After scanning the newspaper and half-listening to the morning news, I determined that I’d given enough time to this world’s woes. I decided to improve my mood by raking up the branches strewn about by last week’s storm. After only twenty minutes’ effort, I was dripping with perspiration. As I ambled back into the house to cool off, I told myself that those branches would be better left for another day. I poured myself a glass of water and sat. I attempted to be productive by reading today’s scripture passages in preparation for this writing. Afterward, I set my book aside and turned on the television. Perhaps a mindless interlude would allow my creativity to take form. The channel was set to H & I (Heroes and Icons) which is my husband’s favorite oldies station. I found myself in the midst of a well-worn episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As soon as the inhabitant of a primitive planet announced, “You! You are the Picard!”, I realized that I’d found my inspiration…
My husband-the-deacon has preached homilies for thirty-two years. I’ve written my reflections for twenty-eight of those years. Throughout that time, Mike has shared ideas with me while serving as my part-time proof-reader. Still, we’ve never offered the same interpretation of a given week’s scriptures. Though we agreed on the focus of the passages, we shared the wisdom drawn from them quite differently. At least this was the case until today. When I heard, “You! You are the Picard!”, I knew I had to repeat a homily Mike offered several years ago. Mike has been an avid Star Trek fan throughout the original television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Star Trek movies. Years ago, when the episode I happened upon today was originally televised, Mike announced, “There’s a good homily in that one!” Mike filed that information away until months later when he read the gospel we hear today. He was very excited because it provided the perfect setting for his Star Trek-inspired message. When he was fully prepared, Mike asked my opinion regarding the suitability of a Star Trek scenario for this purpose. After assuring him that this would be fine, he smiled and I wrote something completely unrelated.
The following Sunday, Mike shared his love for all things Star Trek. He went on to reference that episode when Captain Jean-Luc Picard had a startling encounter with an alien race. While the inhabitants of this strange planet looked human, they were quite primitive. This was particularly troubling to the captain because, when exploring new worlds, the crew was bound by The Prime Directive. This regulation indicated that they must never interfere with the development of alien cultures. They were never to impose their own technological, scientific and other intellectual evolution upon people who hadn’t yet discovered such things on their own. In this case, the aliens inadvertently witnessed the capabilities of the landing party before the crew realized what had happened. Their arrival in a large ship with bright lights and seemingly magical powers resembled the coming of this people’s god as described in their holy writings. When the planet’s natives approached the captain and he identified himself, they dropped to their knees. Without hesitation, their leader announced, “You! You are the Picard!” The poor captain was beside himself because he had indeed violated The Prime Directive. Captain Picard was even more upset because he was looked upon as a god, an extremely uncomfortable role for any of us. Fortunately, which is always the case in a Star Trek episode, everything ended well, as did Mike’s homily that weekend.
In his gospel (Matthew 16:13-20), Matthew chronicled a conversation between Jesus and his closest friends which had a similar outcome. Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Some responded with what they’d heard on the street, that Jesus may have been John the Baptizer or the prophet Elijah. While they were quite willing to repeat what had come from the lips of others, none would declare what was in his heart. Finally, Simon exclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” When he acknowledged Jesus’ identity, Simon changed everything. Suddenly, Jesus’ often-outspoken and sometimes-unthinking student had become Jesus’ spokesperson. Suddenly, Simon’s life took on new meaning because he recognized God Among Us. When Simon was renamed Peter, he didn’t fully understand the logistics of his new role. Nonetheless, he certainly understood what it meant to have Jesus at his side. As for Jesus, he didn’t have to say, “I am the Christ,” because Simon Peter said it for him.
Though Captain Picard flinched a bit at representing God to those primitive people, he eventually found a way to use their acceptance of him to guide them onto the right path. When Peter found himself saying, “You, you are the Christ!”, he may have wondered, “I’m with the Christ! Now what do I do?” The scriptures tell us that Jesus guided Peter as well. As a result, Peter was truly instrumental in revealing God’s love to this world of ours. It seems to me that our prime directive is to do the same.
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