04 August 2011

'"Come" said Jesus.' Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 7 August 2011


Jesus says, ‘Come, through all the turmoil,
the storms which threaten to engulf me.
He calls out to me.
He wants to pull me towards him.

Jesus is present in the storms of my life.
He is in the boat with me.
He says, ‘Trust me!’

He is also saying, ‘I need you.
We’re a balancing act, dancing together!

I need you to believe in me.
I need you to be me on earth.

You need my power and love to grow
and reveal me
to your brothers and sisters.

When you don’t trust,
you sink!
You are swallowed up
in life’s sorrows.
You block my power
to work through you’.

The painting and reflection above are by Sr Maria Forrestal, an Irish Franciscan Missionary of Mary who has worked in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic for many years. Among other things, Sister Maria maintains the excellent website of the Catholic Church in the Faroes.
Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines and the USA).
Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33; Jerusalem Bible, used in Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland)

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. 'It is a ghost' they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.' lt was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.' 'Come' said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord! Save me!' he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'Man of little faith,' he said 'why did you doubt?' And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God'.

Soiscéal (Matha 14:22-33, Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin chuir Íosa d’fhiacha ar na deisceabail dul ar bord agus imeacht roimhe go dtí an taobh thall fad a bheadh sé féin ag scaoileadh na sluaite uaidh. Agus tar éis a scaoilte dó, chuaigh sé an sliabh suas ar leithligh chun guí, agus nuair a bhí an tráthnóna ann bhí sé ansiúd ina aonar. Bhí an bád faoin am sin mórán staideanna amach ón talamh, á bocadh ag na farraigí, mar bhí an ghaoth contrártha. Sa cheathrú faire den oíche, tháinig sé chucu ag siúl ar an bhfarraige. Nuair a chonaic na deisceabail é, agus é ag siúl ar an bhfarraige, bhí siad buartha: “Taibhse atá ann!” ar siad, agus scread siad amach le barr eagla. Ach labhair Íosa leo láithreach: “Bíodh misneach agaibh!” ar seisean, “mise atá ann, ná bíodh eagla oraibh.” D’fhreagair Peadar é: “A Thiarna,” ar seisean, “más tú atá ann, ordaigh mé a theacht chugat ar bharr an uisce.” Dúirt Íosa: “Tar!” Agus tháinig Peadar amach as an mbád agus shiúil ar bharr an uisce ag déanamh ar Íosa. Ach nuair a d’airigh sé chomh borb agus a bhí an ghaoth, rug an eagla air; thosaigh ag dul faoi uisce agus scread sé amach: “A Thiarna, saor mé!” ar seisean. Shín Íosa amach a lámh láithreach, agus ag breith greama air dúirt: “A fhir an bheagán creidimh, cén fáth ar tháinig amhras ort?” Ar dhul isteach sa bhád dóibh, thit an ghaoth. Agus iad seo a bhí sa bhád, d’umhlaigh siad síos ina láthair ag rá: “Go dearfa, is tú Mac Dé.”


Sister Maria's painting evokes in me a sense of my vocation. Jesus invited Peter to step out. Peter did but then hesitated. Each person's vocation is unique. Some know from their childhood where God is calling them, some from early adolescence, as was my experience, some at a much later stage. But however one experiences God's call at some stage one has to step out.

A priest I knew here in the Philippines, the late Fr Vincent San Juan SJ, spent most of his life as a priest in the family life apostolate, working particularly with couples. I heard him speak of ballroom dancing as an image of the relationship of a husband and wife. The man usually leads, though not always, the woman following his moves. When I reached adolescence in the mid-1950s rock 'n' roll hat hit the scene and ballroom dancing disappeared for my generation. I used to envy my parents, uncles and aunts when I'd see them dancing with such skill, teamwork and enjoyment!

Sister Maria shows Jesus and Peter involved in a dance. Jesus is holding Peter's hand even before he steps out. I remember how my father taught me to swim and to ride a bicycle. He held his hand under my chest in the water, giving me a sense of security. Then on one occasion I realised his hand wasn't there anymore. I was swimming on my own. It was the same with cycling. My Dad kept a grip on the saddle until he judged that I could manage on my own. I remember the great joyful sense of freedom I felt on both occasions. But I would never have learned to swim or ride a bike without 'stepping out' as Peter did, even though he then lost his nerve.

Fr Gerard Dunne OP sees the present crisis in the Church in Ireland as a time for a young person to answer God's call to the priesthood or religious life. I quote here from a recent post in his blog, Irish Dominican Vocations, Why consider a vocation in the midst of a crisis?

