Saturday, December 13, 2008
"But I have prayed for you, that you faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32
In the daily bible readings for this Advent season, we are now very deep into the passion. The drama is building and Jesus is predicting Peter's denial. Our hearts break as we read this knowing indeed, Peter will deny the one he loves completely. The pain of denial is tempered with the reality that Peter's heart is turned back, his faith and love grow and he becomes strong in faith again - he indeed becomes one who strengthens others. But he has to live with his humanity today. We have to live with our humnaity and brokenness today. We have to know today that we are very human, and being human, we will fail at times in our faith. Christ's doesn't shame or punish us. Rather, he prays for our return, our protection, and asks that we care for and strengthen others.
I want to share a story which I heard from Michale Battle several years ago. It seems to fit with this time of year, and also with the reality of our broken humanity. For survival, we will sometimes do the thing we know is wrong. For our own end, we will deny others, and we will sometimes hurt the ones we love for very dumb reasons. In the midst of all our humanity, Christ Jesus prays for us and asks us, when we come around, to care for others. So here is this Advent tale of human desire and greed.
A little boy comes to his mother and asks for a new red bike for Christmas. They are faithful Christians, taking part in their church community and they are also quite poor. The mother has always told her bright eight-year old son to pray when he has a problem. To talk to Jesus. So, she suggests he write a letter to Jesus, since most kids are writing to Santa anyway. He grabs onto the idea and runs to his room. Sitting on his bed he gets a pencil and starts, "Dear Jesus, I have been a very, very, very good boy this year." He stops, knowing he is not being completely truthful and crumples up the paper. He starts again. And again he stops. He knows, despite all his trying he hasn't been great. He had a few fights, a few arguments and was selfish and mad pretty often. He sits on his bed, sad and dejected. Then he gets an idea. He grabs his coat and runs out of the house. He goes to his neighborhood Catholic Church and dashes into the sanctuary. He finds a small Virgin Mary sitting in a niche, grabs it, and hides it under his coat. He runs home, and straight up to his room. With the door closed and Mary laying on the bed, he begins again, "Dear Jesus, I've got your mother. Let's talk."
All of us, young or old, have known times when our desires and hurts have overshadowed our faith and we have turned away. We may have turned away in anger or in fear, but we can turn away and lose our way. May this be a day for turning back again. May we turn back to Jesus and trust that his love is finding us in our broken, aching places. May our desires, needs and even our greed lead us back to Jesus, and may we take the hand of a brother or sister and strengthen them as we go.