Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday in the 5th Week of Lent
Shelter in the Storm

Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7; John 10:31-42

We’ve been seeing plenty of rain and thunderstorms this week. I was caught in one a couple of days ago while accompanying some visitors to a local park. Thankfully we found a convenient shelter before the drizzle had developed into a downpour. It was just a simple little gazebo with a few benches in it. Nothing much to look at. And we had to share it with quite a few others. But we were grateful for the refuge it provided. Even so, it’s probably true that, if not for the storm, we would have probably ignored it completely, and happily continued on our way. Isn’t it interesting how one tends to take these shelters for granted until one really needs them?

We can probably say the same too, of our readings today. When we hear the psalmist profess his love for God who is my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, isn’t it easy to miss the significance of his words? Isn’t it all too easy for us simply to pass them over, just as my friends and I would probably have passed by the shelter in the park? Isn’t it interesting how one tends to take shelters for granted until the onset of the storm?

Which is why it’s important to notice how both our readings are set in a gathering gale, a storm of a very particular type. The winds and rains, the lightning and thunder, come in the form of persecution and alienation. And what makes the storm most unbearable is probably its source. In the words of Jeremiah: all those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. It is none other than his friends, the very people whom he has dedicated his life to helping, who are now his oppressors. The same is true for Jesus. I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me? Can we not hear the pathos that accompanies this cry? A terrible storm is brewing in the lives of Jeremiah and Jesus, a storm that will isolate them from all earthly help and assistance. And it is at this crucial time of their loneliness and desolation that they bear eloquent witness to us of the fidelity of God. In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God; from his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

But that is not all. Our readings speak of more than just the experience of two men who find shelter in God in the midst of the storm. For, as the gospel reminds us, although Jesus is human, he is also God. In his experience we see more than just a man who is vindicated because he entrusted his cause to the Lord. Rather, in his life, death and resurrection, we actually witness God’s marvelous response to our cry for help. Engulfed as we are in the terrible storm of our own guilt, blinded as we are by the torrential downpour that is the effect of our sin, God does not stand passively by, waiting for us to stumble upon the safe refuge that he provides. Instead, in Christ, God braves the winds and the rains to bring us to safety. Isn’t this the substance of the incredible works that Jesus speaks about in the gospel, works that culminate in the Mysteries that we will celebrate most especially over the Easter Triduum? In Christ, God comes to us in our need. In him, the Shelter comes looking for us in the midst of the storm.

What is your experience of finding and providing safe shelter today?

1 comment:

  1. This morning I experienced a storm of another kind, sitting in the dentist chair having my teeth cleaned, an inconvenient necessity.
    My whole body involuntarily tensed, my hands clasped in anticipation of the worse. How can we seek relief whilst the dentist probe and scrap near your gums? It has to be endured in solitary discomfort.
    Here my mind jolts me to the fact that pain is a necessary part of healing and has to be endured. Very often we neglect the basic discipline to look after our teeth, until we have need for the hut when it is raining.
    In serendipitous moments we are reminded that in all ways we must acknowledge that God is working in our lives, come rain or shine.