Monday, February 26, 2018

Gates of hell on Chestnut Street

I was driving down Chestnut Street in Philly to 30th Street Station, worried that I cut it a bit close to make my train down to DC.  I needed to get almost 30 city blocks, park, and walk the last block to the station in 30 minutes.  This sort of time pressure usually results in my pouring my anxiety into the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Who couldn’t use a little mercy in those moments?  Or really, in any moment?

But one by one, as I approached the lights, they flashed to green. Four minutes after I had turned onto Chestnut, I was at 52nd, only another 20 blocks to go.  Suddenly Jesus’ remark to Peter flashed through my mind: “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”  (Mt 16:17-19)  I laughed aloud.

Prayers, you might conclude, were answered in that moment.  True, I would say, but not the prayer that I get there on time, or the prayer that I be less anxious or even the prayers offered for those with real worries, real difficulties. But the promise made at the end of Matthew, “I will be with you until the end of time.” (Mt 28:20)

It was the sense of presence, rich with humor and delight, that felt like the answer.  Dashing to the station, too late for the train or just in time, green lights or red — I am with you, finding the humor in unlikely coincidence.  Joy, the surest sign of the presence of God. 

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