Boat and horse


These two men are difficult to caricature. We cannot doll them up for immediate emulation because if there is anything that shines through, it is not their angelic qualities; it is their raw humanity. Peter was impetuous; Paul was righteous to a fault. One was a fisherman, the other an intellectual. One was perhaps contemplative (as fishermen are by nature) and given to waiting and frustration, daring to walk on water, and failing spectacularly. The other was methodical and intolerant, frighteningly fundamentalist and immovable (as when and how he stood before the stones that martyred Stephen).

We know they both had the ingredients that make for discipleship, ingredients which eventually led to their martyrdom. What happened?

Both were stopped in their tracks: Peter while busy minding the nets, Paul on the way to another mission of “ethnic cleansing.” When they were stopped, Peter fell to the floor of his boat, begging to be left alone for he was a sinful man. Paul fell as well from his high horse, wondering what it was that floored him as the lights went out of him.

When they finally recovered (if they recovered at all), Peter was christened Rock of the Church, a divinely-inspired strange metaphor for someone who vacillated and couldn’t stay put on the shore or in the boat. Paul was on his horse again, with the fullness of sight, this time moving from outpost to outpost, running the race for Christ, winning the unwinnable outsiders (the Gentiles) for Christ. Both were untied by tireless motion and energy, yet both also saw themselves prisoners, bound by a singular love of Jesus Christ.

Who Jesus was for them we know from their storied humanity. Who Jesus is for us today we have yet to wrestle with.

The stealing that goes on in government, the willful blindness of those in power, the machinery of deception operated by callous hands and minds all suggest sadly that Jesus is a peripheral reality. We are poor because we do not or choose not to hear His voice among the voiceless. We do not want Him to come into our lives while we are minding our nets. We are busy or we make the excuse that we are pragmatists or powerless pawns and so we say, “best Lord you have nothing to do with us, at least in a major way.” If we who are Christian in Asia are also most corrupt (this according to a recent survey of the World Bank), does this not make you wonder if taking paracetamol has more effect than partaking communion?

If Jesus isn’t a peripheral reality, he or God is “fundamentalized” to the point of intolerance and uncatholic blindness to the rich tapestry of human spirituality. We say worship when what we really mean is idolatry. That is how we justify doing so many terrible things in His name. We say devotion when what we really mean is out-of-bounds over-the-altar zealotry.

Whatever you declare bound on earth, shall be bound in heaven. Now there’s a frightening thought about the freedom and responsibility that has been graciously given us. Beyond Petrine power and the remission of sins, it suggests the inextricable link between human decisions and our ultimate destiny.

Who do you say I am? The Lord of the Universe asks. If in truth, through our daily choices, we keep him at bay so that he merely lives at the perimeter of our lives, or if we keep him inordinately and zealously close to us so that we are closed to others, two things can happen. First, because bound things can stay bound, we can stay that way (i.e. blind) all our lives. Secondly, because the Lord is boundless in his mercy, he may yet be moved by our inertia and immovability, and yank us from our boats and high horses, and hopefully throw us to the ground.

(Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin SJ is president of Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan.)

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Male college students and young professionals are invited to a Vocation Seminar on July 13, 2008, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ateneo de Manila Loyola Heights campus. For more information, please call 4264101 or 0917-JESUITS (5378487), or e-mail:  [email protected] Visit www.jesuits.ph. For feedback on this column, e-mail [email protected]








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