I was speaking yesterday to a priest in Ballarat. In recent weeks, needless to say, he and many others in that city were buffeted by roaring winds and crushing waves. But yesterday he had good news. Surprising news.
In the last week, he has been approached three separate times by young adults, people in their early twenties, who have expressed their intention to become Catholic. These are people with no religion, who are drawn to Jesus Christ, and after online research they’ve concluded that the Catholic Church offers the fullness of Christian faith.
Despite recent headlines. Despite the deafening storm. It’s a good reminder that Jesus is in the boat with us. Not absent. Not indifferent.
What is true for the Church, is also true for each of us, at a personal and individual level. I’m about the break the rules of Preaching 101, and tell a story about myself. But this is a story so mundane — so unexceptional — that I think it will immediately prompt the memory of similar moments in your own life.
Some of you will have noticed the damage a kangaroo did to my car a few weeks ago. On Monday, I left the car with smash repairers in Mt Gambier. It was due for pick up on Friday afternoon. I should have known the promise of repairs in one week was too ambitious. On Friday morning I received a phone call advising me the car won’t be ready until “early next week.”
The delay upsets a lot of plans. It’s affected my schedule for the next ten days. I kicked the proverbial furniture and lamented my situation, because there wasn’t much else I could do. Yesterday, I should have been in Ballarat, preparing couples for marriage. But the car thing “grounded” me in Casterton. Thank God. Because in Casterton I was called to someone’s death bed.
A child of God, of immeasurable worth, was called home — and he departed with the consolation of the sacraments. There was no way that would have happened if my car was repaired on time, and I’d been in Ballarat.
For all I know, this departed brother of ours was enrolled in the Brown Scapular years ago, and our Lady honoured her promise to have a priest accompany him at his hour of death. Or maybe a friend or relative down here, or up there, has been praying for many years that he would receive this grace.
Who knows? All I know is that God is in charge. And we’ve all experienced it. Plans fall apart, we limp on with last minute, imperfect arrangements — and unexpected grace abounds.
That’s the moment we are aware that Jesus is on the boat with us, and he’s wide awake. He is not absent. He is not indifferent. But maybe we bemuse him, and he reproves us. “Why are you so upset? How is it that you have no faith?”
God is in control.