Sunday, June 29, 2008
Finding the King in Memphis
After a short prayer to locate a Saturday vigil Mass and a random turn off I-40 St. Peter’s Parish (photos), immediately appeared as a beacon of hope in the inner city of downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Located at the corner of Third Street and Adams, it is the first Catholic Church in West Tennessee and was established in the year 1840. Reflecting historical architecture from Europe, the building was designed by Patrick Keeley and completed in 1854.
But not all is about history. In modern times, for about the past 30 years, the “King” (Elvis) ruled here; evidence of his reign is all around the city of Memphis. The visitor’s center displays photos and life-size statues of the King as if he were some type of local “god.” However, the Dominican order took over St. Peter’s, just steps away from the visitor’s center in 1842 and they have consistently proclaimed the Eternal King (Jesus) for about 160 years now.
Today, on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Associate Pastor, Fr. John (photo) preached an “Amen, Hallelujah!” homily that cut to the heart just about everyone present. The homily centered around Jesus’ question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” However, Fr. John’s question for us is this, “Who do people say St. Peter’s Parish is?” or Who do people say you are?” One person not long ago said St. Peter’s is that church with a lot of money! Is that how a church would like to be known? What do people say about you? Do they say that is a person with a lot of money or works a lot?
Fr. John preached that we should be known as the church or the person that forgives. We don’t want to be known as the church that proudly raises our noses and casts aside those who are unlovable, hurting and searching. Jesus is for everyone! We need to be a church that opens our doors to everyone. We need to be inclusive of everyone! We need people to say, that is a person who loves the unlovable, the abandoned and the crushed. We want to be known as St. Peter’s, the church that embraces all the outcast “Matthews” - the “tax collectors” of our day. The “Matthews” today are people who are marginalized and hated in society and we are not to judge them – the gay person, the divorcee with no annulment, the various individuals with race and color unlike ours, the homeless and the neglected.
St. Peter’s inner city outreaches include a Neighborhood Housing Opportunity program. It also includes, First Works; a program that betters the lives of the less fortunate by caring for their physical needs of water, food and clothing. Poverty grips one in three children in Memphis and St. Peter’s has a mission to renew families and children’s lives in the inner city of Memphis, Tennessee.
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