By Orlando Hernandez
Dear readers. I hope that you don’t mind that I try and share my “God experiences” with you. That’s what I do with my grandchildren when they ask me about God and prayer. They are each having a hard time with their faith, specially during these last few months. So I share stories like these with them.
The Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 14:22-33) recounts the powerful story of Jesus walking on the water to rescue His disciples. On August 3rd, 2020, on this blog, Gloria M. Chang wrote a wonderful reflection on this Gospel. I was especially impressed by the beautiful painting she showed us: “Jesus Walking on the Sea,” by Amedee Varin.
I had never realized that between the hours of 3:00AM and 6:00AM (“the fourth watch”) the Apostles on that boat must have been rowing and bailing water in total darkness. The painting portrays Jesus as a nebulous, luminous figure in the distance across the waves, the only source of light, defining everything in the picture.
He looks a little scary to me, indeed like a ghost. The “terrified” Apostles really needed to hear those words from our Lord: “Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid.” Don’t we all? But Peter was still not sure: “Lord IF it is You…..” Many years later this wonderful saint would write, “we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place…”
My most powerful, pivotal experiences of Jesus have always reminded me of this Gospel story and this passage in 2Peter. That blessed day I first believed in Him, I saw Him in as a blinding light radiating from a risen host during a Catholic Mass. I had to close my eyes, and, nobody can convince me otherwise, I saw Him in the turbulent darkness of my tormented mind, looking a lot like His depiction in the painting by Varin. I did not know Him like Peter did, so I could not help but to keep my mouth shut as He got closer and I felt Him saying, “I love you; you’re Mine. I will never let you go.”
A few years later, during a Life In The Spirit Seminar, that distant, ghostly light came to me once again in a most powerful way. About 300 people were assembled in a school cafeteria/gym. The presenter had the lights turned off, and the many assistants started to pray over us in tongues. The young guy in the music ministry played eerie, dissonant notes, on his electric guitar. The presenter asked us to close our eyes and imagine, in the darkness, a distant shining light that that became larger and larger as it came closer to each one of us. He told us, “This is Jesus, our Lord, let Him in.” The light became extremely bright, and there, on the tiled floor(in my mind’s eye?), I saw Jesus kneeling almost naked before me. He had all the wounds of His Passion. He was so bloody, and there was such sorrow in his eyes as He stared straight at me. My heart was broken. He raised His arms in my direction. I held Him and tried to help Him up, but He embraced me right back and sprung up. There was such love in His piercing eyes as He raised me up, up, up, into the Heavenly arms of His Father. The lights in the place were suddenly back on, and there I was, dazed and tearful, standing somewhere in the meeting hall. Wow!
I have never had any other experiences quite like these two, but when I suffer from insomnia at 3;00AM in my bed, I look for Him in the darkness and turbulence of my worries. I feel that My Lord eventually comes and helps me to fall asleep, patiently teaching me once again to slowly pray the Our Father with Him. I truly believe that He does that for all of us.
The prayer meeting, the Liturgy, the verbal prayer, the meditation, the beauty of nature, are vehicles that lead us across the waters of our mind in search of God, but in the end, I believe that the Lord is the One who draws us, beyond all those wonderful experiences, into a one-to-one, intimate encounter. As Christians, this is what we always yearn and strive for. It certainly does not happen to me all the time, but I keep on trying. In the meantime, it is the faith that God has lovingly given me that keeps me rowing in the dark.
My 21-year old grandson tells me sadly that he still prays every night, “just in case God is real,” hoping to find again that feeling that he had when he was little. I encourage him to keep on trying. God is always with him, even if he does not sense Him. One of these nights he might just get a big, wonderful, awesome surprise!
Beloved Lord. Please help all those who seek you in the dark. Be their light!
Thanks Orlando for bringing me back to this scene at sea. Peter’s fear of falling into hopeless happenstance reflects how human we are. He receives an invitation to come closer to the One who promises abundant life. Now he knew it with certainty; “he experienced buoyancy upon the surface of the sea. He also learned by experience the connection between fear and gravity. After they got into the boat, the wind died down.” (from Gloria’s post).Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
On Tuesday we had our own tempest storm when winds of 70mph took trees down. In our area the century old maples tried to ride the gusts but many fell. Our home was battered by fallen tree limbs on 3 sides and one whole tree rests upon our roof. A block away a tree fell across the road, taking electric wires down. It’s still there, causing loss of electric for one side of the street.
Those who are able to restore power are overwhelmed . Those who are tree doctors have lists of people needing service. We have been visited by our tree service person, put on his list and waiting. May all those who have been impacted by this storm receive the assistance they need. We are all in the same boat, reaching for the protection of the ONE who saves. May we take courage.
“There was such love in His piercing eyes as He raised me up, up, up, into the Heavenly arms of His Father.” Orlando, thank you for sharing your powerful experience with the Lord! Your grandchildren are blessed to have you. May the storm of this period draw people closer together in heart and mind, as we are indeed all in the same boat. May we all row as one Body in Christ through this vale of tears.