This is the Sea of Galilee.
That’s the sea Jesus walked across, in the midst of a storm, to get to his disciples, who were rowing through the storm in an attempt to reach the other side.
Photo credit: Frank Starmer. More awesome pictures here.
He is Jesus. I am Marie. I’m not capable of a lot of the amazing stuff Jesus accomplished in his short lifetime. Something about that whole divine-and-human thing, perhaps? So I’m the kind of person who has to get in a boat and actually row across the sea to get to where I’m going. No walking on the water for me. But moving on…
The visiting priest at Mass today actually reflected back on last Friday and Saturday’s gospel readings, to tie them into today’s.
(FYI: Friday - Jn 6:1-15, Saturday - Jn 6:16-21, today - Jn 6:30-35.)
When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
They wanted to take him into the boat,
but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading.
And Fr. Joe made me laugh when he summed it up as such - the disciples, here they are fretting and waiting for Jesus (who was up on the mountainside praying, if you look back at the previous verses) and they’re rowing and rowing for miles in this storm, and then Jesus shows up. And before they even have the time to fret on how to get him off the sea and into their boat, they’re at the shore. Boom. And Jesus is all, “couldn’t take an extra few moments to pray, but had to get out there and tackle the storm, eh? Well, I took those extra few moments, and did we not arrive at the shore at the same time? Think on that.” (not a real quote. obviously.)
I’m stubborn. Sometime it takes quite a few iterations of the same exact thing for me to have one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments. Well, apparently the disciples had the same issue at times. We can look at the tasks ahead and think, “I’m going to have to climb out of bed this morning and buckle down to work first thing if I plan to accomplish everything I need to.” And how simple that segues into “I can’t possibly take the time to pray this morning. Or during the midst of my day. Or before I go to sleep. Just too much to do.”
And then hours, or miles, later, we’re left with that realization that nigh everything is easier when the burden is shared. And those 10 minutes we couldn’t seem to find in the morning to focus, not on ourselves and our problems, but on the Creator who loves us and wants to walk (or row) with us through all those problems… well, we suddenly realize those 10 minutes could have made the next 100 that much easier.
(Today’s) Psalm 31: In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
So what did I get out of today? Don’t fight the storm for miles and miles before turning to the God who loves you. Start there, and then tackle all the rest of it.
I’m talking about part of the Mass, specifically the words we pray before reception of the Eucharist.
Previously - before this “new translation of the old Latin” - we said the following:
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
We now pray:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Ask any practicing, Mass-attending Catholic how this went over the first few weeks after the implementation of the new translation here in the US. At my parish here in NY, St. Daniel, there were some interesting variations, to say the least. I’ll admit to even wanting to laugh at the imagery/wordplay inherent in the use of the word ‘roof’.
Oddly enough, this was one of the first “new translation” prayers that was picked up easily by the congregation (again, using my parish as the example). Perhaps it was just tricky enough, with the changed terminology, to encourage participants to read the pew cards instead of stumble-mumbling through it. I’m not sure the reason; all I know is that we’re back in unison again just a few short months after the big switch.
Today, it hit me, in a special way, why I love the new translation (of the old.)
1.) The parallel to the scripture is all the more apparent.
Matthew 8: 5-8, RSV (for brevity; I recommend verses 5-13 for the whole ‘picture’, but I don’t want to take up too much space. )
(5) As he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him (6) and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” (7) And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (8) But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.
2.) When I think ‘receive’, I tend to think ‘passive’. There is an action - the giving - and the counteraction is to receive the gift. But the Eucharist is much more than just a gift to be received. Yes, it is that, but it is more.
My thoughts turned this way: when I receive a gift, I take it, and I do something with it. Depending on the manner of the gift, I may place it on a shelf, hang it on a wall, set it on a table to be looked at later, shelve it among the many items on my bookshelf, wear it, eat it, or spend it.
When I receive the Eucharist, I answer an invitation, I sign the RSVP card to attend the party and the reception, and I promise to do my best to be worthy of such an invitation. I state with the entirety of my soul that though today I am not worthy, I will accept, internalize, and cooperate with grace. I won’t use my unworthiness as an excuse; rather, I sign an agreement to be greater than what the world sets as expectations.
That’s not just receiving a gift. That’s more.
If someone knocks on your door - friend or stranger - and you let them in your house, they will stay until one of two things happens: they need to leave and go elsewhere, or you ask them to leave.
If there’s one thing I know, and just one thing, it is that Christ doesn’t abandon us. Ever. Even when the world eclipses us and it would appear there isn’t a single beam of light to bring us out of darkness, He is there. We need but turn our heads to see the light. So knowing this, I know that accepting the invitation of the Eucharist by offering our own invitation to Christ to enter under our roof, is to invite a guest into our very soul. And not just any guest - the kind that doesn’t leave until we kick him out. And let’s face it, even then, he will not abandon us. A God of love does not abandon his children.
