Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Second Sailing!!!

Reflection from St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill
Deacon Gary Bockweg

Other boats were with him.

And Jesus saved them all.

Most mornings, my friend Dave stops by his neighborhood McDonalds.

He joins some other retired friends for a cup of coffee and a little conversation.

Another fellow, Larry, often joined the group.

After being absent for a couple weeks, Larry stopped by their table one morning.

He said he’d been in the hospital.

And added, You won’t be seeing me much anymore, I’m going away soon.

Dave was pretty sure he meant he was dying.

But he asked anyway, Where you going Larry?

Larry said, I’m going to Hell.

He didn’t say it like he was trying to make some kind of a joke.

He said it like he meant it.

And he turned and left.

All that day, Dave was haunted by those words.

So that evening he called Larry.

He asked him if he was serious.

Larry said he was.

Dave told him how sad he felt to hear him say that.

And assured him that no one has to go to Hell.

Larry said that he really did.

He’d done some awful things in his life and it was too late to make up for them now.

He was resigned to his fate.

They talked for quite a while, and Dave finally convinced him that it wasn’t too late.

He told Larry that Jesus saved us all, and that he wants us to join him in Heaven.

And he led Larry in reciting the Sinner’s Prayer.

A prayer where you ask Jesus to forgive you and you promise to follow him in the future.

As it turned out, Larry’s future in this life was only a few more weeks.

But he spent them in contrition and thanksgiving and peace.

As you might have guessed from that unfamiliar Sinner’s Prayer,

Dave’s not a Catholic, he’s an Evangelical Christian.

And as he told me this story over breakfast one day, I had to think,

You’re a better disciple than I am.

Or at least a better evangelist.

Our Gospel today tells us that

Other boats were with him.

And Jesus saved them all.

Some disciples were privileged enough to be in that same boat with Jesus.

And when he calmed the sea they were right there to see him do it.

They knew that it was Jesus who saved them.

Those in the other boats didn’t know precisely what had happened.

They knew they were being tossed about in a dangerous storm.

And that it suddenly ended.

But they didn’t know how that came to pass.

All storms eventually come to an end.

Perhaps this ending was just unusually sudden.

Perhaps it was just a lull, and they would soon be tossed about again.

Maybe some were close enough that those on Jesus’ boat could shout to them.

And tell them that they were indeed now safe, and that it was Jesus who had saved them.

Maybe word passed from boat to boat.

But most likely, some didn’t get the word until they reached the very end of the voyage.

These different boats are not unlike the different groups among the People of God.

There’s a Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, The Light of the World.

It describes the People of God and speaks of their salvation. (Ch II, 14-16)

It says that,

At all times and in every race

God welcomes all who fear Him and do what is right.

But He wants to bring men together as one people.

A people that acknowledges Him and serves Him.

All are called to be part of this unity – this People of God.

And all who strive to live a good life are part of it.

Or at least related to it in some way.

Catholics are fully incorporated into the People of God.

We’re the privileged disciples right there in the boat with Jesus.

Baptized Christians are described as closely linked.

Their boat is right beside his.

Others are described as related in various ways.

Jews still have their covenant with God.

Their boat is nearby.

Mohamedans adore the one true God, the God of Abraham.

Their boat is not far off.

More distant, but still within the voyager group are the boats of

Those who acknowledge the Creator,

Those who seek an unknown God in shadows and images,

And even those who have no explicit knowledge of God.

Lumen Gentium goes on to address the good news of salvation.

It says that salvation is available to everyone in any of those groups.

So long as they do strive to live a good life –

In accordance with their conscience and what has been revealed to them.

It also highlights that one most reassuring, most hope-building truth –

God wills that everyone be saved.

We all have some concerns or fears regarding salvation.

If not for ourselves, then for some family member or friend.

Or even for people we don’t personally know.

But so long as they’re onboard one of the boats, they’re not in the most grave danger.

Those in the gravest danger are those who have fallen overboard.

Those who aren’t striving to live a good life.

We want to help them, but we’re not always sure how to go about it.

We’re not sure we’re up to the task.

But, our privileged position in Jesus’ own boat

Gives us the solid base we need.

We can reach out and help them.

Maybe by just providing a good example for them.

Or by praying for them.

Or maybe by taking some more direct action.

Like Dave did for Larry.

It’s important that we do our part.

But it’s also important to remember –

Especially when we’re lacking the confidence to act –

That ultimately, it’s Jesus who saves us all.