Peter & Me
Here we are again. Passion Sunday.
I’ve heard the story so, so many times. I know it by heart, literally and figuratively. Yet, no matter how many times I’ve heard it, read it, studied it… every year, I’ve found that there has always been something new about this familiar story. Some nuance. Some detail I hadn’t considered before. Some sort of insight that wouldn’t have occurred to me in any previous encounter with it. It’s always had something to do with Jesus. His suffering. His sacrifice. His willingness to submit to the Father’s will.
Of course it did. It’s supposed to.
But this year… this year is different. All I can think about is Peter.
Even though we are separated by some 2,000 years, Peter and I are kindred spirits. Loudmouthed, impulsive hotheads with more enthusiasm than common sense, we both dove headlong into this Jesus thing. He said, “follow me” and we dropped everything, dusted our hands off on our shirts, and said, “I’m in.”
At first, it was exciting. We couldn’t help but think, “Me! He chose me!” Out of all of the people who wanted to be with him, of all of these people who wanted to learn from him, be near him, work with him… he chose me!!!
He didn’t warn us that it was going to be hard. Well, not at first, anyway. And really, even if he had, it probably wouldn’t have made a whole lot of difference. It’s not difficult to get behind something when it’s all so exhilarating. Caught up in the rush, the work wasn’t all that bad. Long days, to be sure, but the very idea that we were handpicked for this job by the Master, himself, made it bearable. Worthwhile. Fun, even.
We encountered so many people. People who just wanted a glimpse of Jesus. People who were curious. People begging for their needs to be met. People who wanted us to bring them to him. People who just wanted to touch even the hem of his garment. But as time went by, the novelty began to wear off. The demands were relentless and the work was exhausting. Peter and I both had our doubts. We had questions that got cryptic answers. We had moments when we felt like the jobs we’d been given were impossible. But with Jesus at our side, we reminded ourselves that he handpicked us, and so we kept going, aware not only of the importance of the work we had to do, but also that Jesus thought we had it in us to do it.
The closer we got to Jerusalem, though, the harder it got. There were people who had big problems with the way he was doing things… and by extension, they had big problems with us. Indignant that we should be so cocky as to think that our work was God’s work, their shouts echoed in our ears, and thundered in our souls. People wanted Jesus dead. And if that meant we ended up dead beside him… so be it. Collateral damage. So many nights, Peter and I, we’d lay awake thinking, “this wasn’t in the brochure.” But still, we stayed. Nervous, uncertain, and sometimes wishing he’d chosen someone else, we pressed on.
And then it got ugly.
And when it did, our first and only instinct was to bolt. All we wanted to do was deny that we were ever involved. Abandon ship. Abort mission.
More than once, my vocation has driven me to my knees. All I ever wanted to do was learn from the Teacher. Serve the Master. Build the Kingdom. But there are times when opposition is so fierce, when odds seem so insurmountable, when the task feels so dangerous that the only reasonable option seems to be to run from it. And from him.
And so, on Passion Sunday, I sit next to Peter with my back to the wall, wondering how I ever got into this mess. Far from the action, far from the shouts and the danger, I sit there with him, and think… “Me. He chose me.” And I, too, weep bitterly because I chose to run.
In moments like these, it’s all too easy to see no way out. Peter was left with nothing but despair. There was no hope, as far as he was concerned, for him, for the job he was chosen to do, or for the mission. It was over. Jesus picked him. And he failed.
But this is where Peter and I differ.
You see, the beautiful part of hearing the Passion story over and over and over again is that I know how it ends.
On the other side of the Passion awaits the rest of the story – a story that begins at the end, and ends with a beginning. And I know that in this new beginning awaits forgiveness, and the invitation to take up the mission again. When the heartbreak turns to joy, when the hopelessness yields to new promise, and the tears give way to clear sight, Peter and I will look at each other in wide-eyed wonder and say once again,
“Me… he chose me!”
By Darcie Lich
Vocation Team – Oblate Associate