Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peace! Be Still!

Today’s gospel taken from Mark 4:35-41 reveals things that are typically difficult for us to accept when we’re in the middle of our “storms”. There are a few elements from this passage that I would like to point out before discussing the inherent difficulties just mentioned:

1) Jesus’ invitation to go “to the other side”.
2) His seeming passivity during this process.
3) The storm itself.
4) His rebuke to those who questioned his love for them.

Jesus invites his disciples to journey to the other side, and the disciples accepted this invitation by “leaving the crowd”. On the purely literal level, there’s not much to see here, but the spiritual sense of scripture, I believe, reveals much. The ideal spiritual life of a Catholic is the constant acceptance of His invitation to both submit to and experience the “other side”, but I do not believe this phrase is only referring to what we understand as heaven, but also to the life of faith here on earth. It is a life in which we live as though we see that which cannot be seen, we believe that which we cannot fully know, we eat that which consumes us. Peter Kreeft says that Heaven haunts earth. Jesus invites us to be haunted in this way, but we must first submit. As the Gospel tells us, accepting His invitation requires leaving the crowd. The crowd represents all that is familiar and “safe” to us. It is those things that keep us mired in the here and now, those things that keep our eyes diverted from the hereafter. It keeps us from “seeing” that which cannot be seen. His invitation is a challenge to reject popular culture in order to be immersed in a whole new world. This is echoed by St. Paul’s epistle today in which he wrote, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

While the invitation may be compelling enough for us to accept, what many of us fail to predict is what we might perceive as His passivity, but His passivity should be seen as an act in itself. We read, “They took him with them, just as he was, in the boat.” Acceptance of His invitation is to be understood as an acceptance of Him. If we embark to the other side through faith, we cannot take with us anything else but the real Christ, for as he said in the Old Testament, “There is no other.” The implication of this is that the only ones that must change during the journey are us. We must take Him just as He is, just as He always will be. We cannot turn Him into the teddy-bear Jesus that turns a blind eye to our sins, nor can we turn Him into the distant God that remains aloof while sending people to hell simply because He enjoys it. There is no historical Jesus vs. scriptural Jesus. There is only He Who Is. His “passivity” is, therefore, an act that forces us to act. Are we man enough to take Him as He is? To do so is to allow ourselves to be swept up into the powerful storm that He is.

What of the storm? It is the means by which His power is made evident. From the spiritual vantage point, we know the storm to be the process by which we are made perfect. It forces us to call out to him, humbling ourselves before His power and dominion over all things. But we can call out in two very different ways. We can call out as a son to a father, or we can call out as His disciples did, as one stranger to another. There are some spiritual directors that will say foolish things regarding call out to Him in times of distress, and I used to believe them. What I’m referring to here is the advice, “It’s okay to get angry at God. It’s okay to demand an answer. He’s a big boy. He understands.” Scripture tells us something very different. We learn that to call out as a stranger unsure of His love for us, we invite upon ourselves a rebuke. In fact, the rebuke is a bit of a rhetorical question: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” To call out in such a way is to reveal our lack of belief. His words to the storm may very well have been spoken to us as well. “Peace! Be still!”

Let us be willing to be paid the intolerable compliment of following Him to the other side.

No comments: