IN THE WILDERNESS, FINDING OUR FOCUS
Gen 1:1-5, Ps 29, Mk1:4-11, and Acts 19:1-7.
Just recently we have seen the release of the movie “Unbroken”. It is based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It is the harrowing story of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini who became an airman in the Second World War. Then he went through the chaos and wilderness of becoming a prisoner of war in Japan. Through and beyond that, he survived and ultimately discovered an entirely new relationship with God, ever after sharing that good news with others.
In all four readings we have today, we find types of chaos, or wilderness, or extreme difficulty.
- In Genesis 1:1 we read of the chaos of the origins of the planet and nature;
- In Ps 29, of the chaos of the natural storm or tornado;
- In Mk 1:4-11, of the wilderness into which John the Baptist went, and from which he came. Furthermore, there is the baptism of Jesus which anticipated his suffering on the cross; and just after this reading, Jesus driven by the spirit into the wilderness to test his vocation;
- In Acts 19, there is the chaos of persecution, existing then and to worsen into the future in Ephesus. Ephesus was the place where Paul was imprisoned, was persecuted perhaps before wild animals in the arena, and where he seems to have become depressed at one point. The church in this part of the world would go on to suffer two centuries of dreadful persecution.
So In all four readings there are forms of chaos, or wilderness, or extreme difficulty.
In our own time, there are ways in which our world seems chaotic, as we have seen in the dreadful violence in Paris this week. At times things go wrong in our personal lives–for example disease in us or someone close to us; a shock in our place of work; problems in a relationship–and we feel we are tossed on the waters of chaos, or into a wilderness. At times we contribute to the chaos by disobeying God’s commandments. At times, deafened by the noise around us,, we wonder what God’s calling is to us, and how we will find the strength to do it. At times we feel surrounded by indifference or hostility to the Gospel and to God’s mission.
Yet, along with that chaos or wilderness, there is also the power of God and the holy spirit in all four of the readings today.
- In the first, God’s power overcomes chaos in Genesis reading–light appears, and eventually it is “good”.
- In the second, in the Psalm, God is greater than the storm, and in the end will protect the people of God.
- In the third, in the Gospel reading, the Holy Spirit inaugurates the ministry of Jesus, fills him with divine power, and through Jesus, will fill his followers with the Spirit for mission.
- In the fourth, through and beyond that persecution in Ephesus the Holy Spirit would strengthen the new disciples for mission, would form the documents of the New Testament, establish the church, and give us the blessing of the Eucharist as well.
In our time, it is the same for us. The Holy Spirit is poured out to overcome the chaos, to fill us to come through the challenges and difficulties around us, to be inspired and joyful, and to share the good news with others.
So let each of us open up our hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit in the history of salvation, and God’s mission in the world, irrespective of the challenges in our context. Seeking the filling of the Spirit every hour, let us rejoice even in the presence of persecution.