Once in awhile, there arises the need to do some upkeep, some fixing of important things like buildings, equipment and vehicles. It is inevitable due to the wear and tear caused by usage and the elements. Well, today’s template of God’s Word addresses the fact that we, too, as individuals and as Church, need some upkeep and some fixing up due to the wear and tear caused by life’s storms and human frailty.
No doubt, the most surprising and comforting aspect of this spiritual mending or upkeep has to be the fact that it is done by God’s Word. Devout Protestants are fully aware of this fact while, even after what has been learned about the power of God’s Word in the five decades since Vatican II, so many Catholics are not. But more accurately, with our liturgical readings for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time we are not dealing with simple remodeling or an average upkeep; we are dealing with a new creation; as such is the power of the Word which God wishes to do with us and unto us every time we interact with the Holy Scripture.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
God’s response to each storm that we weather as individuals and as Church proves indeed to be a “new creation.” Staying within the parameter of our readings, there is a new creation done by the Word spoken by Jesus over the raging waters of the lake of Tiberias. There is a new creation also in the life of Job as soon as he realizes his smallness and submits totally, unconditionally to God’s almighty hand. Thus, in a way, our readings take us back to the original creation, to the beginning of the world before God, through His Word, put order over the chaos of the raging waters and the thick darkness that covered the earth.
If we are familiar with Job’s story, we must remember that in a few brief moments his life had fallen apart: he had lost everything and everyone dear to him. Then, when God spoke His Word again, Job’s life was “re-created” and he was blessed more than before. At times the Church experienced terrifying storms and squalls big enough to sink any other boat. Think of the persecutions of the first three centuries; think of the French Revolution; of the Communist’s repeated attempts at destroying her. Yet, none of these seemingly irresistible upheavals proved capable of dooming her.
In other ages the storms seemed less severe, but drawn out over long stretches of time. Think, for example, of all the times during which the Church grew complacent and lazy. Think of the times when bishops were also political leaders with lots of mundane affairs to which to attend. Think of the reluctance of many believers to embrace the changes introduced by Vatican II. Think of the sex abuse scandals of recent times.
Yet, no frightening billows, no sinister waves will ever be able to sink the boat entrusted to St. Peter.
And, as far as the squalls and storms surging up in our personal lives are concerned, here, too, unfortunately, we are familiar with both kinds: the drawn-out, prolonged type that wears us out and the sudden and overwhelming type that crushes us. But we are also familiar with the calm after the storm; we are familiar with new creations that God produces in our life whenever His Word is welcomed by us and we are docile to Its awesome power.
Some examples of new creations that God operates in us through His Word are sincere conversions often taking place during fruitful spiritual retreats; the change generated in our heart by a very good confession; the birth of a child; the healing process after a scary surgical procedure; sincere reconciliation after a hurtful clash and so on.
Yet, as enjoyable and unforgettable as these new creations are, they might occur in spite of our attitude and behavior. Due to an unfortunate combination of insufficient trust in God, impatience, distractions and innate pride, we might cut down considerably on the days of serene weather and on the blessedness of possible new creations. It happens whenever we fail to pick up the powerful message that is Jesus asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat.
Jesus is the perfect picture of a person who has surrendered himself/herself totally into the Father’s hands. Jesus’ falling fast asleep amid a most terrifying storm is possible only after he had placed absolute, unwavering trust in the Father’s love and unfailing care for him.
What we might tend to do, instead, could be a string of mistakes that worsen the situation. As a storm hits us, we might rehash past events that caused and still cause embarrassment to us or somebody close to us. We might remind others of their mistakes and of the hurts they caused. We might rush to fix things relying mainly, or even solely, on our human resources and/or dubious skills. We might use prayers as “spiritual currency” to get God to fix things according to our liking; and so on and so forth.
At best, what results from these clumsy attempts would be stop-gap fixes and frustration upon frustration.
Quite differently, St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:14-17) provides a solution of falling in love with Jesus so that order can be restored for us. Storms may be quelled, challenges may be faced with courage and new creations enjoyed, all because Jesus is both God’s Word made flesh and the pattern of our surrender into the Father’s most loving, most powerful hands.
We ought to keep in mind that, after all, it is the Word which brings about the Eucharist; that forgives our sins; that heals us; that guides and consoles us. It is also the Word that enables us to pick up the pieces of our life, to let go of old things and make us wait in hope for beautiful new things to come.