Friday May 24, 2019
7:01 am
Bishop Hying

Like the apostles experience, Jesus calms the tempests in our lives and encourage us not to be afraid

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on May 19, 2019

 

      The Storm at Sea occurs in every one of the Gospels, that perilous moment when the apostles are terrified by the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee until Jesus calms the tempest and encourages them to not be afraid. Whenever the disciples are in the boat in the Scriptures, it’s a symbol of the Church.

      And so we think of all the times in the history of the Church that there have been storms, difficulties and challenges. Persecutions, betrayal from within, epic struggles with political powers, global wars, theological divisions within the Church and most recently, instances of clergy sexual abuse.

      We think of our own lives, the suffering we’ve gone through, the challenges we have faced, the changes that perhaps intruded into our lives in an unwelcome way. All the things that frighten, overwhelm or disturb us. And the constant message of the Storm at Sea is Jesus’ refrain, “Do not be afraid. It is I. I am with you.”  Throughout the Scriptures, this urging to cast away fear is God’s constant message to us.

      Somebody went through all the hard work of counting how many times in the Bible God says, “Don’t be afraid,” and it’s 366 – one for every day of the year plus Leap Year. So it’s as if God is constantly telling us, “Don’t be afraid. Trust. Trust in me. Have confidence that I am with you. Have confidence in my victory over the power of sin and death.”

      Before I went to do mission work in the Dominican Republic, I went on a retreat for about five days, and one of the passages that the priest who directed my retreat asked me to reflect upon was chapter five of Luke. It’s the Miraculous Catch of Fish and the Call of Simon Peter.

      As I meditated on that Scriptural moment in light of my call to go do mission work in this Third World, I started to be filled with great fear – all the things that I was anxious and concerned about in accepting such an assignment. Fear of not knowing the language. Fear of homesickness. Fear of the poverty of the people and not knowing what to do with that. So many unknowns.

      Then in my prayer, Jesus asked me to write all those fears down, so I actually stopped praying and I filled a couple of pages with everything that was bothering me, everything I was afraid of. After going back into prayer, I gave those sheets to Jesus. He folded them up and then he put them next to his heart.

      And I asked him, “So what’s your answer to all of my fears and all of my questions about taking this assignment?” and he didn’t say anything. So I asked him again. And finally, he opened up his outer robe, and the fire of his heart had consumed the paper with my questions on it, and the ashes just blew away in the gentle breeze.

      In that moment, a great peace settled upon me. In the course of my years in the Dominican Republic, every single thing that I was afraid of actually happened. So it wasn’t like the prayer magically protected me from the challenges and difficulties of doing mission work in a foreign country. But every time something difficult happened, my head and heart were drawn back to that prayer and I knew that everything was going to be alright. I rediscovered the peace I felt when the ashes of my fears just blew away.

      So often times, the Lord simply asks us to trust – trust that his plan is better than ours, that his plan is unfolding exactly as it should, especially when we don’t think it is or when we think that we know better. So often, we need to simply pray for the trust that the apostles had in the power of the Holy Spirit, the trust to boldly go forth and proclaim the Gospel to the entire world, confiding not in their own strength, but resting in the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the mission that they had received.

      Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid.” We carry that message in our hearts, and we pass it on to those around us.

      I ponder God’s call to trust as I transition from serving as your bishop here in Gary to my future in Madison. I have many questions, many unknowns and lack of certainty regarding so much. Many unfinished plans, projects and changes are in motion here in our diocese and I know that I will not be here to see any of it through. 

      I know that once again, as so many times before in my life, everything is about to change. Different people, a different city, a new place to live, fresh challenges and opportunities. I can either wring my hands in fear or open them in welcome. I can either live in the golden nostalgia of the past or grab the bracing opportunity of the present moment. 

      The Lord has never let me down or abandoned me. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I have always felt the gentle and consoling presence of this mysterious Divine Fellow Traveler, walking along with me and giving me strength.

      St. Teresa of Avila called heaven “the tavern at the end of the world” where all weary travelers will find solace, rest and mirth. If we keep our eyes fixed on this glorious endpoint of perfect joy and love, how can we ever lose heart or courage? 

      As Jesus tells us, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” 

      Somewhere beyond the stars is our eternal home. As we make our pilgrim way there, how good to know that the Dawn from on High shines upon us to lead us through the darkest of nights and the most serpentine of roads until we are with the Father forever!

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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