In “Swept Up Into” Fr. Tom McKenna, CM, Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, offers biblical perspectives on times of rough waters in the rivers of life.
[This reflection on (Amos 7: 15-15; Ephesians 1: 10-14; Mark 6:7-9 first appeared on FamVin]
Years ago I was part of a raft trip down a river that was mostly tranquil but which every once in a while would hit rapids. Then what was a calm, sit-back-and-enjoy-the-scenery stream turned into something like a bouncing, bubbling roller coaster. When the ride was over the guide gave us a talk about the trip and pointed out what he nicknamed “the hidden oomph of the river.” From time to time, as he put it, that energy came up out of its hiding place and caught us whether we liked it or not. In the quiet sections, it was as if that might wasn’t there. But when that energy got concentrated and compressed in those rapids, it surged to the surface and we had little choice but to go with it. The takeaway: there is a hidden energy that occasionally shows itself and draws us along in its momentum.
It came to me as an image of something that happens to individuals all through the Scriptures. There’s Amos, the reluctant prophet who protests he is no such thing, but who at the Spirit’s summons gets taken into the stream (rapids) of being a spokesman for Yahweh (Amos 7:12-15). There’s Paul, who testifies to being swept up into “the purposes of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.” (Eph 1: 10-14). And then the twelve apostles, happy enough to be Jesus’ companions sharing experiences and meals with Him, but then “sent out” on the road with nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” (Mk: 6)
All of them had been contentedly drifting along on the still surface of what you might call conventional religion, not realizing there was a current of explosive energy running beneath. Then something shows itself in their lives, and the placid, controllable stream grabs hold and sends them off. That certain something is God’s Spirit, the presence and force of God’s loving purposes for the world.
It’s an experience that happens again and again when believers get awakened to the energy and direction that has been silently flowing beneath them. It strikes when the transformative hand of faith shows itself: people change and prodded by God’s own energy they begin to try to change the world around them.
It’s an experience which believers can both look back to and prepare to embrace. Remember those times when the Gospel grabbed hold and changed the tone of how you were treating not only others but your own self? Recall those occasions when a word from the Bible lit up on the page and moved you to act differently, for instance when you forgave someone, or extended a helping hand when you didn’t feel like it, or when something you heard in Church or in your conscience took hold and set you off in a more generous direction.
This sense of faith-rising-up can emerge as a person looks around at problems in his or her world and feels a summons to do something about them.
- And so Paul’s words about all of us being adoptive children of God moving me to think of other people’s children as in some basic ways my own — and so I so reach out a helping hand to a family in trouble.
- Or the words of Psalm 85 proclaiming a day when justice and peace shall kiss triggering off a resolve to do something concrete about gun control.
- Or Jesus’ call to go out on the road and spread his Father’s mercy tugging at me to be more public about my faith convictions.
- Or the stirring that surged up in Vincent’s heart as he heard Jesus’ charge to preach the Gospel to the poor.
It’s this same phenomenon, the mostly submerged energy of God’s loving presence breaking through to the surface and kicking off a new resolve. It’s those interior flare-ups both in and outside of Church as the Word takes on force. It’s when the example of another becomes the impetus to convert my words of faith into deeds of faith.
Paul tells us that we are picked out, “chosen by God in Christ before the foundations of the world.” This sense of being aroused to move things along toward The Father’s Reign of truth, justice and peace can lie dormant. We ask that our weekly gathering around the Eucharistic table of the Lord be a special setting in which we experience God’s mercy and healing presence as it rises to the surface of our everyday lives.