Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
June 29th, 2011
Tom Purcell

Accounting Department
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Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
[591] (Mass during the Day)Acts 12:1-11
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Matthew 16:13-19

Today is the celebration of two great leaders/founders of the early church, Peter and Paul.  The readings today share the story of Peter’s escape from Herod’s guards, Paul’s reflection on his impending death, and Jesus’ renaming of Simon Cephas as Peter, the rock.

Of these three readings, the one that most resonated for me at this time is Paul’s.  Recently I was privileged to observe the last weeks of a good friend and my spiritual director, Fr. Jack Zuercher, S.J.  Jack was 86, and had several health issues that caused him to slowly lose his physical vigor over the last few years.  But he was blessed that his mental capacities did not seem to diminish.  A few memory lapses, but nothing more serious was evident to me.  Several months ago Jack and his health providers and his rector decided that hospice would be the next step in his life journey.  I had visited him several times in the months before he went to hospice, and again several times while he was in hospice.

I don’t know if Jack prayed over Paul’s few lines from today, but he certainly died like he had.  I didn’t sense that Jack had any of the human anxiety over death, or the uncertainties.  He was not impatient for it to arrive, but was wholeheartedly cooperating with the inevitable (a paraphrase from Tony deMello!).  His room had a window with a bird feeder by it, and he told me he was watching a couple of regular feeders to his space, and I could tell the joy he felt in seeing one of these simple creatures that God so loved doing what they do with utter disregard for worry and stress and all those human impediments we have to loving God fully.

The last time I saw Jack, I suspected I would not see him again.  But I said the normal polite things as I left – “I’ll be back to see you next week” or something to that effect.  Jack said no, he didn’t think so.  He felt his time was nearing, and he was not encouraging me to make another visit.  He gave me his blessing, and as I left the room his eyes followed me as if he were searing a memory into his mind.

So Jack felt he was being poured out like a libation, and that the time for his departure was at hand.  He kept the faith, he finished the race strongly and with confidence that he had lived the life God had called him to follow, to be the difference that God called him to make, to manifest God’s love in his interactions with the many people he served.  As someone said at Jack’s wake, if Jack Zuercher is not in heaven, no one is!

How many of us are ready for our final days as Jack was, and Paul calls us to be?  When I was in high school at school masses, one of the prayers of the faithful from a participant in the congregation was sometimes, “For the next one of us to die, that we may be prepared.”  Paul gives us his personal evaluation of what he was feeling as his death was imminent.  Jack Zuercher gave me a personal testament to how one can live his life so his death is not a time of regret or worry or fear, but another event in this great journey God has provided us.

And so my prayer today is for the grace to live each day with the wonder of the songbird, with the confidence that God will provide all I really need, and that when I realize my death is near, that I can trust my faith and to look with anticipation to the next step in my journey with God.

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