Nwe England’s spring is chilly this year, enticing brilliant color from buried bulbs while swathing the earth with crisp clarity. There is an attendant sense of powerlessness just now: economic uncertainty, prospects of war, extremes in weather and politics. What to do? Anything? How to do it? And yet, tomorrow, there will be Communions and Confirmations, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings…all signals of the promise Life presents and a commitment to the surprises it holds. Wrestling with reality from a faith perspective is hardly popular, but it carries definitive positives and accesses a long history of human survival.
History begins much earlier, but the Gospels offer a starting position for understanding. Just after the Resurrection, there is the struggle with comprehending what has happened, grief and mystery: appearances and doubts, moments of recognition, the emptiness of absence. The stories unveil the transition phases of traumatic human experience and are flooded with very human emotions without once mentioning the words. The Gospel depicts frightened Apostles relying on one another, resorting to the familiar, fishing. Jesus appears and the nets are filled to bursting. They eat together, afraid to speak his name but aware he is the Lord. He missions them with gentle directions, “Feed my lambs”. Somehow, the full nets became the focus of the story. But in the quiet re-reading, there is a deeper sense. There is purpose, direction; tenderness and kindness mingle with acceptance of the circumstance, and there is a bonding in the movement forward. Every word in each story implies connections to one another, testitifes to the uniqueness of each person’s journey and the reality of the presence of God in life. Startling or perhaps mysterious, the promise is there. And it is followed by comfort, by caring, and following through. The full nets point to harmony in the universe, an aliveness in realizing the gift of the moment.
In spite of all society’s evolution, those same feelings of loss and uncertainty, powerlessness and fear are haunting. And beyond the Gospel are centuries of stories confronting all the same. Remembering the stories is like pulling a warm comforter around on a cold evening; they are wrapped into history and hold mirrors for reflection. This week, a 14 year old confided her Confirmation name and then her brother’s and others. Hers was Teresa of Avila; his Francis of Assisi. Each bore struggles; each was captured by the circumstances of their time; each lived the continuum of emotion and faced radical decisions and choices. Each cultivated relationships that sustained and thrived, inspired and quieted, enabled and empowered. Like the Gospel, the stories of the saints are the stories of human beings confronted with the dauntingness of a lie journey, discovering the support of community and developing trust and confidence in becoming.
Sometimes what we are looking for is right in front of us, waiting for us to hear and to see and to choose. Catholicism’s heritage has many facets to address the personal and collective challenges of this era. Somehow, Catholicism gives an opportunity for comfort and compromise, choice and sustenance. A faith persepctive can open new dimensions of experience. For that, I am sincerely grateful.