Today’s Gospel is an interesting ensemble of nuggets of wisdom. The opening salvo is Christ’s “secret.” Often you will find in the Gospels, especially in Luke, this line from this Sunday’s Gospel: “He went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”
These are moments of solitude to be one with his Father, before or after an important event. In this case, he had just been informed of John the Baptist’s beheading. He wanted to be alone but as he reached his planned place of retreat, “he saw a great crowd, and he was moved with compassion for them to the depths of his being, and healed their sick.”
At the end of it all, he performs what is, for me, one of his most powerful miracles, the multiplication of the loaves and fish—prefiguring the Eucharistic nature of our faith.
Then “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray,” to be in solitude with his Father in prayer. We have referred to this, time and again, as sacred space that we go back home to, to be renewed and to reemerge from with “hearts burning within.”
Here is the second nugget of wisdom: getting out of our comfort zone and overcoming our fears. Christ comes out of his sacred space, “walks on water,” which throws his disciples into fear and panic. “It is a ghost!”
When we face the uncertainties of getting out of our comfort zone and when our fears get the better of us, Christ enters our experience.
He helps us overcome our fears. “Take courage… do not be afraid.” He calms our uncertainties. “… It is I.”
Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. Christ obliges, “Come.” Peter walks on water as Christ did, but he loses focus, falters and begins to sink. The Lord rescues him.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” The third nugget of wisdom: not to lose our focus, our centering of our lives in Christ
Prayer. Courage. Focus. Christ taught his disciples and teaches us his followers, his friends. Christ taught and mentored his disciples on this. These were the men who would continue his work and build the church in “all corners of the earth.”
This wisdom is the inspiration and grace we need to form ourselves and most especially the younger generation. We live in a world that is both expanding and contracting. The advances, or what Thomas Friedman aptly termed the accelerations in technology, have fueled accelerations in other crucial areas such as business and education, thus expanding horizons and possibilities.
Windows of opportunities
At the same time, these expansions have led to contracting windows of opportunities. Those who are not equipped and/or open to adjust to these accelerations have been left behind.
To respond to the challenges of our day, we need to draw from the richness of our faith and spiritual tradition, from the nuggets of wisdom of today’s Gospel.
Many of our educational and formation institutions (from schools and churches to families and communities) need the courage to accelerate change in the way we educate and form.
Beyond compliance, achievement and meeting standards, we need to aspire for an education and formation system that allows young people to hope, dream and work for a life that is lived “not (simply) in dreams but in contemplation of a reality that is perhaps the future.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
It begins with the courage to hope and to dream—courage that must lead us to constancy, the constancy to make us contemplate and build the reality that fulfills our dreams and hopes.
Courage and constancy allow us entry into the world where accelerations expand opportunities. They allow us to participate in this expansion and not be caught in the contraction of opportunities.
And in all this, the third nugget of wisdom becomes even more prized. The ability to create sacred space, to enter its solitude and to pray, will provide the sense of integration and integrity in this world of accelerations.
The choices we will make must be guided by the clarity of purpose and mission discovered and deepened in these moments of solitude. It is here where these longings and dreams are transformed into realities that give us the fullness of life.
Courage, constancy and prayer, the eternal nuggets of wisdom Christ left to us through his disciples. “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.” What a wonderful assurance that makes us forge ahead in this life and age. —CONTRIBUTED