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Pastor's Letter 20210620 - 20 June 2021 - Prayer in Faith


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June 20th, 2021

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “Prayer in Faith”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Today’s Gospel (Mark 4: 35-41,) the calming of the storm, which the apostles witnessed, was a work that only God can accomplish, which means that Jesus has divine power! (This is the first of four miraculous actions Jesus performed, about which we will read in the next several Sunday Liturgies.) By this miracle, Jesus’ shows His care for the apostles.  The storm reflects the post-Easter experience of the early Church, wherein the disciples experienced all sorts of difficulties, and felt that the Lord had abandoned them. (The calming of the storm is a characteristic Biblical sign of divine power.  The forces of the wind and the sea were seen as forces of evil and chaos, which only God could control.)

Our First Reading exemplifies this power (Job 38:1-11,) which the ancient author shows Job, to reinforce His faith in God.  The storm stands for the trials and tribulations that the righteous (Job) suffer, and from which the power of God alone can save them.

The Second Reading reinforces how Christ showed His love for all people by dying for them (2 Corinthians 5:14-17.)  We are called to imitate that love in our relationships with all our fellows.

Out of Control

To be out of control is not a pleasant experience.  During our three years in Panama, we experienced small examples of this when confronted with Panama drivers! (One of our friends, Keith Woolford told us, “Driving is a relatively ‘new sport’ for them!)  Even in the good old USA, some drivers’ seeming lack of road manners can be annoying and frustrating.  But we experience even more serious cases in times of grave illness and/or tragedy. At such times everything seems to be falling apart.

 We feel confused and powerless, and our egos are profoundly threatened by the approach of danger, and especially death, which it sees as utter chaos and the ultimate unknown—we are tempted to lose control when our lives seem to be falling apart.   To find oneself in such a situation is both humbling and terrifying.  But in times like these we discover whether or not we have faith.  Our first reaction is to think that God no longer cares about us, and He has abandoned us.  But like the apostles in the boat, we can feel that evil powers want to wreck our lives.  But just because a storm has struck us, God hasn’t abandoned us.

In such circumstances, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we have faith—even great faith.  But this is an egoistic posture.  The ego is happiest when in control of a familiar and predictable world.  Then we are setting our agenda and creating our own goals.  Sometimes, it can mean controlling others’ lives, too.  We are tempted to believe we don’t really need God, except maybe to give us a “pat on the back” at the end of it all.

Years ago, while I was working with the ABQ Police Chaplaincy service, I was often confronted with deep despair at times, when attempting to bring a sense of order to a family who had lost a loved one.  Such times try everyone’s faith, and it is then we must look to our blessed Lord for strength and guidance.

In our story today, the apostles felt like this when their situation got out of control.  They then looked to Jesus only to find Him asleep!  (Incidentally, the ability to sleep peacefully in the midst of a storm was a sign of His perfect trust in God.)  Jesus’ faith contrasts the “little faith” of the apostles.  That’s why He chided them for their lack of trust before He calmed the storm.

For the early Christians, this miracle was very relevant.  The boat represented the Church, and the storm exemplified the persecutions unleashed upon it by “evil powers” working to wreck it.  They must have felt that Jesus “was asleep” again, at such times.  It was enough for them to “awaken Him” with their prayers, and to have trust and faith in His presence, for their “storm” to again be stilled.

Just because we have difficulties in our lives doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us.  We must have faith that we possess all the necessary talents and skills within ourselves to enable us to make prudent decisions.  Our choices are guided by our faith in the Holy Spirit, Who is always with us, and will protect us from falling into despair.  It is at such times that abandoning our troubles, and putting our inner strength to work to find solutions.  This is the role of prayerful meditation.  It may mean going to some quiet place, away from the cacophony of the world, and concentrating only on God’s gifts to us.

If this isn’t possible, it might be beneficial to gather with other, like-minded family members, friends or associates to collectively offer “brainstorming ideas” to arrive at the answers to our questions. (Myriad examples of this can be found throughout the business world, and in the diagnostic medical field that bear this out.)

The essence of the method described herein is that we need to trust in the gifts that God has given us, and give up the need to be “in control.”  The lesson to be learned focuses on having faith.  This is the realm of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Seeking His help when trouble strikes, we can resist the temptation to panic.

Turning to God in Times of Crisis

One familiar adage has it, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  The meaning of it is that in such a dire time in a person’s life, when death may well be imminent, philosophical exigencies soon evaporate from a person’s mind.  Another epithet suggests that it surely is prudent to have faith in a Higher Power during life’s vagaries, because in our final moments of life, there is nothing to be gained by unbelief.  Going to our death with faith in God has no “downside!”

We’ve all heard stories of people bargaining with God in stress-filled moments.  They will promise virtually anything if they can be saved from peril—even to the extent of changing their whole lives if God will grant them safety.  This is because pretty well everyone turns to God at such times—and some who do so ONLY in such situations.  But once the crisis has passed, they quickly snatch their treasures back and proceed to live as before. They treat God as they would a lifebelt—only useful in dire straits.

We can think of danger as a “grace.”  It sweeps our lives clean of trivia, leaving only the essentials.  In the hour of danger we discover a great deal about ourselves, about others, and about God.  The reason people can do incredible things during difficult times is because it is then they marshal all their inner resources—their gifts from God—that they apply to the problem.

Life can be compared to a voyage.  Each of us may be responsible for piloting our own “little craft,” but, unlike our final judgment, life isn’t intended to be a “solo” experience. Journeying with others who are like-minded, we are able to support one another in times of difficulty.  As Christians, we comprise the “Body of Christ” to enable us support.  One of the shortest prayers I’ve ever heard comes from the mind of a French sailor.  It goes like this: “Lord, my boat is small and the ocean is great.” This little prayer expresses everything!

May God Richly Bless You!

“Sometimes God calms the storm….  Sometimes He lets the storm rage… And Calms His child.”

~~Anonymous~~ 

 

Not To Us, O Lord.docx 

Edited by Father Michael
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