19th Sunday Reflection
Genesis, bringing order out of the chaos, and a call for us to remember, to return to our vocation, to be truly human; this is our project of bringing the garden of creation to flourish and to bloom, to reflect God’s goodness into our world, and then to reflect the ongoing unfolding of creation back to God. This is the ongoing call to rebirth out of chaos.
The French Franciscan, Eloi Leclerc tells the story of chaos, anxiety and suffering in the “The Language of the Soul’s Night” from his book “The Canticle of Creatures”:
It is April, 1945: A lengthy freight train is moving slowly along the line from Passau to Munich, with thousands of exiles packed into its cars. They have been shut up there for twenty-one days now. Hundreds have already died; hundreds more are at death’s door, delirious from hunger. The train started from Buchenwald and has made a long detour through Czechoslovakia and the mountains of Bohemia; now it is heading for Dachau near Munich. Suddenly, incredibly, singing can be heard from one of the cars; it is Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun! “All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, and first my lord Brother Sun … All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother.”
What brings us in such circumstances to praise God for and through the great cosmic brotherhood? Theories have no place in our utter confusion of spirit; they offer no shelter against the storm. The only thing that remains and is priceless in our eyes is the patience and friendship this or that comrade shows you. Such an act by someone who, like yourself, is immersed in suffering and anxiety, is a ray of light that falls miraculously into the wretched darkness that envelops us. It re-creates you, makes you a human being once again. Suddenly we learn all over again that we are men.
And when such an act of friendly help has been done to you, you in turn are able to do it for another and thus respond to the reign of brute force with a freedom and love that bear witness to another kind of reality…
At such a moment, astounding though it seems, we experience wonder before the world; we experience the sacred in the world. Only in utter distress and need can we fully appreciate a mouthful of bread, a sip of water, a ray of sunlight. The tiny drops of rain that tremble on the telephone wires in the evening light after a storm are filled, to the selfless eye, with boundless innocence. And the broad rain-washed heaven shows us — how luminous, how pure it is! All these lowly things that we can contemplate from the floor of our car are not the result of passing chance. They speak sweetly to the soul.
Nietzsche said: “One must … have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” We certainly have not been spared chaos. Devastation is everywhere, around us and within us. History has swept like a cyclone across our lives. And yet, over this heap of ruins, there now shines “the great evening star of poverty.”
Because this vision was given to us, we were able, on an April morning somewhere in Germany, to gather round our dying brother and sing of the sun and the stars, the wind and the water, the fire and the earth, and also of “those who grant pardon for love of you.”
Today, many of us also find ourselves in the midst of uncertainty and chaos; stuck in one of life’s storms, and no matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, it seems that we cannot make any headway.
Everywhere, we see society unravelling, anger, resentment, and destruction abound. Some of us are facing financial ruin, hunger, sickness or death. Many are confused and alone. We all have to face times like this, when it seems the storm will never end and that there is no possible good that can come from what we are facing.
The storms of life are terrifying, but they can also produce certain graces, some hidden blessings in our lives that we sometimes may discern only years into the future. I do not know what kind of storm you are facing at this point in your life, nor are we able to foresee the extent of the storms over the horizon.
There may be times when we feel that things are at their darkest; as though we have lost the battle with our storm. Yet the Gospel reminds us that just as surely as the Lord is in control of your blessings, He is also in charge of your storm.
That very thing that we most fear; that very thing that the disciples feared, the chaos of the raging sea, the dwelling place of terrifying nightmares, was the very thing God used as a vehicle to come to them.
The Lord did not tell them that the storm was not fierce; Jesus was telling them that he was greater than the storm. His prayer and solitude on the mountain was a link with the source of life that gave him the power to walk across the water.
This was the power that he also gave to Peter; the power that he also give to us. The power to walk across the water of the storms that would destroy us. As Peter starts to doubt the Lord, he begins to sink into the deadly waters. Without that faith in the Lord as sole master of the future, Peter no longer has anywhere to stand. Without our faith in the Lord, we also have no place to stand.
These storms of life can reveal God to us in a way we might never have considered before. When God comes to us, walking in our storm, God gives us the same message of hope that was given to the disciples that stormy night.
God gives us peace in our storms. Jesus commanded to His disciples: “do not be afraid.” When we accept that Jesus is in control of every area of our lives, that He is God, and that He possesses all power, then we can come to that place where we can trust him fully through all the storms of life.
When Peter heard the call of the Lord, Peter wanted to join Jesus in walking on the water. Jesus simply told Peter to come. Peter obeyed and he too walked on the water. Jesus used the storm as a means of helping Peter grow in the faith; just as the Lord helps us to grow through our own storms of life.
During these storms of our life, great and wonderful graces can start to manifest themselves; the seeds of a great and wonderful transformation that speak of new beginnings and a rebirth.
Sometimes, it may be hard to see the blessings that may come from these storms. Sometimes it is hard to imagine the Lord bringing any good out of what we are going through. Sometimes we rebel at the tyranny of chaos. Sometimes we may deny and abandon our vocation to the responsibility of others.
This is the promise; rebirth is possible after chaos. When all of our illusions of control have been shattered, when wealth, status, and ideologies have failed us, when even science and technology cannot save us, God is still with us and has overcome even death itself.
Jesus did not come quickly to the disciples’ rescue. He was training them by their fears and instructing them to be ready to endure. Gently and by degrees he excites and urges the disciples on toward greater responsiveness (St Chrysostom).
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