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A Leaven In The World… The Storm That Never Passes

September 9, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

“This too shall pass.”
These words are often spoken in sympathy to those suffering the darkness of internal anguish or the mind-numbing pain of serious physical illness. Also, more famously, to someone enduring the storm breaking over him following criminal wrongdoing in the aftermath of Watergate: the president humiliated in resignation, Richard Nixon.
Always true of the storms of this life, but perhaps not always the most sympathetic of notions. Those in the midst of suffering often benefit more from simple accompaniment of presence and receptive silence. Words can sometimes do more harm than good.
In recent days we’ve witnessed extensive and unprecedented damage in a hurricane of historic power and magnitude as Dorian lashed the Bahamas relentlessly for days. Such a storm only ushers in more and prolonged suffering in its wake. We could not honestly tell the people there, in the midst of endless fields of wreckage surrounding them on all sides, that what they endure “shall pass”: What they need to know most is that they can endure, and how to do so.
The consequences of nature’s destructive power will serve as a visual reminder for quite some time to come of the many ways a storm can continue to pummel mind and spirit — long after the howling winds, battering rain, and waves subside.
Almost like getting a sympathetic illness, I was struck with an annoying late summer cold the Sunday morning that the powerful and deadly Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas. The physical clouding of my senses in illness was negligible in comparison. This looming record-breaking storm of huge size and strength struck fear into hearts before it ever came close to making landfall.
As NBC reported on the day it first made contact:
“When the Category 5 hurricane made landfall on Great Abaco Island, east of Miami, on Sunday at 2 p.m., Dorian’s maximum sustained winds were 185 mph — an Atlantic hurricane record matched only by a storm that struck the Florida Keys in 1935, the National Hurricane Center said.”
The preparation alone for such a disaster in the making requires sacrifices, not to speak of those demanded by the wreckage of lives and livelihoods such a behemoth of nature leaves in its wake.
The eye of such a storm is a temptation, a beguiling siren’s tune beckoning one to venture out into the seeming aftermath, so great is our desire to see beyond its full scope. The long hours waiting and watching for a respite is an agonizing one for those helpless in the face of its indifferent mercy. The cries of “Pray for us,” along with phone videos of flood waters and high winds sent out from the heart of the storm, haunted the millions unable to do more than pray during the height of landfall.
There are many “eyes” which fall for anyone caught in the tempest of sorrows — physical, spiritual, or mental. The brief peace attained in this world simply as a result of the calm before the next storm should never lull us into spiritual apathy or dangerous delusion. Faith is the power by which we see beyond the now and its pull upon us. Our hope seeks the rock of solidity found only upon a farther shore.
In this and other natural disasters we confront the mystery of free will in creation. God set all He made in motion lovingly, but not without the possibility that sometimes these may seem to turn against us. Meditating upon this fact should lead us in the end to consider the free will by means of which we always have power for doing good: that possessed personally by each one of us, created by reason of such in God’s image and likeness.
It is often in the midst of tragedy wrought by the overwhelming and free power of wind, waves, rain, fire, or accidents of various kinds that we see human persons rise to heroic degrees of goodness, willing the safety of others as they sacrifice themselves even to the point of death for the sake of those in need.
I think of the heroic act by which a father saved his own son. Tom VanderWoude jumped into the septic tank on the family farm after the son, Joseph, fell in. Tom died bracing himself under Joseph, drowning himself in the act of preventing his son from suffering the same fate. A father’s efforts to bring a child into the world and to care for him took on heroic virtue that day, preserving as he did his son’s life in preference to his own. In the holiness of losing his life for another’s sake Tom “saved” it, thus fulfilling the Lord’s Word.
His act of heroism broke like a storm of grief over the lives of his sorrowing family, only gradually revealing the sweetness exuding from a holy death. Such a realization is a foretaste and promise of the only place where every person is forever beyond the threat of harm.
Yes, all storms in this life are passing ones, but those like a hurricane simply usher in a different kind of cross in the results of its force, with flooding, physical destruction, and sometimes most tragically loss of life.
Our own experience of suffering can certainly aid us in sympathy for that of others, but always better done so without comparison, such being “odious,” as a wise old Dominican priest used to tell me.
The destruction visited upon the archipelago of tropical islands usually sought out by many as a paradise on Earth was turned last week into a Hell. Telling people who have lost their homes, property, livelihood and in some cases lives, that “this too shall pass” like all earthly suffering, might come off as terribly callous, no matter how true.
We all pass through many storms in this life, personal and communal, and with them we experience losses of different kinds.
Twitter storms, disagreements in the workplace or with colleagues or superiors, illness, family conflict, and any number of other social frictions do their share to inflict suffering mental and spiritual, if not physical.
Addictions and repeated setbacks in the struggle for human freedom are a particularly dark storm suffered by many souls.
The brief calm within the “eyes” of all human storms are in fact a mercy, an invitation to seek the lasting peace of God’s forgiveness. There is in fact one storm only that will last, one storm that never passes: the unending suffering of torment and agony in everlasting damnation which follows upon rejection of God’s merciful love.
Christ the Lord warned of this tempest of perpetual affliction of body and soul, different in kind and degree from any suffering, storms, or privations we may experience on Earth, “where their worm does not die and the flame is not quenched.”
All storms are in fact passing for those who live this brief life in faith, seeking ever the farthest horizons of our heavenly homeland, beyond all tempests great and small.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@IntroiboAdAltar

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