Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Take Heart, It is I

Reflections on the Readings
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 7, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

Take Heart, It is I

But the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. For these disciples it has been a long day and a longer night. It is now the fourth watch of the night; somewhere between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Anyone who has cared for a sick child or loved one knows these hours are the darkest before dawn. I remember as a child being really sick all night with the measles or mumps or some childhood disease. I begged my mom and dad to call for Uncle Ronnie to come and pray for me. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old. In the dark hours of the night the limbs from the trees scared me with their shadows on my bedroom window.

At the time, Uncle Ronnie was a patrolman for the Huntingburg Police Department. Somehow my daddy got word to him and Uncle Ronnie came into my room about 6 o'clock in the morning. There he stood all decked out in his uniform with his gun belt shiny and bright. And he prayed for me.

These disciples have toiled all night to get to the other side of the sea. A storm gets between them and their destination. And it is now somewhere between 3 and 6 o'clock in the morning. Tired and weary they begin to despair. We've all been there. Maybe we haven't navigated a boat in the midst of a storm, but we've all faced strong headwinds of opposition and trial. Misunderstandings and arguments can and do bring sleepless nights. The gales of life are many and in the midst of our efforts we will have trials that make us stronger, confrontations that make us wiser, and failures that make us humble.

But the thing to always remember is that the one who sends us into the world as sheep among wolves is on the mountain over yonder praying for us. He truly never leaves us nor ever forsakes us. His eye is on the sparrow and he also is watching out for us. You see we are on the sea of life and our destination is the other side. It is our hope in Christ that gives us the strength to weather the storms of life. The Captain of our soul is in port in that place where there are no storm clouds, and he is waiting to welcome us there.

Not only is he waiting for us to arrive in that holy place, but he often steps out upon our sea tossed moments. He comes out to us walking on the restless waves of our experiences. He navigates through the restless winds and waves to show us we can make it; to help us know he will help us through it all. In such times we learn to trust him more, to love him more, to exclaim with all that is in us our undying allegiance.

And if that were not enough, a myriad of witnesses and angels surround us. The lives of the saints give us encouragement and joy. Their witness to faith, hope, and charity inspire us to stay in the boat and to stay on course. If they can sing on that blissful shore then surely their number will not be complete without us. Among them are those who loved not their lives unto death; those of whom the world is not worthy. Unwilling to surrender to fear or flight a holy throng now lends their prayers for our trek through the storms of our faith. Some of them were stoned, sawn in two, and killed by the sword or the guillotine. But their faith is our lighthouse and these who wandered over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, shine brightly knowing they are not complete until we are with them in Paradise.

The faith that sustains us remains alive in our hearts and imaginations by that kind, whispering voice: "Take heart. It is I; have no fear." And in this holy food of his body and blood our Lord whispers, "Take and eat. It is I." Amen.

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