"Lord let us see your kindness
and grant us your salvation."
Psalm 85 brings the two readings and the Gospel together. Each is a reading about faith fraying along the edges or faith that seemed to be lost. Each of the speakers: Elijah, Paul, and Peter could have easily uttered the psalm response from his position of desperation, discouragement, or fear. We can identify with those feelings and add a few of our own.
Things can't get worse for Elijah. He is hiding in a cave to escape the wrath of the evil Jezebel who wanted him dead. While in hiding an angel instructed him to eat and prepare for a journey. All Elijah wanted was to die. He had given up hope. His faith was shaky. He was despondent. He ate only after the angel demanded that he do so. Then, he began a journey of forty days.
The Jewish Study Bible notes that a man could walk between 15 and 25 miles per day. Multiplied by 40 days, Elijah walked from 600 and 1000 miles. To put the distances into perspective, it is about 500 miles south from Boston to Washington, DC and 1000 miles west to Chicago. What went through his mind during that arduous trek? What goes through our minds during the 40-day journeys we are forced to take during life, the journeys of chemotherapy, chronic pain, or the seemingly endless journey of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's?
Elijah's encounter with God in a whisper rather than an earth-shaking event is one of the remarkable images in the Old Testament. Elijah had to be open and willing to hearing that whisper. He had to be attuned to and ready for it. Similarly, we have to be prepared and willing to hear the voice of God in a whisper, in the brief moment of quiet that interrupts the background noise that complicates our lives. We can only say:
"Lord let me see your kindness
and grant me your salvation."
One can feel Paul’s discouragement that his people rejected Jesus. His distress was such that he would have been willing to have himself cut off from Christ if they would accept the great gift of salvation. We all know Paul’s frustration. We know the pain when no one will listen to us. We know the frustration of being met with opposition by everyone in our lives: family, friends, co-workers and so on. We know that feeling of radical loneliness. And thus can only say, or perhaps scream . . . .
"Lord let me see you kindness
and grant me your salvation."
Today’s Gospel take place immediately after Jesus had fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes. The crowd had dispersed. He dismissed his disciples and went up the mountain alone to pray. While Jesus was praying the apostles were in a boat crossing the 4 1/2 mile wide Sea of Galilee. They were a few miles off-shore and not in a position to swim if the boat capsized. The fourth watch of the night was between 3:00 and 6:00 AM. Thus they had been struggling to cross--and Jesus had been praying-- for a long time. We can identify with their terror when they saw Jesus coming toward them on the water. And then Peter acted. “(he) got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened.” For Peter, as for many of us, fear results in loss of faith. We must thus ask, what is faith?
Australian Trappist Fr. Michael Casey makes an important point: “Faith has to grapple constantly with the doubts we may experience when we hear the words of the poet Robert Browning ‘God is in his heaven—all’s right with the world.' So often it doesn’t seem that way.” Many times in our lives it doesn’t seem that God is in his heaven or that anything is right with the world. Casey goes on to give a good definition of faith: “Faith means letting go of our ambition to control, understand, or even cope with what happens. Faith means releasing our anxieties into God’s hands and seeing all that happens as coming from the hand of God. The fact that I cannot comprehend the logic of events means simply that my intellect is limited. Our relationship with God is often undermined by fears about impending disaster” It is terrifying to be wheeled into an operating room. It is panic-inducing to hear an unfavorable diagnosis after surgery. The emotions upon realizing our child will die cannot be described. Our faith wavers and, like Peter, we begin to sink. Our faith may waver when we realize the seriousness of our situation. We may suddenly doubt as the river rises above flood stage in our lives.
Faith does not mean that life will go smoothly. Faith is not a shield against trauma or protection from pain. Faith is not a Berlin wall against the anguish of grieving the death of a spouse, a parent, or a child. Faith does not prevent illness and death. Faith is an umbrella over us during these crises. Peter’s faith was strong when he jumped out of the boat because he wasn't thinking about it too much. When he began to intellectualize and pay attention to the storm he tried to take control. For the moment his faith vanished. And then he prayed; “Lord. Save me!”
We also try walk on the waters of a stormy lake at night. In those moments we can only plead with the psalmist:
"Lord let us see you kindness
and grant us your salvation."
After talking it over with the provincial and superior it was apparent that I had to purchase a new camera body. Unlike the old days of single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) that lasted forever unless dropped into water etc. digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras do not have that kind of life expectancy nor do they have interchangeable technology. I've used Olympus for the past ten years. Unfortunately Olympus abandoned the DSLR market completely, camera bodies and lenses, a few years ago. They have become one of the premier makers of mirrorless cameras that are lighter and smaller than the clunky and heavy DSLRs. While I like the DSLR I had no option. To switch to Canon, Nikon, or Sony and acquire the same quality lenses as the Olympus ones, would cost about 10 grand. Purchasing a new Olympus mirrorless (aka m4/3) body was very much less. With the addition of an inexpensive adapter I can use the same terrific lenses as I used on the DSLR. The camera body itself only does so much. The quality of the lenses or "glass" as hip photographers refer to them, make much more of a difference. It is better to have great lenses on an OK camera than poor lenses on a top-of-the-line body. I will keep the E-5 as backup and for those situations, particularly action shots, that mirrorless is less effective at shooting. Am still getting used to what the camera does and how to do it. So far I've learned to ignore the electronic viewfinder (much prefer the old fashioned optical) when shooting. As long as it is framed properly I'm content. Results of some shots taken here at Campion are below. Given a few weeks I will probably come to love the camera.
Entrance to the Campion infirmary. It is obvious that the building was constructed almost 100 years ago.
Two different views of the chapel. The first from the second floor balcony. There is a third floor balcony as well. The second on the ground. The light over the altar makes from complicated shooting
Two different approaches to the chandeliers. I like these. They are of a simple design. Each set can be controlled individually.
The small chapel on the third floor. Besides the Chapel of the Holy Spirit there is a daily Mass chapel that has easier wheelchair accessibility, small chapels on the third and fourth floors of assisted living, a few "pocket" chapels that come off some stair landings and one or two in the retreat house. The daily Mass chapel is currently undergoing badly needed renovation (it was truly ugly) while we use a temporary chapel on the second floor. The temporary chapel is an improvement over the daily one as it was.
Some flowers to end. Am much more content with the rendition of reds with this camera. It was difficult to get things the way they looked with the E-5 without a lot of post-processing.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD