still another biblical reflection, based on Mark 10.46-52, for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, October 25, 2015
Standing still. There was one who taught me this life-lesson many years ago. Since then, there have been many others who, on many other occasions, have reinforced the lesson. Nevertheless, I remember this man, this brother because he was the first to teach me in such an eloquently unforgettable way.
New York City. The fall of 1974. The commencement of my seminary education. One day, immediately after morning worship and before my first class, I, still wearing my black cassock, dashed to the deli down the street thirsting for a good cup of coffee. On my return, as I neared the seminary door, I heard a raspy voice, “Holy father!” Before I could think, I had stopped and turned, startled at the sight of him. Before I could take another step away, he drew near. He was short in stature and stooped, his shoulders hunched. Face unshaven and scarred. Hair matted and dirty. Clothes disheveled and soiled. He smelled of sweat and the street.
“Holy father…” (I hadn’t the heart to tell him I was only a first semester seminarian.) “I’ve got to sleep again on the street tonight. I need a blanket.” Gladdened by the sincerity (and gratified by the simplicity) of his request, I offered to help. First looking around the seminary’s front desk and lobby, I raced to my nearby room, retrieved one of my blankets, returned, and triumphantly presented it to him. With a naked humility that cast a garment of shame over my pointless pride, he demurred, “Oh, no, holy father, I could never take your blanket. But thank you for your kindness.”
He held out his withered hand. “My name is Peter.” Taking his hand in mine, I answered, “My name is Paul.”
Instantly, we were shaken by the sacred sound of this ancient pair of New Testament names now spoken afresh in the same breath. Then our eyes widened, our hands tightened, I believe, in mutual recognition of a miracle. A miracle shared. A miracle of healing. A miracle that to the cry of our need (Peter surely being more aware than I) for connection, communion across the chasm of social distance, we, for each other, had stood still.
To this day, I remember Peter. I remember that in his face, wan and wrinkled, soiled and scarred, I beheld not a beggar, but a man, my brother, unblemished in God-given dignity.
Illustration: free-hand drawing