The following meditation was prepared before the news of yesterday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. I pray for the repose of the souls of all those who died and for comfort for their families, and I pray that this nation will come to its senses and enact reasonable and effective gun control legislation.
From Luke’s Gospel:
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 22:21-24 (NRSV) – December 15, 2012.)
This is the part of the Maundy Thursday – Good Friday story that breaks my heart! I so identify with Peter; he’s such a bumbling fool on so many occasions and Jesus just keeps on holding him close, knowing that eventually he will pull through. I know that I would have done no better than Peter in those dark hours of Thursday night. I might not even have done as well as he did; I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to follow Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard!
And now, during this season of Advent, do I do any better? The world around us is going mad with consumption. The malls are filled with shoppers buying garbage to give to people they probably don’t really like who probably don’t really want what they are buying and will probably return it or “regift” it. And I’m right out there with them – although so far I haven’t bought anything. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what my wife or kids or friends would want to receive from me as a gift. Can I just tell them I love them and leave it at that? Can I just tell Jesus that?
I don’t. I go to the shopping centers and try to find that perfect gift for each family member; I seldom do and often end up getting nothing for anyone and feeling guilty about that in the end. Meanwhile, I melt into the crowd and wander the mall and drive the crowded streets and, just like Peter, I look like one of them. I emulate Peter and do not open my mouth. His accent gave him away as a Galilean — I might inadvertently hold forth with the cadences of the Book of Common Prayer or make some reference to orthodox theology and give myself away as a Christian, a follower of Jesus rather than a minion of Santa Claus. By my failure to say “Enough!” and fight against the commercial Christmas consumption madness, the avalanche of advertising that has annihilated Advent, I have denied Christ many more times than Peter ever did.
But I know what Peter did not yet know, that even my denial will not separate me from my Lord, that even shamed by my denial as I am, I can return to him and I will be received, welcomed, forgiven. And so today, after a Saturday of shopping surrounded by the crass commercialism of secular Christmas, blinded by holiday lights, deafened by the roar of the shopping crowd and the public address systems blaring Winter Wonderland, a Saturday spent joining Peter in silence and denial, I am still able to pray the evening Psalm –
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.