Like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee in today’s Gospel, the times we are living in are stormy too! Over the past year, all of us have felt like we were in a boat in a storm on choppy seas. The pandemic has disrupted, and even devastated so many people’s lives. It has generated so much uncertainty, fear, and sorrow for each one of us. We may have even felt abandoned by God – left alone without hope or stability amid the roaring waves.
What a relief to re-discover in the telling of this story from the Gospel of John, that Christ sees each one of us – and all of us together – as we paddle ferociously against these terrible currents in our lives! Like those disciples we may be terrified, but we come to understand that Christ is with us.
With that realization, perhaps the sorrow in our hearts is comforted. We may feel hope renewed. We may be comforted knowing that we will reach the farther shore. And we understand that Christ, in his compassion, has never left us alone. Instead he enter our boat so that we can complete the journey with renewed faith.
Such a blessed reminder in this beautiful Easter Season!
Over the past year, in the work I do for the U.S. bishops, I have had the privilege to dialogue and journey with lay ministers and other lay leaders as they – like the disciples – have sought to respond with great care to the storm of changes that have beset parishes and Catholic organizations across the country. In addition to being inspired by their humble awareness of being with Jesus in the boat across the stormy seas, I also see in them the wisdom demonstrated by the Apostles in the first reading from Acts.
In a time when the needs of the ministry in the early church were changing, the Apostles and the early Christian community had to find new ways to meet the needs of the believers. They had full trust in the Holy Spirit to help them in their discernment and they established the ministry of the diakonoi – from which we get the word “deacon” today. Diakonia means “to serve” in Greek, and the Apostles listened carefully to the needs of the community, prayed with trust in the Holy Spirit to discern a response, and Christ, who said he would remain with them, was present as they lifted up these wonderful new leaders in their midst.
And, just to show that God is always one step ahead, while those leaders were selected to serve the physical needs of the community, many of them also became great witnesses and preachers to Christ – including St. Stephen, who was the first martyr of the faith!
What a reminder to always trust the God will provide for the needs of the people and open up new pathways where we think there aren’t any to be found!
Like those Apostles and the early Christians, many of those who do ministry in our church today – clergy and laity – indeed -every one of us – are responding to new needs in new ways. The Trinity – God the Father, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit – continues to journey with us and Christ again tells us to not be afraid, even in the midst of the pains and difficulties of the present moment.
These readings remind us that, with Christ in our boat, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we may reach the new shore much more quickly than we imagined and in ways undreamed of! Let us pray together to be open to how Christ continues to lead his Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit at work among all God’s holy people!
God give you peace!
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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.