12 LENT: A time to cross over to the other side - Fr Charles Rodrigues, SJ

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:47 AM ]
All too often, I have begun Lent with the earnest desire to spend 40 days of prayer and mortification with Jesus in the desert, only to end up feeling like I was, once again, in a lonely boat caught in a storm at sea. Which is why I feel that the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea (Mark 4:35-41) has as much to say to us about Lent, as any of our Lenten readings.

Of the many rich details in that story
—the storm, the disciples' fear, Jesus' seeming lack of concern, Jesus' power over the wind and the waves—one little detail often goes unnoticed. And that is how this story begins. "Let us cross over to the other side" are the first words Jesus utters (Mark 4:35), and it is this desire that sets into motion all the other events that follow in this story.

Let us cross over to the other side. How much of our lives do we spend in desiring to cross over to the other side? We dream of reaching a happier existence: getting a better job, doing something more fulfilling, healing a breached relationship, going somewhere—anywhere!—where things just might be a little better.

Even in our spiritual and religious lives, this notion of crossing over to the other side is often the engine that drives our existence. We want to be better Christians; we want to be more faithful disciples; we want to be more loving fathers, or mothers, or children; we want to do more to establish a just and peaceful world; we want to grow closer to God. Whenever we make a resolution to change something within ourselves, to give up some destructive or addictive behaviour, to pray more and become more responsible Christians, to get more involved in meaningful civic causes, to live more simply so that others may simply live . . . we, like the disciples in that gospel story, have entered into the boat with Jesus, and have embarked on our own nautical journey—be it a bunny hop of a ferry ride, or a transoceanic voyage—of getting to the other side where God wants us to be.

And yet, how often does it happen that a short while into such a journey, we run into a storm? The winds of fear and self-doubt inevitably arise: what was I thinking when I made this holy resolution? As if I could ever overcome my addictions and inordinate attachments. Do I really have what it takes to be more patient, or kind, or generous? And the waves of hopelessness and futility also begin to rock our boats: what's the use of doing this or even trying? It's not me who needs to change; it's everyone else! Will my modest ecological efforts really make even the slightest difference in our world? In my own life, I cannot tell you how many times I have made a good and generous decision one day, only to regret and second-guess this commitment the next.