Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fierce Was the Wild Billow

It seems that over the last few weeks I’m encountering more and more people struggling. Struggling with their jobs (or lack thereof), struggling with their relationships, struggling with their faith. Unfortunately, we're simultaneously being bombarded with strife and worry on a grand scale every day. The tragedy of Haiti. Terrorist attacks and war in the Middle East. Starvation and genocide in Africa. A spiraling economy and political dogfights here in the United States. And because of this confluence of events I'm continually hearing people say things like "My life is terrible right now, but those people in Haiti have it much worse so I guess I should be thankful." And I agree to an extent that sometimes we do need to put things in perspective. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves just how bad things really are for us when there is so much going on with others in the world. Sometimes we need to step back and consider the blessings we do have in our lives.

The problem can arise when our own troubles seem to be constantly overshadowed by the things we see and hear and read about every day. Then we may begin to disregard seeing to our own spiritual and mental health needs. We can fall into a malaise driven by helplessness and the belief that we should just keep our problems to ourselves because somebody else has it much worse than we do. We become trapped at the center of a maelstrom we can't control and can't seem to escape. The storm continues to build and consume us until hope and rescue seem lost to us. We may feel abandoned and alone. But we are not.

Life is often one storm after another. For some people it's a never-ending series of storms large and small that beat us down and take our strength. For others it's the sudden squall, the storm that appears when all seems peaceful and sweeps us away and terrorizes us and leaves us exhausted and powerless. For others it's the constant storm that hovers above us and threatens and worries and leaves us trembling in fear. We may feel abandoned and alone. But we are not.

You may have heard people jokingly use the expression that someone is having a “come to Jesus moment,” a time when we have reached a precipice in our lives, a moment when all may seem lost and our options are extremely limited. Perhaps a moment when failure or embarrassment is staring us dead in the eye. A time when we look for support and help and no one is there to save us. We may feel abandoned and alone. But we are not.

The disciples felt this. They put all their trust in Christ and set out in a boat on the waters. The storms came, they rocked and swayed and seemed in danger of capsizing. Their world seemed to be crumbling down upon them as Christ slept calmly. They screamed in terror. They felt abandoned and alone. But they were not.

Christ calms the storm. "Why are you terrified?" He asks. "Do you not yet have faith?" Christ is with us in the darkness as well as the light. He stands beside us when no one else will. He carries us when the weight becomes too great to bear. He draws us to His arms when we are cold, alone, and afraid. But we must have faith. We have to seek Him in worship and in prayer, in the Eucharist and in the openness of our own hearts. If we can't open our hearts to Christ we will be lost. We will feel abandoned and alone.

St. Anatolius wrote a beautiful poem titled "Fierce Was the Wild Billow." A poem inspired by the reading from Mark's Gospel, a message of calm, comfort and hope…

Fierce was the wild billow, dark was the night,
Oars labored heavily, foam glimmered white.
Trembled the mariners, peril was nigh,
Then saith the God of God, "Peace! It is I!"

Ridge of the mountain wave, lower thy crest,
Wail of Euroclydon, be thou at rest;
Sorrow can never be, darkness must fly,
When saith the Light of Light, "Peace! It is I!"

Jesu, Deliverer, come Thou to me,
Soothe Thou my voyaging over life's sea;
Thou, when the storm of death roars sweeping by,
Whisper, O Truth of Truth, "Peace! It is I!"

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