Our Lives at Sea

21 June 2009. 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 38, 1, 8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Cor 5, 14-17; Mark 4, 35-41

The climate of our lives is constantly changing the same way as the weather around us is unpredictable. Since time immemorial, we have described the turbulence within our hearts using the terms from nature. The imagery of the Gospel today can also be used to describe our lives. We already left the shore and land is still far from reach. Like the disciples on the boat, we are at the mercy of the storm and the waves of the sea. But note: the Gospel tell us that Jesus is IN the boat with them. The fact that they have Jesus did not appease their fear; they panicked.

This image is important to me. It tells us that even believers, such as ourselves, are prone to fear even if we know that Jesus is always with us. In the midst of our greatest tragedies, our faith is threatened or put to the test. We ask God, like the disciples, why these things happen to us and why doesn’t he care about our difficulties. And those who are already convinced of their religious adherence are not spared from regrets and complaints about God. Job asks the question: why do bad things happen to good people. St. Ignatius of Loyola has some words of wisdom, “If God sends you much suffering, it is a sure sign that He wishes to make you a great saint. If you desire to be a saint; then also desire to suffer much.”

In the midst of these storms, the first reading from the book of Job tells us to look at the bigger picture. Despite the turbulence, God is in-charge of the natural cosmos, both in its structure and its regular operation; it will not revert to chaos. God can calm the storms of our lives, because He is powerful over them. God can put order in our lives.

In handling the confusions and conflicts in our lives, we first have to identify what’s troubling us. We have to put our finger on what’s causing the restlessness in our hearts; you can’t fight an enemy unless you know what it is. Second, we have to see the bigger picture. Often, we think that many of our problems cannot be resolved because we are too obsessed with ourselves. As if we are the only ones burdened by it. But in reality, many people have encountered our problems, though approximately. In fact, many people are healed because they are able to share their burdens with a support group who underwent or are handling the problem at present. It is good to have someone who can listen to us. All these can be done in silent prayer. We ask God to enlighten us, then talk to God about it. When we repair our lives, it is like repairing a boat at sea: we don’t tear everything down or build it up there, but we replace every little thing one at a time leaving the boat intact.

Finally, the storms of our lives can also be an experience of Divine encounter. In the Old Testament, appearances of God are frequently described with “storm terminology” such as in Exodus (19, 17-20) and Psalms (18, 7-17). The same way in the first reading, Yahweh speaks out of the storm. And thus, it is also good to see that any storm in our lives invite us to change and become better. For St. Ignatius, the pains and sufferings invite us to become saints --- to become a ‘new creation’ as Paul said. The resurrection, as St. Paul says in the second reading, gives us a new perspective. If before the resurrection, we have used human standards in judging our lives, now we see everything differently. We see our lives in the eyes of God.

All is new with Christ. We are a new creation. Thus, priorities have changed. The same God who created the universe is also capable of recreating and changing us, however undeserving and destructive though we are. He has even made us sharers of His work, and thus we too have been given the responsibility to help recreate our world once again. Think global: just as we have contributed to global warming and climate change, we are also responsible for any turbulence in our lives.

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