Learnings From Our "Storms in Life"
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Just most recently, I had a share of my personal “storm in life.” For roughly, a week or so, I’ve placed myself on self-quarantine as I’ve experienced some flu-like symptoms, which could be COVID. And so, I had myself tested for the virus and thank God they were all NEGATIVE! It was probably the longest 5 days of waiting in my life! But, was I afraid? I would be lying if I say, I wasn’t because I WAS REALLY AFRAID! Some might say, “How could you be afraid when you are a priest?” Certainly! But I think that that’s not the issue here. The issue lies in what one does out of one’s fears, right? Fear is a type of anxiety. But it could be a USEFUL or HEALTHY anxiety. Ex. A student for fear of failing the exams would study so hard by burning the midnight oil in order to pass or even perfect the exams. In doing so, that student made use of fear to his/her advantage. Or, as we've experienced during this pandemic, one wears a face mask for fear of contracting the virus to other people especially in our community or to our loved ones.
This Sunday’s theme carries a similar tone. It reminds us not only of our “storms in life,” but also reminds us that we can use those storms in life to our favor. There are countless lessons we can derive out of them. Countless lessons we could use to our advantage. Do you believe in the strength that God provides us through them? Do you have faith that you can do all things through Christ? Is there meaning in the “storms” that we encounter in our lifetime? Let me highlight some insights:
1. Our “storms in life” show to us the true source of our strength. Who is the source of our strength? Of course, it is Jesus as shown in today’s Gospel. It is His presence that gives us peace even in the strongest storms of life: storms of sorrow, doubt, tension and uncertainty, anxiety and worries, anger and despair to name a few of them. These storms make us vulnerable and weak. But they also move us to recognize a power higher than us from a GOD, who has the ability to save us. Our “storms” in life remind us that without God, we are nothing! As we acknowledge His power, we can confidently say, “I can do all things, through Christ who gives me strength!”
My Auntie Baby, my mom’s older sister, died of cancer of the lungs years ago. I was a seminarian back then. Each time I would visit her to give her daily communion, I cannot but pity her in her condition. How could a woman, who did not smoke, die of cancer of the lungs? How could a woman who was so pious die of such a dreadful disease? But surprisingly, she was happy. In times when she was suffering, she would not show a sign of pain on her face. It is to keep her family from worrying about her condition. Whenever I asked her where she got her strength, she would confidently remark, “I got it through my faith in Christ. My pain is nothing compared to His who willingly died on the cross just to follow the will of His Father.” Do we have such faith in the midst of our storms in life?
2. Our “storms in life” enables us to have a trusting faith in God. Out of the three synoptic accounts of Jesus’ walking on the water, it was only Matthew who gives an account of Peter walking on the water. As Matthew puts this account in his narrative, we are brought to further understand it through Peter and his faith. Of course, we could clearly highlight Peter’s sinking which tells us how little his faith was. But more importantly, we also need to look at his leap of faith. Through Peter, we are reminded that at times we lose track of our faith especially in the most trying storms in life. Nevertheless, from such depth of pain, we remember to call on the Savior and to sustain our confidence to keep our gaze fixed on Him even in the most trying storms in life.
For the umpteenth time Mrs. Youngston came to her pastor to tell him, "I'm so scared! Joe says he's going to kill me if I continue to come to your Church." "Yes, yes, my child," replied the pastor, more than a little tired of hearing this over and over. "I will continue to pray for you, Mrs. Youngston. Have Faith - the Lord will watch over you." "Oh yes, He has kept me safe thus far, only ..." "Only what, my child?" "Well, now Joe says if I keep coming to your church, he's going to kill YOU!" "Well, now," said the pastor, "Perhaps it's time for you to check out that little parish on the other side of town."
See? The minister’s faith may not be that strong but, those “storms” in life could shake us to our core and help us refocus our attention to God … to have a trusting faith in God! In other words, we have to serve each day as an opportunity to do the will of the Father as Jesus did.
3. Our “storms in life” give us assurance of hope in the midst of persecutions. Jesus said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid!” To be afraid (useless anxiety/fear), is to not to have faith. To be afraid is to lose hope. Faith implies a strong bond of friendship with God. A bond, which was clearly manifested in the Old Testament between God and the Israelites. And so, when Jesus, asked his disciples not to be afraid, he was actually appealing to them in terms of their faithfulness to Him. To remind them that even in the old times, God has always been there for them even in their most trying moments or “storms in life.” Jesus remains to be our champion even to this day. This episode as it was recalled to Jesus’ disciples could have given them great comfort as it offers them an assurance that Christ would save them. Today, it offers us the same reassurance especially in times of illness, death of a beloved, persecution, or other troubles.
Our suffering is difficult if we own our sufferings to ourselves and so some people would end their lives that way. But if we cling to Christ’s assurance that there is hope even though how small that is, we have more reason to live it up to our advantage. When we are confronted with our personal “storms in life,” let us always remember our source of hope, who is Christ. Our Savior who suffered tremendously in order that worldly sufferings be turned to strength through faith in Christ. Let us take them as an honor and privilege for by taking those “storms in life” squarely, we too share in His sufferings on the cross.
Let me end with this classic prayer which kept me to my feet during my self-quarantine: