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    A View from the Pew
    Sunday
    Apr222012

    A new way of being, a new way of seeing 

    I bought a new phone this afternoon. As a young geek waited on me, a middle aged man with a very long grey pony tail stomped into the store and dropped a freezer bag of fresh scallops on the counter.

    “I promised you fresh fish,” he told the young man at the counter, who broke into a huge grin when the bag hit the sales counter.

    “Hey, what about my bag of scallops?” another young vendor kidded with the fish man, who promptly stomped out of the store and returned a moment later with an identical bag of scallops.

    “There you go,” he told the second geek. “Now I need some advice about my phone.”  

    “Wow, someone’s going to eat well,” I commented as the vendor continued to set up my phone. “After you’ve eaten scallops right off of a boat, you never want to eat them any other way!”  

    After a few minutes of conversation with the vendor about my new Android, the pony tailed man asked me, “Where did you get that beautiful tan?”

    “From a really great bronzer with a strong SPF in it!” I laughed.

    “I thought your skin looked really beautiful,” the man replied.

    “Well thanks, that’s so kind,” I replied. “Are you a fisherman?” I continued, in an effort to sway the pony tail man from further comments about my cosmetic habits.

    “I am,” the man replied with a puff of his chest. “I’ve been fishing for scallops for thirty five years,” he continued. “I love it.”

    “My husband and I know a scalloper and we’re both lifetime residents of this city, which is known for fresh fish and seafood. I want you to know that I very much appreciate your efforts on behalf of all of us who enjoy good fresh fish,” I told him. “While we blithely put fish on our plates for dinner, we remember the hard work of the people behind the catch. Fishing is dangerous, hard work and very often done in inclement weather. Thank you for all that you do for us. I know that your work cannot be easy.”

    The fisherman looked like someone hit him with a stun gun.

    “I’m fifty three years old. Now I fish with a lot of young guys and keep the Ben Gay in my pocket!” he joked. Then he turned to the two young vendors who looked as though they really enjoyed the dialogue.

    “Boys, when you meet a lady, you know she’s the real deal,” and the fisherman left the store and returned with yet another freezer bag of fresh scallops.

    “I want you to enjoy these,” the fisherman said and handed me the bag of his precious catch.

    Now it was my turn to be stunned.

    “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked him with concern. Fishermen work long hours, often for weeks at a time and in tumultuous weather. I almost offered to pay for them and then stopped. I felt as though I would insult this man by offering money for what his lovely gift. The fisherman smiled and nodded.

    “I really want you to have them,” he simply said. I think my comment about his industry may have been the only one he positive thing this man had ever heard on behalf of fishermen.

    “Well, I can’t thank you enough,” I said. “My brother is visiting from Wyoming and loves good fish when he’s in our city. He’ll be thrilled with this gift! Thank you so, so much,” and I shook the fisherman’s enormous and weathered hand.

    “What do you do for work?” the fisherman asked.

    I muffled a laugh as I anticipated his incredulous look.

    “I’m a pastoral minister,” I replied with a grin. As I suspected, he took a step back and cocked his head.

    “Honest?” he asked. “Are you with the military?”

    “No, I’m a Roman Catholic pastoral minister,” and offered a brief sketch of the work.

    “Well I’ll be,” he replied.

    “You gave scallops to the right person,” I chuckled. “Now you’ll get prayers for your safety on the water.”

    The man pointed his finger upward toward the ceiling. “I believe in that,” he said quietly. I asked him his name.

    “My name is Peter,” the fisherman replied. “I’m grateful for your prayers.”

     If we open our eyes, Christ shows himself wherever we go in the people we meet. If we hear with open ears, Christ speaks to us through scripture and in the conversations with the stranger we encounter. If we open our hearts, Christ feeds us in unexpected and marvelous ways. But we may struggle with our blind spots. Fear, doubt, anger, envy, pride – all become stumbling blocks to meeting Christ on the road to Emmaus, wherever that road may be in this time and place. Today, my Emmaus occurred at counter, where a dialogue led to mutual gifts. Perhaps your Emmaus road occurred in a parking lot, a hospital, a church. How did you witness the living Christ? Where will that encounter lead you in the days, weeks and months ahead?

    This week, I buried my aunt after her illness. As the hearse and funeral cortege drove through a rather rough neighborhood from the funeral home to the church, I watched people’s faces as we passed by. One woman waved at me from her porch steps with a look of compassion. A young Hispanic man blessed himself as the hearse passed him by. Christ on the road. If my eyes were closed, I would have missed the moment. Every moment of every day, Christ waits for us to encounter him in those little events that we shrug off as insignificant.

    Tomorrow, as I cook my scallop gift, I will pray for Peter the fisherman as he goes out to sea to feed us. I will recall another Peter who also fished and followed Christ. I will remember the disciples’ amazement when Christ asked for something to eat and they gave him a piece of broiled fish. “Why are you so troubled?” Jesus asked. Why are we so troubled, afraid to encounter him, to proclaim him with our lips and our lives? This is our witness to a hungry world. This is our witness that we have seen the Lord in our neighbor. This is the risen Christian, experiencing the risen Christ in a new way of seeing and in a new way of being.  

    Open my eyes, Lord. Show yourself. Let me see your face.