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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 1, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
Storms are part of life. They are frightening when we feel powerless and don't know what to do, especially when we need to take refuge and don't have a safe place in which to hide. But they are also fascinating, especially when we can experience their power without feeling personally exposed to genuine danger. Meteorological storms occur when there are dramatic changes in the weather — a strong cold front crashing into a strong warm front.
Societal storms occur when there are dramatic changes in the culture — strongly held moral values rooted in objective natural law now in conflict with a new emphasis on personal choice rooted in subjective individualism ... as we saw in today's seminar on same sex attraction. And religious storms occur when there are dramatic changes in the way we live our faith — as we saw following the much needed reforms of Vatican II leading to the ongoing missionary transformation of the Church to which Pope Francis calls us today. Storms are part of life. They occur in times of dramatic change and we live in dramatic times. These are exciting times because in these storms we experience the clash of powerful forces. But these storms can also be frightening or at least unnerving. Where can we find safe refuge when the storms we face become too much to handle?
In today's Gospel Jesus and his disciples were caught in a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. Their boat was being swamped by the waves and the disciples feared for their lives. And Jesus was sleeping through the whole thing. Jesus was obviously a sound sleeper and apparently not much of a worrier! They woke him up and said "Lord, save us!"
When we turn to Jesus with persistent trust and prayer, he comes through for us because he himself is our source of security
I don't know what they expected him to do, but by then they knew he could work miracles. Maybe they hoped he could bring them to a safe haven to ride out the storm, but what they discovered was that Jesus himself was the source of their security. Not only could he shelter them from the effects of the storm, he could get rid of the storm itself when that served his purposes, as in today's Gospel.
Our jubilarians have experienced a few storms over the course of their ministry. Msgr. John O'Donnell, Father Silvio D'Ostilio and Father Bruno Fuhrman (who is not with us today) have seen a lot of dramatic changes in society and in the Church over the course of the last 60 years — to put it mildly. And Fathers Alphonse Gollapalli and Josely Kalathil over the past 25 years — in their case, both in India and in the United States. Many of these changes have been fascinating and welcome: the Civil Rights Movement, Vatican II, the ways in which technology brings people together from all over the world, and now Pope Francis' style of shepherding the Church.
But there have also been destructive storms that left us feeling powerless and frightened: the sexual revolution, the flood of those leaving ministry in the 60s and 70s, the clergy sex abuse crisis, our ever more secular and individualist society with the resulting abandonment of the faith by so many who were raised in good Catholic homes, and so on.
Sometimes it feels like the Church is being swamped by disaster after disaster and Jesus is just sleeping through the whole thing. But I think we have all discovered that when we turn to Jesus with persistent trust and prayer, he comes through for us because he himself is our source of security. Nothing and no one else. Sometimes he eliminates the problem — calms the storm itself. Other times it serves his purposes to bring us to a safe place where we learn a few things and make a few necessary changes while riding out the storm — for instance our safe environment procedures. In either case, we experience his power and protection despite the storm.
Jubilarians, thank you for your faithful witness to Jesus, "whom even the wind and sea obey." May God continue to bless you — and us through you — and may he bring you safely through whatever storms may still lie ahead.