And then I realized just how great the Father’s love is for his children. We’re not lucky, but we are blessed - continually, unfailingly, blessed - with an absolute gift.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
That was part of the reading today at Mass. The full passage is 1 Jn 5:5-13.
Monsignor Yannock decided to expound mainly upon this reading (while reflecting on the Gospel passage as well, Mk 1:7-11 ) while mentioning St. Andre Bessette, today’s optional memorial. Going into today, I knew nothing about this saint (I managed to speculate on my own that he was either French or French Canadian. It’s the latter). What do I know about him now? That he devoted his life to working with the weak, the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the dying, even though he himself was known as someone weak, sick, and (pretty close to) dying.
Msgr. Yannock cut to the chase. The world tells us that owning the newest items, the best gadgets, the fanciest cars, and having plenty of money to buy them all with brings us happiness, or something like that. It tells us that when we own the world, we have victory.
St. Andre had nothing - zero possessions - and couldn’t really even say “at least I have my health”, because he justifiably didn’t. And yet he lived until he was 91 years old. He was originally rejected by the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal due to his frailty, but someone on the inside convinced them to let him enter the novitiate. He is credited with numerous miraculous healings, although he protested the credit at the time. His main devotion was to St. Joseph, and he encouraged others to pray to St. Joseph as well. When he died in 1937, a *million* people came to process past his coffin. One million people.
So, who is indeed the victor over the world? Is it the person who owns all the things they think will bring them happiness? Or is it the one who takes what they’ve been given - even if that consists of nothing but a somewhat sickly existence here on this Earth - and uses it to cause such a positive impact that one million people come to pay respects at his death?
Just something to ponder. Owning the world is not victory over the world. Perhaps renunciation of the world is then a victory for one’s soul?
Saints aren’t saints because they were chosen.
They’re saints because they made a choice.
What am I waiting for?
[Hebrews 4: 12-16]
Anyone who has spoken with me at length in the last, say, month, has had the joy of listening to me rant every now and then at the adventure that is graduate school. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s just…ranting. But let’s face it - I’m a generally optimistic, upbeat person, and this whole negative energy thing isn’t working for me. Well, lo and behold, this week I had several occasions to contemplate a bit more.
I managed to escape the SYR this weekend to spend a few days with my sister and brother-in-in law. My sister is my next oldest sibling (as I am the youngest) and as time has passed and we’ve both aged, we’ve come to realize just how similar we are. On the outset, we seem incredibly different - I’m an academic, unfeeling nerd, while she is an emotional music therapist - but we have such similar attitudes and philosophies that spending time together is almost like talking to myself. It doesn’t hurt that we’re nearly the exact same height with fairly similar physical features.
Saturday afternoon, after going for a run together, we stood in the kitchen putting together a quiche and waiting for it to bake. (Sidenote: it was friggin’ delicious.) My sister and I each have a chronic incurable illness, though incidentally not the same (or even remotely similar) illness. We were sharing our thoughts on what that had done, not physically, but emotionally, for both of us, and how our attitudes and perspectives on life had changed. We came away with a conclusion that has shaped the last few years of existence for the both of us: “Live now. Do what you can while you can, and enjoy the gifts you have been given. Life is a gift.”
Granted, this is no massive revelation. However, it’s one that we - okay, I - must constantly harken back to as I proceed through this journey. Enjoy the gifts I have been given…including those that have brought me to this place- to graduate studies, at a new school with a new community.
Then today, at late Mass at the Cathedral, Father gave a most excellent homily. The readings for today reminded us that “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Ps 31:30) That we know not when the Master will come, and yet “We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” (1 Thes 5) And then today’s Gospel reading: the parable from Matthew 25 in which the master gives away his talents to his servants before undertaking a long journey. Upon returning, he wishes to settle their accounts, and rewards those who have invested their talents and been “faithful in small matters”, thus earning the trust of the master to take upon great responsibilities. The servant who buries his talent, for fear of losing it, is harshly reprimanded and thrown out of the master’s house.
Father’s homily centered around the idea of “almost”. Almost giving. Almost clothing the naked. Almost sheltering the homeless. Almost giving our greatest effort. Almost being prepared. Almost living. Why do we stop ourselves and fall victim to the plight of “almost”? Because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the results, fear of what could be - fear.
The combination of these two conversations - one with my sister in her kitchen, one with my God during Mass - brought me to the same conclusion. Give up fear. Live now. Live as though the Master is returning tomorrow - use that which you have been given, to the fullest. Embrace life and all that which is inherent with the journey. For me, this means embracing my current status as a graduate student in a community that isn’t receptive to most of my beliefs. And yet my intellect, my abilities, my dedication and focus - these are gifts. To abuse them is to live in fear. And with that in mind, I turn in for the evening, to face Monday with all the enthusiasm and optimism of one who knows what it means to be blessed.