Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
We belong to a culture obsessed with replies. We like to have answers to every question and bumper sticker slogans to every situation. Sometimes that falls short though. For instance, maybe someone faces a tragedy and our first response is, “I don’t know what to say.” Why do we have to say anything? I think that we are so present to one another digitally that we have forgotten the power of real presence, but I think today’s readings remind us of the power of presence.
In Acts, we see the power of presence recognized in the ordination of Deacons. The Apostles could have told the widows not being served food, “We’re sorry. We’re really shorthanded. We don’t know what else to tell you.” Or they could have just ordered someone to feed them. Instead, they ordained seven people to be the committed presence of charity on behalf of the Church. They recognized that it was about more than merely having food, water, and clothing present. It was about the presence and grace that is found in community. We can be conduits of grace and vessels of God’s presence for those in need.
In the Gospel, the power of presence is revealed again. This time in an unusual way. I want to draw your attention to this portion of the Gospel, “The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid’.” Now I don’t know about you, but if I got that response, I would not be impressed. It would go a little something like this, “It’s you? Don’t be afraid, it’s you? We are in the middle of a storm and you are WALKING ON WATER and the fact that it is you is supposed to just make everything better? Well, whoop-dee-doo, I still want to know, how on Earth AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FREAKED OUT that you are WALKING ON WATER right now?!?” I like to think I wouldn’t yell at Jesus, but let’s be honest, His ways are not my ways and that doesn’t always sit well with me.
Now the scene on the stormy sea might seem restricted to the moment in time that John is recording, but I think it is a great foreshadowing of Christ’s promise to be with us until the end of the age. He doesn’t promise us all the answers, all the money, protection from all hardship and suffering. Nope, He just promises us His presence in the community, sacraments, and guidance of His Church, which, like the Apostles in the first reading, is still trying to figure out that balance between being concerned about the needs of the this life and the next.
Lord, the promise of your presence might not feel as satisfactory as we want, but we take comfort, because in the midst of our storms, you come out to meet us. We might receive what we consider incomplete answers, but at least we’re in your presence. Help us to not desire the ‘magic words’ that make everything better, but to truly experience the peace and joy of encountering you. Help us, to in turn, be your presence for others.
- Spencer Hargadon