The church and its people are not just survivors who grit their teeth in the face of either internal turmoil or external opposition. The church doesn't just survive - it lives. It lives because Jesus Christ lives in and through the church. In the midst of this present crisis we must humbly admit that we are the recipients of the graciousness and unconditional love of Jesus Christ who promised never to abandon his disciples: "And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Matthew 28:10) The church has existed and lived these 2000 years because of God's grace manifested through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

During these dark days I am often reminded of the words of Blessed John Paul II in Toronto during a World Youth Day event when he addressed the young people saying: "At difficult moments in the church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Spirit......We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son."

While many might argue that this is the worst time ever to consider a religious vocation, I see it as the most desirable time to discern life as a sister, brother, nun, priest and indeed Dominican. Here's a few reasons:

Firstly, God continues to call and invite people to a life of service and community, especially when the church faces and unprecedented crisis like the one we presently face. Our history proves this. In the middle of the great injustices of the Spanish Inquisition God called St Teresa of Avila to a life of mysticism and ultimately of reform of her Carmelite order; Saint Francis had a dream of rebuilding God's house and in response chose to live a life of radical simplicity through simplicity, prayer and penance - in stark contrast to the wealth and corruption of the twelfth century church. A couple of hundred years later when there was unrest in the church and a divided papacy Saint Catherine of Siena responded to God's call to live the Dominican life and later became a mediator for peace and the reunification of the papacy.

The church still benefits from the virtue of these heroic men and women and the many more like them who heard God's call and invitation to live a radical Gospel life in the midst of a church in turmoil. I am confident that with the help of God's grace that we will be telling similar stories in the future of today's heroic men and women who responded to the challenges of religious life.

Another reason to consider a religious vocation is that our church needs the creativity, idealism, faith and spirituality of a new generation. In the midst of our crisis the poor in our world continue to suffer from a lack of education, healthcare, social services. In a culture that suffers from inequalities, violence and disregard for human life, people need to hear the prophetic message of justice, peace and dignity. And in the middle of the crisis that the church now faces, people more than any other time in history need to hear the Gospel preached.

One further reason: the church needs more than just service. In a society that glamourises wealth, sex, power and money the church needs the continued witness of young people (and not so young) who are willing to give their all for holiness by living a life of chastity, obedience and poverty. Because we are a sacramental church we need priests to preach the Word with integrity and minister in times of joy and pain with sensitivity. When the world is plagued by polarization and division we need the hope for the Christian community that is inspired by people who come together to live and share their faith, values and mission.

By considering a religious vocation, there is nothing to lose. Why? Because all vocations are oriented towards holiness and a deepening of a relationship with God. I would continue to encourage people to consider religious life for the sheer joy that it can bring. Of course there are challenges and sacrifices but there is a deep consolation in knowing that you are following God's will or plan for you and that you are making a significant contribution to the life of the church and those that you live with and serve.
These are definitely trying times for the church especially in Ireland. But they are not the first, nor will they be the last. Keep on considering your vocation - and do not be afraid.

The full text of Father Gerard's post is here.

Nicene Creed

Credo in unum Deum, I believe in one God,
Patrem omnipoténtem, the Father almighty,
factórem caeli et terrae, maker of heaven and earth,
visibílium ómnium et invisibílium. of all things visible and invisible

Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum, I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
Fílium Dei Unigénitum, the Only Begotten Son of God,
et ex Patre natum ante ómnia saecula. born of the Father before all ages.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, God from God, Light from Light,
Deum verum de Deo vero, true God from true God,
génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri: begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
per quem ómnia facta sunt. through him all things were made.

Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem For us men and for our salvation
descéndit de caelis. he came down from heaven,
Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
et homo factus est. and became man.

Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis sub Póntio Piláto; For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
passus et sepúltus est, he suffered death and was buried,
et resurréxit tértia die, and rose again on the third day
secúndum Scriptúras, in accordance with the Scriptures.
et ascéndit in caelum, He ascended into heaven
sedet ad déxteram Patris.and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória, He will come again in glory
iudicáre vivos et mórtuos, to judge the living and the dead
cuius regni non erit finis. and his kingdom will have no end.

Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
qui ex Patre Filióque procédit. who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Qui cum Patre et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur: who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
qui locútus est per prophétas. who has spoken through the prophets.

Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatórum. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
Et exspécto resurrectiónem mortuórum, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
et vitam ventúri saeculi. Amen. and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Here in the Philippines the Nicene Creed is rarely used at Mass, a great pity. The English translation above is the new one that will come into effect in most English-speaking countries on the First Sunday of Advent. The Philippines isn't an English-speaking country, though it is widely used in Mass, especially in the larger cities. It is one of the official languages of the country. I haven't heard any official announcement from the bishops as to when the new translation will be implemented here. I will probably use the opportunity of the change to introduce people to the Nicene Creed, which is the 'default' one for Mass.

View of the Catholic church (Mariukirkjan) and convent (Kerit) from Varðagøta, Torshavn, capital of the Faroes.


No comments: