I stayed put, like I was told to.  That year the only boats I saw at the show were the pontoons, we left shortly after I was reunited with my parents.  My desire to follow directions caused me to miss out on the highlight of my year.  Ya see I’m really good at following directions.

For some reason, whether it is my ability to follow directions or my own arrogance, I’ve often thought that I wouldn’t have followed in the footsteps of Peter.  I’ve recently come to the conclusion, like the first line of this post states, I’m a lot more like Peter than I care to admit.

St. Peter Denying Christ, by Gustave Doré

For you see just like Peter, when I am surrounded by fellow believers and in the presence of Christ I truly do believe that there is no way I’d ever deny Christ in my life.  There is no way I’d deny Him once let alone three times.  But then, when I head out into the world and go about my daily life it is so easy to deny Christ and not even realize that I’m doing it.

I deny Him when I fail to see Christ in my fellow man and turn my back on someone in need.  I deny Him when I fail to pray aloud before a meal in public out of fear of ridicule for my beliefs.  I deny Him when I fail to defend my beliefs when people challenge them.

I have realized that I deny Christ more in my life than I care to admit.  Too many times in my life I have become just like Peter standing around a fire warming myself and when questioned if I am affiliated with Jesus I deny it out of fear for my own well being.

It doesn’t matter that I’m really good at following directions because just like when I was at the boat show I often times misinterpret the directions and while I think I am doing well it turns out I’m failing.

Yes, I’m more like Peter than I care to admit and just like Peter I weep bitterly for my denials of Christ.  I need stop denying Christ in my life and instead life my life for Him.  It’s what Peter did and you see I’m more like Peter than I care to admit.

Deep thought Friday…What’s in a Name

 

Today’s deep thought has me focusing the importance of names.  The Catechism spells out why God revealed Himself and His name beautifully.

 

211      The divine name, “I Am” or “He Is,” expresses God’s faithfulness: despite the faithlessness of men’s sin and the punishment it deserves, he keeps “steadfast love for thousands.”21 By going so far as to give up his own Son for us, God reveals that he is “rich in mercy.”22 By giving his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine name: “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize that ‘I Am.’”23(604)

God alone IS

 

I realize that I am a day ahead in the read the Catechism in a year plan here, but what can I say this paragraph really spoke to me.  Have a great weekend.

 

 

God's mysterious ways

God’s mysterious ways (Photo credit: timtom.ch)

Ordinary Man

 

I am an ordinary man.  I may like to think of myself as extraordinary. You know the type of man who can solve incredibly complex physics problems while juggling chainsaws and reciting sonnets from Shakespeare. The reality is, however, I can do none of these things.  The only thing I have been able to juggle in my life are small silk scarves that float when you toss them up in the air and I struggle to juggle even these.

 

So what is one to do when one is merely ordinary.  Our society is one that does not deal well with the ordinary, in fact on some level we all like to believe we are extraordinary or at least somewhat above average.

 

It has been a tough pill for me to swallow; this label of merely ordinary.  It goes against all that I was taught in school growing up about how we are all special and how we are all above average in some way shape or form.

 

Vanilla ice cream

No, the more I think about it the more I think I am truly just an ordinary man.  I am simply a plain scoop of vanilla ice cream; no sprinkles on top.  This label of ordinary, while a tough pill to swallow, has been a tremendous blessing in my life.

 

When you’re ordinary, there really isn’t all this pressure to perform.  People tend to look at you and not expect much.  Take for example an ordinary piece of bread.  When we buy a loaf of ordinary bread, we don’t expect it to taste like a fancy homemade or boutique loaf of bread.  It is supposed to taste simply like bread.  Not some rosemary infused olive oil drizzled gourmet delight.  The ordinary taste of the bread matches up to our expectations.

 

Ordinary is simply that…ordinary.

 

We all need to embrace our ordinary.  Throw off the chains of the extraordinary that bind us to goals and expectations we simply can’t meet.  Learn to exist as merely ordinary members of society and when we embrace the ordinary, the extraordinary starts to happen.

 

For you see, when the spirit of God flows down upon the ordinary, extraordinary things begin to happen.  God chooses to use ordinary things in the Eucharist.  It is simply ordinary bread and ordinary wine, but when He send his spirit down upon them they are transformed in to the extraordinary body and blood of Christ.

 

So live your live as ordinarily as you can, but be open to the Spirit.  Let the Spirit work through you and you will be transformed into the extraordinary.  I am ordinary and that’s okay.

 

Racing towards Humility

Confessing ones sins to another takes an act of humility. It is an extremely humbling act to sit in the presence of another human being and confess all of ones faults and shortcomings, but it through this act of humility that God prepares one to receive his Son. Pope Benedict has stated numerous times that God enters into one who is heart is humble.

Often times we get hung up on the act of confession and not what is given during the sacrament. Our pride gets in the way, we do not desire to humble ourselves before God and a priest and confess all the wrongs we have done. But it through this act that God pours out His mercy and love upon us. To hear the words that your sins are absolved and forgiven is an incredibly powerful statement.

Preparing for a confession is similar to a runner preparing for a race. If the runner focuses only the race and not the finish it would be doubtful the runner would ever toe the starting line. During the race the runner puts themselves through all sort of physical and mental discomfort in order to achieve the finish line. Many times during the race they want to quit, just stop running no one will know after all it is just some little small town race, but for some reason they keep going they keep putting one foot in front of the other despite the burning lungs, legs, arms. They do this to achieve the glory of the finish line. The finish line is the end of race and once the line is crossed the pain eases up legs stop burning, but once the line is crossed the person is forever changed. They have accomplished something, pushed themselves to achieve that finish.

Confession works in much the same way. We can either get hung up on the act of confessing or we can focus on the forgiveness and grace given at the end. If we focus on the act of confessing and forget about the forgiveness it is easy to not want to go. In those time were we are focusing on the act, think of the runner. Think not of the act, but rather the grace and forgiveness given. Think of the finish line and you will start the race.

Once the finish line has been reached, the race is not over. The runner now has to enter into the recovery phase of training. Time needs to pass to allow the body to fully recover from the toll taken by the race. Just as the runner needs a recovery, the sinner needs to make amends for committing the sins. Time needs to pass and penance needs to be performed in order for the soul to heal from the sins committed. There are lasting repercussions from sins, but let those repercussion serve as a reminder of what you did and what you received from God. Just as a set of sore legs allows a runner to remember the race days later, the lasting repercussions of sins allow the sinner the opportunity to remember the grace of forgiveness given by God at confession.

Confession like racing is a humbling act. Both require a hard examination of your life. Racing forces you to publicly show what your training has given you. Days missed will show and you will not be able to achieve the goal you want. It is during a race you are forced to realize your shortcomings as a runner. Confession acts in much the same mannor. It will show you all of the shortcomings in your life, were you have failed God and offended Him. The beautiful part of confession is that no matter what you have done God will forgive you and still give you His mercy. All you have to do is ask.

Do not let the act of confession prevent you from obtaining the forgiveness offered by God. Focus on this forgiveness and the pain/fear presented by the act will subside. Enter the confessional as humbly and as honestly as you can and God will bestow upon you an unbelievable amount of mercy. For God enters into the man with a humble heart and it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we shed the weight of our sins and are filled with a deeper desire and love of God. Enter into the confessional, toe that starting line, and one day, by the grace of God you will find yourself crossing the finish line surrounded and filled with the love God has to offer.

Light and Shadow

My Dad and I ascended the Cathedral’s few stairs.  He leaned over to me and said in his raspy voice, “You know where about to do something two Undems haven’t done in over 400 years.”  He was eluding to the fact not since the Protestant reformation had two Undem men attended a mass together.  A faint smile spread across my face as I entered the Cathedral.

The mass was becoming but a memory now as I stood in the middle of a crowd of revelers.  Men wearing large strands of plastic beads stood talking on the corner while their wives carried large plastic cups and danced to a cover band’s version of “Lola.”. I paused to take it all in.  It was New Orleans on the lead up to Mardi Gras.  The parades would be starting in a few weeks, but to the tourists present, this was their Mardi Gras.

My Dad and I slowly made our way down Bourbon Street, stopping at small bars to listen to the Jazz music contained within.  Overpriced beer sat in a glass in front of me and a jazz quartet filled the small bar with the sounds of New Orleans.  It seemed rather surreal to be sitting in such a place, a place I had only read about in history books or seen on special episodes of the show “Cops”.

I drained the last of my beer and my Dad and I continued our stroll down the street.  I stopped at a cross street and waited for a car to pass.  I turned my attention towards the direction the car had come from and there I caught glimpse of something which caused me to do a double take.

“Say Dad is that what I think it is?” I nudged my Dad’s arm. He looked where I was pointed and nodded.

“It how they do things down here.” he said as he lit a cigarette.

The image that had caught my attention was a shadow of Jesus projected 70 feet tall on the wall of the Cathedral.  His arms raised as if giving a blessing.  It stood in stark contrast to the revelry and the debauchery that is Bourbon Street at dark.  I turned my attention back down the street I had just walked, a street full of bars, voodoo shops, and strip clubs. A place where one would not expect to find a 70 foot tall shadow of Jesus.  But yet there he was raising his arms offering a reminder to all present that no matter what we do in our lives He is with us.

It is in our darkest moment in our lives, moments where the light of day seem so far away that Jesus reaches out to us.  Those moments when we find ourselves surrounded by our sins He is there to offer his love and mercy for all those who desire it.   As we continue through the Lenten season take a moment to seek Jesus in your daily life and you just might find He is a whole lot closer to you than you think.