Thursday, May 03, 2007

Feast of Ss. Philip and James, Apostles
Divine Submarine

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5; John 14:6-14

When we were in the Novitiate – the first two years of training – one of the Fathers used to speak to us about submarines. He wasn’t referring to the Navy. He was talking about how in some places novices were particularly adept at submerging themselves whenever there was trouble, or whenever there was work to be done. He was encouraging us not to be submarines, but to instead be generous enough to volunteer ourselves for work.

Yet, isn’t it true that God sometimes seems rather submarine-like? Precisely at times when we find ourselves in trouble, or when we need help to do some particularly difficult work, God seems to disappear. How are we to continue doing God’s work if we don’t even sense his presence?

Jesus offers us some guidance when he tells Philip in today’s gospel, whoever believes in me will do the same works that I do. In times of trial, if we are to regain our sense of God’s presence and so be strengthened to continue doing God’s work, we need to believe. Paul elaborates on the content of this belief in the first reading. Like the Corinthians, we are invited to keep believing that Christ died, was buried and raised, so that we might have fullness of life. Perhaps more strikingly, we may notice the many times that the word appear appears in Paul's letter. The God in whom Paul is exhorting the Corinthians, and us, to believe is above all a God who appears, especially in the person of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

If one were to cling to this belief, then even when God seems to have submerged beyond our sight, we will spare no effort at seeking God out. Because we believe that despite all evidence to the contrary, God must still be present, we will persevere in begging for the grace to recognize the divine presence. And isn’t it true that many who do this actually find their prayers answered? Even as they cry out to God, they find the very places that were once so painfully marked by God’s absence gradually become permeated with God’s consoling presence.

How is it that the Divine Submarine suddenly chooses to re-emerge? Is it not rather that God has always been present, submerged below the surface perhaps, but present nonetheless, and continually communicating with us. It’s just that when we begin to express our longing to God, we too learn to become more submerged in our daily existence and so begin to recognize the divine presence that never really left us. Instead of merely skimming the surface of life, we learn to live more deeply, more in tune with the God who constantly appears. We learn to believe in the Word who became flesh and died and rose for us. And in that belief, to find the strength we need to do God’s work, to show God’s face to others.

How is the Divine Submarine making its appearance among us today?

1 comment:

  1. When everything is cruising along smoothly and according to plan, we often marvel at how brilliant we are. In times of crisis, we try our best to cope and start to wonder if God is on vacation. Speaking for myself, often-times, in trying to deal with the situation from a human level, I have un-wittingly put God beyond my radar screen.

    Yes, Fr Chris, the Divine Submarine is always there with us and for us, through good and bad, joy and sorrow. It's just that it takes some effort (and resolve) to be attuned to the Divine Presence. How do we sense that Presence? I believe that even though our human effort is puny, we can do it, empowered by grace. Through regular prayer, we stay connected to the Divine Presence and not let everything around us overwhelm us. It also helps to have faithful fellow sojourners as companions.

    We can learn to sense and respond to the Divine Presence after the event. I find it helpful to ponder on what happened and why it happened. Scripture tells us that no word of God's ever leaves His Mouth and not return without it achieving the purpose for which it was sent. Likewise, nothing happens (good and bad) without God knowing and allowing it to happen. Isn't it an honor to know that we are part of His Divine Plan? When we acknowledge this, we have sensed the Divine Presence.