Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Christ Amidst the Storms

This past Sunday, the Oregon Scholastics here in Spokane had a day of recollection--a time to pray, to share our faith, to discern our inner movements over the past year or so. Fr. Peter Byrne, a spiritual guru in our province, led our prayer and grounded it in that Sunday's Gospel reading--the Apostles and Jesus in a boat amidst the storms.

From Mark 4:35-41 (taken from the New American Bible Translation)
On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "let us cross the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey.?"
One of the great gems of St. Ignatius found in the Spiritual Exercises is his belief that all people can have direct contact with God, and one of the ways that he has the exercitant experience this grace is through our power of imagination. He asks the one praying the exercises to imagine herself/himself at the scene, to experience the storm, to colloquy with Christ at this time. And, since we all have our own history, our own experiences, the way we may imagine and experience this storm will probably differ from one another.

I imagine that many people would probably experience a lot of anger and resentment towards God for putting them through stormy situations. I experience it a little differently. I have certainly navigated my fair share of stormy weather during my life journey, but when I look back, I never feel that I was ever alone in the boat. I believe that Christ was always there to lend a hand, to offer words of comfort, to lead certain people into my life, sometimes even to throw me a lifeline when I needed it--even if I didn't recognize His presence at the time. It's not a "I'll believe it when I see it" moment, it's a "I'll see it when I believe it" experience that I cannot describe any other way. The light of Christ pierces even the deepest darkness, calms our raging winds.

At the end of the storm, sometimes you'll encounter a rainbow if you look in the right spot.

In terms of the Oregon Province, one of the ways in which we situate our experience of bankruptcy is through this gospel passage. It's a stormy time for us collectively, but I have personally witnessed a strength of faith and hope in the Jesuits here. We believe Christ is always with us and will lead us through this uncertain future of ours, whatever that may look like. Our material goods may get taken, but we have greater treasure that can never be taken away. And, it is these gifts that we have faith will sustain us. AMDG

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