without fear of death

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 7 (year B), June 24, 2012
“world’s strand, sway of sea”

Christ stills the storm, German Master, 11th century illumination

I hear this story differently in the season after Pentecost than I would, say, in Epiphany. Easter/ Ascension / Pentecost teaches me that Christ is enthroned, not far away in heaven, but in my heart. I’m called to draw upon the resources within myself to find Christ there, stilling the storm from within while I cope with the dangers surrounding me.

If I skim the surface of the Gospel stories, taking them out of context, I find that I want Jesus to be a miracle worker, a magician, always rescuing me from tempests real or imagined. The church year makes me go deeper. So does Mark’s Gospel for that matter, as Alexander J. Shaia points out in The Hidden Power of the Gospels:

However, the progression of the crossing stories demonstrates a much greater message. Although Jesus continued to use his power to still storms, in each crossing Mark recounts that Jesus grew increasingly impatient with the presumption of his disciples that he would simply perform a divine act and in every instance relieve them of their fear. They seemed to completely ignore that they also had responsibilities. They had an obligation to endure and to find inner calm through faith. By the final crossing, Jesus was totally exasperated and demanded to know if his disciples had yet learned anything whatsoever. (p.117-18)

[Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? Mark 8:17-18]

After Pentecost, although we may be sent to the “ends of the earth,”nothing separates us from the love of Christ. Not “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” (Romans 8:35) The yearly re-living and ritual enactment of the Paschal Mystery, Jesus’ resurrection appearances, the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, mean to prepare us for whatever tribulations come, in a divine reign in which death is not the end nor a determiner of value. After Pentecost we say with Paul “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:8-9)

So with boldness, without fear of death, I’m meant to attend to the mission at hand. As for Jesus saving me in my swamping boat of fear, rather than shouting “Do you not care that I am drowning?” I try to hear, “You will do works greater than these.” (John 14:12)


2 Responses to “without fear of death”

  1. claire46 Says:

    I stand so very far from being free of the fear of death. I don’t shout as much as hold His hand, glad that He is there with me, still petrified at the idea of hearing that my end is near…

    • ammaguthrie Says:

      Well, yes. That’s MUCH more realistic, isn’t it? I know we’re called to heroics, intellectually. But I cling to “The Little Way” knowing it’s enough just to be loved and delighted in like a child…

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