Things were a bit different at our men’s faith-sharing group this week: Ron Peters was with us only in spirit.
It’s a bit of an understatement to note that Ron had been a cornerstone for our weekly gatherings. He was one of the group’s co-founders in 2005, and in the 16 years since, Ron chalked up a “very-nearly-perfect” attendance record. He’d be there…every early Saturday morning, rain or shine, snow or sleet. And not only “there”, but fully “present” – charming and challenging us with his deep knowledge of scripture and his energizing love of the Lord.
Alas, a few days ago, we said our final farewell to Ron – who succumbed to cancer on February 7 at the age of 82.
Dear, dear Ron: loving husband, father of six adopted children, and foster parent through the years (with his wife, Marie) to more than 200 of our community’s most vulnerable children. All of that is true, and breath-taking in its grace. Few in my acquaintance have been more steadfast practitioners of Christian charity than Ron and Marie.
But it’s not the loving acts of everyday kindness I will remember most about Ron. Rather, it’s his joyful witness.
I first met my fellow parishioner on an ACTS retreat, way back in 2002. In subsequent years we served on a few ACTS teams together, and then in 2005 Ron (and his collaborator Paul Kraus) launched the Saturday morning men’s group. Their promise: “We’ll keep coming as long as guys keep showing up.”
The premise is simple: We read the Sunday scriptures aloud, and then break into groups of 6 or 8 men to discuss. But what we’ve discovered is that this unassuming format regularly unlocks a treasure trove of grace and insight.
A few of the guys – like Ron – really know their scripture. Others of us spend a lot of time fumbling around in the dark. But as we speak to each other about the readings, speak what’s on our hearts, we experience a Gospel that still has the power to come alive…a Gospel that can pierce our self-centeredness…a Gospel that can open our eyes to unexpected aspects of the kingdom.
It happened again this Saturday, I noticed – even though Ron was with us only in spirit. And I think it’s fitting that we encountered this phenomenon on the cusp of Lent, while we’re still in Ordinary Time.
Ron was very much an “Ordinary Time” kind of witness. He didn’t wait for special occasions or holy seasons. Rather, he lived his faith joyfully, every day of the year. For that reason, I have every confidence that Ron has now taken up a seat at the heavenly banquet…
…or perhaps, he’s made his way into a small group…to chew the fat with a few of his favorite saints. In fact, I can well imagine the scene: Ron, sitting with Saint Paul, discussing the wisdom and truth and call-to-action in this week’s second reading:
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Godspeed, Ron. And thanks, always, for the way you imitated Christ with your life!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.