In the Apocalyptic movie, 2012, world leaders-- the President of the United States and G8 leaders-- devise a secret plan to save humanity when the earth's core overheats. With the threat of massive earthquakes and mega-tsunamis, they begin to construct nine arks, each capable of carrying 100,000 people, some of whom pay €1 billion per ticket. Ultimately, a 10.9 magnitude earthquake sets global disaster in motion: those on the arks survive while the rest of humanity perishes...
I am not endorsing this movie -- a box office hit with poor reviews-- but the idea of a fraction of humanity (the super-wealthy and the well-connected) surviving while everyone else perishes reflects an elitist, extreme nationalism that has no place in the modern world.
Right now, whether we realize this or not, all humanity is in the same storm-tossed, sinking boat; because we are all inter-connected, climate change, COVID-19, natural disasters, human disasters, poverty, violence and famine affect everyone, even if we assume we are "safe." Take, for example, this week's disaster in Beirut. Could anyone have imagined the immensity of the explosion and its catastrophic aftermath? Or what about the 30 million people facing food insecurity and malnutrition in northern Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia, with 10 million of these people facing famine and starvation? Or what about the spiraling pandemic which has infected more than 19.1 million people world wide, with 715,681 deaths, 160,000 of which have occurred in the U.S. alone?
Precisely because we are all facing the same mega-tsunamis, survival is not a matter of building separate arks, but of repairing the boat holding us all. This means facing the ways in which our local actions and national policies are harming the Earth and all her creatures. What the present moment calls for is a global consciousness and global solutions. Our prayers, our sympathy, our resources need to extend beyond national boundaries to embrace the world.
PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges." I hope you find the Quiz useful!
Already a few miles from the shore, the boat
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn, Jesus came towards them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, crying out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them, “Have courage! It is I-- do not be afraid.”
Peter replied,“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. Seeing how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The image of a storm-tossed boat perfectly captures our present experience of vulnerability in the face of powerful forces -- the pandemic, economic insecurity, global warming, social unrest...
We can no longer depend upon anything nor upon anyone: All that we took for granted, all the leaders and institutions on which we once relied, all our plans for today, tomorrow and the future -- all are lost in the waves. The storm rages around us and within us as we try to stay afloat. Some of us cling to the sides of our boat with all our might, praying for the waves to subside so that life can return to "normal"; some of us, having lost hope, have slipped into the deep, never to surface again; and a few, like Peter, have bravely stepped over the side of the vessel and taken our first steps into a new reality in which miracles do happen if we dare to walk on water.
Ironically, clinging to the sides of the battered boat might look like the safest strategy but given the height of the waves and the predicted length of the storm, we might as well be on the Titanic.
With so much conspiring against us, praying for deliverance without being willing to adapt to the "new normal" is not going to get us safely to shore. The old ways of doing things, our old consciousness, our former lifestyle-- these will no longer keep us afloat in these challenging times. We need to jettison anything that will make us sink -- unnecessary expenses, time-wasters, emotional baggage, unhealthy habits, self-pity, apathy, and, above all, fear. When we convince ourselves that we cannot live without our former comforts, or that life is not worth living given social distancing, loss of income, and other hardships, then it is too easy to sink into despair. Sadly, instead of embracing change, we become immobilized by grief, unable to imagine that we can ever find happiness again. This mind-set is guaranteed to cause a shipwreck!
But let's return to Peter, boldly taking that first step onto the waves.
For a brief moment, his higher consciousness assures him that he can, indeed, walk on water. Letting go of both the boat and his fears, he does the impossible -- until he looks at the waves instead of at Jesus. The minute he loses trust, he sinks; the minute he cries out for help, Jesus catches him.
We can patch our old boats and try to make them sea-worthy, hoping to ride out the storm, or we can pray for the gift of walking on water. This involves acceptance of the present reality, surrender to God's will for us, and the courage to start over. Then, no matter how uncertain the future, we can walk through the storm, across raging seas, in the company of the Holy One.